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Sun, 17 Jun 2018


This Week In Techdirt History: June 10th - 16th

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Five Years AgoThis week, instead of going through the usual look at what was happening five, ten and fifteen years ago, we're going to put all the focus on the events of this week in 2013. Why? Because it's the week that the revelations of NSA spying, which dropped last week, truly hit the fan. There was a whole lot of news about it, almost completely dominating Techdirt, and it's worth a closer look.As the leaks kept coming, it was revealed that the source was Edward Snowden, who described his ability to wiretap anyone from his desk. As politicians scrambled to defend the program, the DOJ was trying to cover up the secret court ruling about it, and we realized the big scandal wasn't that the NSA did something illegal, but that it probably didn't.Some defenders of the PRISM program tried to claim it helped stop an NYC subway bombing, but the evidence was lacking and even the Associated Press soon called bullshit. James Clapper was simultaneously claiming that the leaks were a danger to us all, and also no big deal, while the author of the Patriot Act stepped up to say NSA surveillance must end, and that the law was supposed to prevent data mining. It started becoming clear that the metadata story was the biggest one.Some politicians began speaking out, with Senator Rand Paul calling for a class-action lawsuit against the NSA, and Senator Ron Wyden calling for congressional hearings, before a group of Senators got together to introduce a bill to end the secrecy of the FISA courts. One Senator had previously predicted a lot of this, but unfortunately he got voted out of office in 2010.Meanwhile, a former NSA boss said the leaks show America can't keep secrets, even though they really showed the opposite. The public was divided in its opinion on the program, depending heavily on how the question was asked. And we pointed out that the leaks show the importance of Wikileaks and similar operations.The backlash grew, with Derek Khanna calling for James Clapper to be impeached for lying, a team of 86 companies and other groups called on Congress to end the spying, and the ACLU suing the government for 4th amendment violations. Various former NSA whistleblowers spoke up in defense of Snowden and against the agency's practices. Of course, there was also some pathetic backlash in the other direction, with Rep. Peter King calling for the prosecution of journalists who report on the leaks, and Congress moving to improve secrecy instead of fixing the problem.Then things began getting even worse, with the possibility emerging that the PRISM program enabled espionage against allies. A new leak at the end of the week revealed the NSA's talking points for defending itself, and sales of George Orwell's 1984 began to skyrocket, and... well, let's just say there's plenty more on the way in the coming weeks.

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