At the beginning of this year, the word “Privacy” was prominently inserted into the list of topic-venues displayed in the Wild Duck masthead. It’s above this article and at the top of every page on this Blog. That small change not only reflects a growing editorial focus, but also the interests of many subscribers as reflected in their feedback.
Yet, despite our strong advocacy for privacy and antiforensics, we delayed for four days, before opining on the biggest privacy story of the century, thus far. Of course, it is the release of documents by an engineering contractor to a US government security agency. The documents reveal that the US government has compelled Verizon, the world’s highest traffic telephone network, to capture and stream data concerning private and non-suspicious telephone calls—data from everyone—to the über-secret National Security Agency. The Verizon demand was not only sweeping in scope, it was accompanied by a gag order on anyone aware of the scheme. Unlike far more chilling revelations by Mark Klein in 2006 or William Binney in 2012, this contractor broke US law by taking top secret documents to a foreign newspaper to ‘break’ the story.
The day after the story broke in Great Britain’s Guardian newspaper, Edward Snowden, an employee of NSA contractor, Booz Allen Hamilton, surfaced in Hong Kong and took credit for the leak, acknowledging that he went rogue after pangs of conscience lit a path of courage and personal risk in front of him.
This begs the question: Why did we wait 4 days before commenting on the story of the century? Perhaps, because we write often about domestic spying. In fact, we recently covered Stellar Wind, a far more sweeping and more sinister NSA surveillance program.
So what do Wild Ducks think of Edward Snowden or other domestic surveillance whistle blowers? Are they heroes or traitors? One might pose the question about WikiLeaks founder, Julian Assange. He is a foreigner who disagrees with US secrecy policy. But to ask the question about domestic whistle blowers is daft! Their actions demonstrate patriotism.
These whistle blowers are nothing short of heroes. Any argument to the contrary fails to recognize core American values of freedom, liberty and the First and Fourth Amendments to the US constitution. It would fail to understand lessons of history including the roots of totalitarianism, fascism and authoritative intrusion and suppression. Such a position tacitly legitimizes a government that is out of control.
The point is not to outlaw surveillance nor even prevent laws that would permit domestic surveillance. The problem here is that even with the Patriot Act, the United States has laws against this activity. More importantly, the NSA is executing its bastard mission without civilian oversight. On whose authority? Dick Cheney and Karl Rove? They’ve been gone for 4½ years. Unfortunately, the NSA is backed on this one by US President, Barack Obama. Et tu, Brutus?
Et tu, Brutus?
Oh, the humanity of it! A majority of Wild Duck readers self-identify as democrats or as liberals. We supported you, Mr. President, and, for the most part, we still do. We trusted you. Are we ready for a Stasi state? In light of this development, Germans certainly think so.
So what does Obama have to say about all this? During the first few days, the White House has been alternatively evasive and defensive. But, certainly not apologetic. Look, instead, to what the Obama campaign said before be was elected, before this story broke, and—incredibly—what is still posted as an Obama mission statement at Change.org:
“The best source of information about waste, fraud, and abuse in government is an existing government employee committed to public integrity and willing to speak out. Such acts of courage and patriotism, which can sometimes save lives and often save taxpayer dollars, should be encouraged rather than stifled. We need to empower federal employees as watchdogs of wrongdoing and partners in performance. Barack Obama will strengthen whistle-blower laws to protect federal workers who expose waste, fraud, and abuse of authority in government.”
—Platform of Barak Obama, U.S. President
With this in mind, our editors take pride in announcing the 1st Annual Wild Duck Privacy Awards. Perhaps, someday, Obama will re-examine his principles and collaborate with us. At that time, we will rename it the Presidential Privacy Awards…
This Blog is not yet two years old. To catch up with recent developments, we not only honor five contemporaries who have recently been engaged in defending the constitutional rights of all Americans, we also grant retroactive Emeritus status to two privacy pioneers, recognize two organizations, and publish honorary status to eight mathematicians and cryptographers who empowered us to take control of our privacy.
Each individual or organization demonstrates courage and patriotism with unbridled pluck and chutzpah. Each award recipient embodies characteristics of a AWildDuck.
Privacy Award Recipients
- 2013: Edward Snowden, NSA subcontractor
- 2012: Julian Assange –and– Bradley Manning, WikiLeaks founder & source
- 2011: Mark Klein AT&T Technician, and William Binney NSA Contrator
disclosure of Stellar Wind and the Secret Room Continue below photos
Post Facto ‘Emeritus’
Honorary Recipients / Special Mention
- Whitfield Diffie & Martin Hellman
Inventors of private key exchange, a precursor to public key encryption
- Ron Rivest, Adi Shamir & Leonard Adleman
MIT professors behind the initials ‘RSA’
- James Ellis, Clifford Cocks, Malcolm Williamson
Original developers of PKE, working in secret at Britain’s GCHQ
- William Jefferson Clinton, Former US President
In a final executive order of his administration, former US president, Bill Clinton ended the legal persecution of Philip Zimmermann for “export of restricted munitions”. (He developed PGP and offered it for free on an MIT server).
It is not the intention of this Blog to offer the back story on the individuals and organizations that we honor this year. But click the links below for a good place to start:
“If privacy is outlawed, only outlaws will have privacy”
—Philip Zimmermann: Why I created PGP (and in the User Manual)