scientists/ mathematicians scrounge some )( spine against the @#%& NSA

dark_nsahi all, this blog is sometimes all about “timing is everything”. mathbabe quoted woit[d] recently re NSA/ NIST/ crypto algorithms.

alas, there seem not to be great refs on this subject. the NSA “prefers to remain nameless”. the closest might be anything written by Bamford.[g] his earliest book Puzzle Palace came out in 1983. an amazing book at the time.

unf the public did not pay much attn to Bamford even though he warned about the NSA years ago. the NSA in some ways has an even lower profile than the CIA, purposely so, although not in the last decade or so.

~1½ yr after the snowden revelations the scientific and mathematical community is slowly waking up to the NSA behemoth and its real nature. the NSA is a very contradictory agency in our information age, and wrt constitutional freedoms/ rights (does anyone remember those anymore?)

its great to see some mathematicians gaining some, uh, testicular fortitude and speaking up/ out on the subject eg in scientific/ mathematics journals eg Notices of the AMS.[a] but the NSA with its (tens of?) billions of dollars budget is definitely a case of the frog slowly being boiled long ago. (hint: to paraphase warren buffet, if you dont know who the frog is, youre it.) 😈

(oh and how about the clearly, embarrassingly neophyte/ naive utah legislator Roberts who introduced a bill to shut off the NSA water to the utah datacenter, not reported much in the media? [b9] ^^’ … call me a cynic but isnt there just a teeny )( hint of either stealthy bureacratic burial in circular file, or smell of fiery plane crash here?)

it could be called a david vs goliath fight but that might be misrepresentative & unfair to goliath who was reportedly at least human.

theres an old adage about not picking fights with newspaper critics who work for companies that “buy ink by the gallon”. and maybe one is similarly better advised not picking fights with govt agencies that “wiretap phones by the terrabyte”….

the NSA was recently folded up (a few years ago) into authority of management by the pentagon.

the NSA has an inherently schizophrenic character somewhat like the CIA. it has to both break and preserve information integrity. its not surprising that it messes up on one or the other end. and like the CIA, “means vs ends” sometimes get blurred.

the NSA is one of the largest employers of mathematicians in the world and they also bestow significant research grants on universities although theres very little transparency/ openness on all that. but, its surely a faustian bargain. a few years ago it was also revealed that the NSA independently discovered public key cryptography. but that factoid was classified for decades.

obama has been forced with his “back against the wall” to do some NSA restructuring/ reform. but as McCain famously said in another context, “lipstick on a pig”! but it might be far worse… the NSA is closer at times to a Beast.

cryptography is an amazing intersection/ amalgamation of personal freedoms/ rights, govt oversight/ law enforcement, technology, computer science.

its great to have major iconoclasts like Bamford and Schneier[f] blowing the whistle for years.

now normally discreet, introverted and innocuous mathematician such as Leinster,[c] Seife[b] etc are speaking out. (Koblitz tried it years ago but ran into some major pushback and didnt even say anything about the NSA!)[h]

our national cybersecurity policy is quite a jumbled mess. and maybe the spooks prefer it that way.

my only consolation is that maybe the physical warmachine is decreasing in prominence a slight )( amount as “cyberwarfare” (a probable oxymoron) gains increasing significance.

cybersecurity is not at all like physical security and this is yet another case of if you have a hammer, everything looks like a nail, and all the 4-star generals and faceless career bureacrats apparently still havent gotten any memo on all that yet.

two interesting case studies in recent years: the sony hack (implicating N Korea) and stuxnet,[j] of which the public is mostly entirely unaware despite good reporting. (and who can even keep up with all the security breaches in the news? theres scandal fatigue, and breach fatigue….)

oh and as for the NIST being in charge of cryptographic security, thats at least as trustworthy as their 911 investigation right? but thats a whole other can of worms isnt it?

the NSA like the CIA chews up whistleblowers and spits them out in tiny mashed-up pieces. snowden is very, very lucky right now not to have much more dangerous consequences for his near-crazy-looking actions. but I commend him nevertheless.

it usually takes someone young like that to pull off such an incredible stunt (re manning, assange, etc) and by personalities who havent really thought through the probable (very harsh) consequences.

scientists need to have some kind of ethics, but scientific ethics has always been a very tricky concept. consider that Archimedes, one of the greatest mathematicians of antiquity, helped make warmachines for the Syracuse govt.

and then theres all the brilliant US Mathematicians such as von Neumann working on the the atom bomb. at least Turing worked on cryptography an apparently nonviolent area, but the distinction blur when eg a massive billion dollar code agency NSA is a wholly owned subsidiary of the worlds largest warmachine control bureacracy, the Pentagon. and ones ethics tend to get blurry when billions of National Security dollars are at stake.

collecting all these links is a fun exercise, but there is a lot of disconnection and lack of any real opposition power. the mathematicians vs the NSA would seem to have about as much chance as labor vs the plutocrats (aka Marxist proletariats vs the capitalists).

and british prime minister cameron just stated he wants to BAN CRYPTO IN THE UK.[i] and is reportedly seeking “cooperation” from obama.[i13]

@#%& ❗ ❗ ❗ 😮 o_O 😡

is this a free world or not?

joint US-british cybersec exercises on the way soon.

is it just me? seems like every time a bureacrat makes a major decision, a few more rights get trampled. & when its a warmachine military bureacrat, they get shot.

(1/30) coincidence? science magazine covers the debate.[b10]

a. notices AMS commentary
b. scientist reaction/ criticism/ pushback
c. leinster / n-category cafe
d. woit / not even wrong
e. aaronson / shtetl optimized
f. schneier / schneier on security
g. bamford
h. koblitz
i. intnatl cybersec
j. hacks/ breaches

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