Whatever You Do, Don’t Use This Logo!

Apparently, there is a whole group of nerds somewhere that really don’t have a sense of humor. They must be humorless INTPs or something who take themselves waaaaaayyy too seriously.

Who are they? Well, I’m glad you asked. They are the lovely men and women [I presume women – come on, there are female cytologists and hackers out there working for the government, amiright?] who work for the NSA, better known as the National Security Agency. This agency has come under scrutiny lately for spying on Americans illegally protecting America a little too vigorously.

The NSA Cares About You.

Awwww. The NSA Cares About You.

 

I say they just don’t have a sense of humor, because they obviously don’t understand the art of parody. I mean they’re not being very good sports. What happened was that a company by the name of Liberty Maniacs made some tee shirts parodying the NSA. They used a company called Zazzle, which allows you to design photo gifts as well as use your own designs to make some money. It’s not a lot of money, but if you’re good you can buy a cappuccino or a slice of cheesecake or something else highly caloric.

Anyway, the guy runs a shop called Liberty Maniacs. They were using Zazzle to host most of their designs; they are still doing that now, actually. But the [again, humorless] people at the NSA decided that Dan McCall was violating copyright laws. So, they asked Zazzle to take it down, and Zazzle cooperated.

See: NSA Using Copyright Claims To Crush Free Speech? (Benn Swan)

Or watch this video below:

See: The Satire/Parody Distinction in Copyright and Trademark Law—Can Satire Ever Be a Fair Use? (ABA)

Fortunately for us, Cafe Press decided to allow the shirt. You can buy it here: http://www.cafepress.com/libertymaniacs/10128143

I actually like this one. Will someone buy it for me in a Medium? I promise to post a picture for whoever will get it for me. Promise!!

the_nsa_jr_football_tshirt

The NSA Jr. Football T-Shirt – $20.99

the_nsa_jr_football_tshirt2

Also in ZINGA! blue

 

Now, the funny part about all of this is that a program within the NSA, “Prism,” is guilty of copyright infringement itself. According to Techdirt, the photo was actually taken by Adam Hart-Davis, which you can see in his gallery.

Uh….whoops. But the rules don’t apply to the United States Government, right? Of course not. We’ll gladly drop chemical weapons on other people. We’re ‘MURCA. But if anyone else does it, then holy H-E-Double Hockey Sticks people!

Ugh.

This isn’t an isolated incident either. Cryptography professor Matthew Green, who teaches at the Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, wrote a post about the NSA and their decryption methods. You can see the original post here: http://blog.cryptographyengineering.com/2013/09/on-nsa.html

In the post, he wrote:

The TL;DR is that the NSA has been doing some very bad things. At a combined cost of $250 million per year, they include:

  1. Tampering with national standards (NIST is specifically mentioned) to promote weak, or otherwise vulnerable cryptography.
  2. Influencing standards committees to weaken protocols.
  3. Working with hardware and software vendors to weaken encryption and random number generators.
  4. Attacking the encryption used by ‘the next generation of 4G phones‘.
  5. Obtaining cleartext access to ‘a major internet peer-to-peer voice and text communications system’ (Skype?)
  6. Identifying and cracking vulnerable keys.
  7. Establishing a Human Intelligence division to infiltrate the global telecommunications industry.
  8. And worst of all (to me): somehow decrypting SSL connections.

All of these programs go by different code names, but the NSA’s decryption program goes by the name ‘Bullrun’ so that’s what I’ll use here.

And then he went on to discuss these methods in a way that only a security expert and professor could. It’s a useful post that I highly recommend. So he wrote the post on his blog at Blogger. But his blog also had a mirror on a John Hopkins server. He was asked to delete both, but he did not comply and only removed the mirror that is hosted by the University. (Quick! Someone give that man a bitcoin tip!)

 

See: Revealed: How US and UK Spy Agencies Defeat Internet Privacy and Security (The Guardian) and Secret Documents Reveal N.S.A. Campaign Against Encryption (NYT)

According to ARSTechnica, the reason was that his original post contained the NSA logo. The university insists that the government didn’t tell them to take it down.

The point is this: If political activists and educated citizens cannot criticize the government, then we should all be worried. The point of these tactics is to cause fear in the everyday person. Because the everyday person is not an activist. He is not someone who is willing to go to the end for what is right. And all governments know this. So they will do what they can to discourage dissent, even if the dissent is still legal. This is not without precedence, of course. It has happened in many countries and at many times. Of course, our government is powerful enough that it doesn’t need to wave a gun. Nope. They’re already spying on us, so they know where we are and what we’re saying. They know our dirty little secrets. The trouble won’t come in SS uniforms. It will come with quiet police raids, media mocking, and seemingly unrelated criminal offenses. All they have to do is put up some bogus charge like they did with Dr. Stephen Kurtz.  

The fact is, tactics like this will cause everyday people to think twice. And that is the point, fearful people are silent people.

The Nazis learned that, remember? Even when the victims of the regime had the means and capability to fight back, they usually didn’t. They complied and they died.

Don’t be afraid — be prepared.

Contributor Lynn Swayze is a left-leaning libertarian and feminist. When she's not engaging in political discussion, she works as a freelance direct response copywriter, project manager, and marketing strategist for information marketers. Follow her on Twitter @LynnSwayze.