There can be no possible justification for such an overbroad collection of the telephone communications of The Associated Press and its reporters. These records potentially reveal communications with confidential sources across all of the newsgathering activities undertaken by the AP during a two-month period, provide a road map to AP’s newsgathering operations, and disclose information about AP’s activities and operations that the government has no conceivable right to know.”
We regard this action by the Department of Justice as a serious interference with AP’s constitutional rights to gather and report the news.
Gary Pruitt, President and CEO of the Associated Press, in a letter (PDF) to US Attorney General Eric Holder.
The News, via the AP:
The Justice Department secretly obtained two months of telephone records of reporters and editors for the Associated Press in what the news cooperative’s top executive called a “massive and unprecedented intrusion” into how news organizations gather the news.
The records obtained by the Justice Department listed incoming and outgoing calls, and the duration of each call, for the work and personal phone numbers of individual reporters, general AP office numbers in New York, Washington and Hartford, Conn., and the main number for AP reporters in the House of Representatives press gallery, according to attorneys for the AP.
In all, the government seized those records for more than 20 separate telephone lines assigned to AP and its journalists in April and May of 2012. The exact number of journalists who used the phone lines during that period is unknown but more than 100 journalists work in the offices whose phone records were targeted on a wide array of stories about government and other matters.
No subpoena may be issued to any member of the news media or for the telephone toll records of any member of the news media without the express authorization of the Attorney General… Failure to obtain the prior approval of the Attorney General may constitute grounds for an administrative reprimand or other appropriate disciplinary action.
So, evidently, Eric Holder gave his express authorization for monitoring of the Associated Press’ phone records. Besides the initial WTF, we wait to hear how this is spun to justify the intrusion.
We have had gadflies among us ever since [Socrates], but one contemporary breed in particular has come in for a rough time of late: the “hacktivist.” While none have yet been forced to drink hemlock, the state has come down on them with remarkable force. This is in large measure evidence of how poignant, and troubling, their message has been.
Hacktivists, roughly speaking, are individuals who redeploy and repurpose technology for social causes. In this sense they are different from garden-variety hackers out to enrich only themselves. People like Steve Jobs, Steve Wozniak and Bill Gates began their careers as hackers — they repurposed technology, but without any particular political agenda. In the case of Mr. Jobs and Mr. Wozniak, they built and sold “blue boxes,” devices that allowed users to defraud the phone company. Today, of course, these people are establishment heroes, and the contrast between their almost exalted state and the scorn being heaped upon hacktivists is instructive.
Peter Ludlow, New York Times Opinionator Blog. Hacktivists as Gadflies.
FJP: Ludlow argues that while American society celebrates its hackers, the ones they do are those that are “non-political”, and hack to start companies. See: Jobs, Wozniak, Gates and Zuckerberg.
For those with a political agenda — perceived or otherwise — the law comes down hard. See: Andrew “Weev” Auernheimer (writing a script to collect personal information exposed by AT&T and handing the results of his investigation into the security hole over to Gawker) and sentenced to 41 months in prison; Barrett Brown (linking to a publicly available Web page containing the results of a credit card hack committed by others) and now facing charges of up to 100 years on 12 counts of credit card fraud; and Aaron Swartz (writing a script to download academic articles but not distributing them) who killed himself before before going to trial in a case that could have meant 35 years in prison, among others.
As we’ve pointed out before, US laws like the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act are so broad — and so out of date in our current networked environments — that almost all of us, technically, do things that put us on the wrong side of the law.
When everyone is guilty of something, those most harshly prosecuted tend to be the ones that are challenging the established order, poking fun at the authorities, speaking truth to power — in other words, the gadflies of our society.
Related: Boing Boing, CISPA: Congress wants to create unlimited Internet spying powers.
At a young age you can have more influence than at any time in journalistic history and the mistakes you make at a younger age are more visible than ever before.
Sree Sreenivasan, Chief Digital Officer, Columbia University, to the New York Times about last week’s indictment of Matthew Keys. The 26-year-old deputy social media editor at Reuters was charged by federal prosecutors with assisting members of Anonymous in defacing a 2010 Los Angeles Times story. Under the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, Keys could face fines of up to $750,000 and 25 years in prison.
New York Times, Hacker Case Leads to Calls for Better Law.
The hackers changed the headline of a Times story from “Pressure Builds in House to Pass Tax-Cut Package” to “Pressure Builds in House to Elect CHIPPY 1337.”