ZDNetGovWeek: America held hostage (by Congress) week 2, and still the NSA is in the headlines

ZDNetGovWeek: America held hostage (by Congress) week 2, and still the NSA is in the headlines

Summary: Looks like we got carried away rockin' the Columbus Day controversy, so we're a bit late on our weekly update. Even so, rest assured that our unworking, unworkable government still has some entertainment for y'all.


ZDNet's worldwide team provides global 24/7 technology news and analysis. In addition to my own coverage analysis here in the ZDNet Government column and on ZDNet's DIY-IT, every week I'll bring you a selection of the best government-related articles posted by our intrepid reporters and analysts. Here are some of the most interesting from the last week.

Top stories this week

NSA's massive database struggling under weight of spam
Apparently our NSA buddies have a bit of a spam problem. Think about it. If they're grabbing every bit of email metadata they can get their hands on, what are they really getting?

NSA: Can it find signals over noise?
Strip away the politics and privacy debate and the NSA's penchant for hoarding data is a major big data problem.

Lavabit back online to allow personal data downloads
After shutting down while the US government demanded it hand its SSL keys over, Lavabit is back online to allow users to retrieve their data.

NSA, ASD rifle through users' address books: Report
US and Australian intelligence agencies are collecting users' address books and contact lists for intelligence, but they are also being defeated by spammers.

Secret U.S. surveillance court suspends Silicon Valley lawsuits until government shutdown ends
The secretive court suspends operations until the government ends its shutdown. A number of Silicon Valley tech companies are battling the court for data disclosure transparency.

Completely private email is not legal and shouldn't be
Lavabit, Edward Snowden's email provider back before he skipped town, is claiming in appeals court that it's immune from criminal subpoena. This is unreasonable and it's a good thing he will almost certainly lose.

Other government coverage around ZDNet

Balloons to bring internet to remote areas in Brazil
The government is developing its own equipment and will prioritize national companies for partnerships.

No evidence that NSA hacked Dutch telcos, say MPs
Three Dutch ministers have published an open letter stating that, unlike Belgium's incumbent telco, KPN hasn't been targeted by foreign intelligence services.

AAPT breached Privacy Act, Melbourne IT given all-clear
After being hacked by Anonymous, AAPT has been found to be in breach of two sections of the Australian Privacy Act.

Victorian government appoints new head of CenITex
The state government has designated its chief technology advocate to also head up the CenITex board.

Will Attorney-General Brandis be the spooks' breakwater?
The tide of public opinion is turning, but the digital spooks are still surviving the shower of criticism. How long can they last?

Brazilian government to ditch Microsoft in favour of bespoke email system
President Dilma Rousseff requested the deployment of the in-house communications platform across all federal government bodies

Food stamp glitch lesson: IT failures go mainstream
A Xerox routine backup turns into a food stamp disaster in 17 states. IT failures are becoming everyman's business.

Deutsche Telekom to foreign secret services: 'Eyes off our internet!'
Germany's incumbent telco is spearheading an effort to keep local internet traffic inside the country.

Brazil seeks to secure own emails amid US spy allegations
The country's president wants to create email that is free from prying eyes.

Is Bitcoin the future of money? Not a chance
Bitcoin has appeal as an unregulated medium of exchange and value. But, its days as an efficient funding source for illegal activities are coming to an end.

How to spy on the NSA datacenter
They really don’t like it when you watch them.

100Mbps broadband and easier fibre rollouts: Norway's new coalition sets out its IT priorities
A policy statement from Norway's incoming coalition plans to tackle broadband, infrastructure, telehealth and more.

Topics: Government, Government Asia, Government AU, Government US, Government UK, Privacy, Security


David Gewirtz, Distinguished Lecturer at CBS Interactive, is an author, U.S. policy advisor, and computer scientist. He is featured in the History Channel special The President's Book of Secrets and is a member of the National Press Club.

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  • Promoting the false narrative

    Just from the title I can tell this is nothing but a leftist propaganda piece.

    The Congress, per its Constitutional mandate, has been trying to fund the government, just not fund the unConstitutional slavery legislation known vulgarly as "Obamacare". It is Obama's, and Harry Reid's intransigence that has led to this shutdown of 17% of the government, NOT Congress.

    No wonder our economy is in the toilet, our allies ashamed of us, our enemies laughing at us, with you as a U.S. policy advisor.
    • propaganda

      ((( The Congress, per its Constitutional mandate, has been trying to fund the government, just not fund the unConstitutional slavery legislation known vulgarly as "Obamacare". )))

      You might have missed it, because you're obviously a misinformed FOX "News" viewer, but the Affordable Care Act was declared constitutional by the U.S. Supreme Court last June:

      • Well, as a Fox New viewer, he probably understands

        that we don't elect kings, laws are changeable, and the House of Representatives is the People's House and has been explicitly been given the power of the purse in the Constitution precisely to be able to do exactly what they are doing.

        As a Fox News viewer, he probably also knows that the power of the purse was borrowed from British Law where it was often used to shut down out of control kings.

        And, finally, as a Fox News viewer, he also probably understands that separation of powers and checks and balances allows the House the moral authority to do precisely what it is doing: Representing the wishes of the people who elected those officials. Because, again, government works for the people, not the other way around, and if the People's House decides they don't like what the Supreme Court said or the Senate or Congress passed PRIOR to THEIR election, they have a moral right and the moral authority to attempt to change it using their Constitutionally granted powers.

        Now, you, as a CNN and MSNBC viewer think that the President is King, and the Supreme Court are his Council of Lords, and whatever they decree shall be followed without objection.
        • No more...

          ...than the decrees of the House of Representatives (or a majority of the majority thereof) shall be followed without objection.

          My objection is that a majority of the members of both parties in both houses of Congress put party loyalty ahead of the public interest.
          John L. Ries
        • re: Well, as a Fox New viewer, he probably understands

          > they have a moral right and the moral authority
          > to attempt to change it using their Constitutionally
          > granted powers.

          I'm glad you'll have something to take comfort in when The People throw Republicans out of power in 2014. Maybe you sent your guy to DC to burn down the country but there are only a few of you.

          To most of the country, including independents and moderate republicans, your guys have proved they didn't go to congress to govern because clearly they can't. Enjoy them while you can.
          none none
          • And what's to stop...

            ...voters from ejecting some equally intransigent Democrats?
            John L. Ries
          • Equally??

            none none
          • Interestingly enough...

            ...polls here in Utah blame both parties equally; I agreed before I saw the polls. But since this is a Republican state and 4 of the 5 members of the Congressional delegation are Republican (and Jim Matheson, the sole Democrat, has been playing a decidedly non-partisan role in all this), we'll get to see next year how annoyed Utah voters really are.

            Good thing for Sen. Lee he has another 3 years on his term.
            John L. Ries
          • Oops!

            I meant 5 out of 6.
            John L. Ries
          • Polls

            According to some polls I've seen, Americans prefer the Affordable Care Act over Obamacare.

            I'm actually a GFK panelist and I get polled once a month. Sometimes, in addition to asking my opinion, they ask me a series of questions (timed) based on current events and general knowledge for which there *are* incorrect answers. I would love to see those crosstabs reported.
            none none
    • Your allies are ashamed of you

      But not for the reason you think. They believe withholding affordable health care is shameful.
      • Since Obamacare has nothing to do whatsoever with

        making healthcare affordable, what, precisely was your point? I mean, other than demonstrating a complete ignorance of economic law.
        • That's just your opinion

          But you certainly have a lot of wealthy doctors and insurance executives backing you up.
        • It's an attempt

          It may not be a very good one, but it is an attempt.

          And I don't see you making any proposals of your own.
          John L. Ries
    • re: Promoting the false narrative

      > The Congress, per its Constitutional mandate,
      > has been trying to fund the government, just not
      > fund the unConstitutional slavery legislation known
      > vulgarly as "Obamacare".

      You may find you can persuade more people of some things you believe if you learn to turn down a crazy a few notches.
      none none
      • re: false narrative

        To horribly paraphrase Adam Savage's famous quote:
        I reject your false narrative and substitute my own.

        Less crazy would be .. refreshing. I'm not getting hopes up.
  • it's the devilcrats

    not the congress as a whole who are refusing to negotiate and are playing dirty games.
    Obama and his crazy libs are playing with fire!
    LlNUX Geek
  • re: it's the devilcrats

    > who are refusing to negotiate

    I'm sorry, but I'm sick of imbeciles. The Republicans have refused to negotiate on a regular budget bill since the Senate passed it's version way back in March. Why? Because when you 'negotiate' you have to face the possibility of giving the other guy something he wants. This is something the Republicans are incapable of doing. See Baggin_z posts above if you don't believe me. And this is why they only 'negotiate' when there's a crisis and they think they can get something for nothing.

    Take rolling back Obamacare, for instance. Do tell me what, besides releasing their hostages, the Republicans are willing to give the other guy to get it. Again, see posts in this forum by Baggin-z to get an idea what 'negotiate' means to the radicals. It means conservatives get everything, by any means necessary and the other guy gets nothing.

    That's not negotiating.
    none none
    • You probably shouldn't respond to trolls

      In my humble opinion, LG is too cartoony to be serious.
      John L. Ries
  • There is nothing

    Entertaining about dysfunctional government, democracy in shambles, or the clueless lemmings who actually believe the Republican Party leadership cares about fiscal responsibility or personal freedom.