Government & Communications

Attempts by governmental bodies to improve or impede communications with or between the citizenry.

Wikileaks Reveals How the CIA Could Hack Your Router

Your Wi-Fi router, sitting in the corner of your home accumulating dust and unpatched security flaws, provides an attractive target for hackers. Including, according to a new WikiLeaks release, the CIA.

On June 15, WikiLeaks published a detailed a set of descriptions and documentation for the CIA's router-hacking toolkit. It's the latest drip in the months-long trickle of secret CIA files it's called Vault7, and it hints at how the agency leverages vulnerabilities in common routers sold by companies including D-Link and Linksys. The techniques range from hacking network passwords to rewriting device firmware to remotely monitor the traffic that flows across a target's network. After reading up on them, you may find yourself itching to update your own long-neglected access point.

Kellyanne Conway is pointing a finger at the media after shooting

Kellyanne Conway on June 16 seemed to accuse the media of fomenting the kind of anger that led James T. Hodgkinson to embark on a shooting rampage at a baseball practice for congressional Republicans two days earlier. Appearing on “Fox & Friends,” the counselor to the president stopped short of directly blaming the press for the attack. But Conway came close, as she identified various factors that she said could have contributed to the violence.

“Look, this is also the natural byproduct if you have images of the president being shot in rapper's videos, being assassinated in a production there in New York City, the picture of a severed head,” Conway said. This was her commentary on the media: "I did a really clever thing: I went back and looked at exactly what was being discussed on all the TV shows, except yours, at 7:09 a.m. on Wednesday, when this happened, and it's a really curious exercise. Because as Steve Scalise was fighting for his life and crawling into right field in a trail of blood, you should go back and see what people were saying about the president and Republicans at that very moment." Others, like former Trump spokeswoman Katrina Pierson, have pointed fingers at the media, but Conway's remarks represent a first from a White House official.

Scott Pelley: ‘Violence Almost Always Begins With Words’

[Commentary] At the close of June 15’s broadcast of CBS Evening News, anchor Scott Pelley took aim at both sides of the political spectrum — and the leaders and talking heads who inhabit them — regarding overheated rhetoric that is now in the spotlight in the wake of the Congressional baseball shooting. “Too many leaders and political commentators who set an example for us to follow have led us into an abyss of violent rhetoric that has, it should be no surprise, has led us to violence,” Pelley noted. “As children, we’re taught words will never hurt me,” the anchor stated. “But when you think about it, violence almost always begins with words. In Twitter world, we’ve come to believe that our first thought, is our best thought. It’s past time for all of us — presidents, politicians, reporters, citizens, all of us — to pause, to think again.”

President Trump: 'Fake News Media hates when I use' Twitter

President Donald Trump boasted about his "very powerful" use of Twitter, saying that it allowed him to sidestep the news media and deliver his message directly to supporters. "The Fake News Media hates when I use what has turned out to be my very powerful Social Media — over 100 million people! I can go around them," he tweeted. President Trump has long used Twitter to comment on the news and announce policy decisions. He has argued that the social media site allows him to skirt traditional news sources that he claims treat him unfairly.

4 steps to writing an impactful net neutrality comment (which you should do)

[Commentary] What makes for a persuasive comment that can help build a record to preserve network neutrality rules? Here are four suggestions:
1. Write about yourself and how the net neutrality rules have affected you
2. Write about what you understand you are buying when you purchase broadband Internet access
3. Write about the choices you have (or don’t) for broadband Internet access
4. Write about what role you think the Federal Communications Commission should have in overseeing the market for broadband Internet access

Don’t worry if you’ve already filed a comment that doesn’t address these issues – you can file new comments addressing these and/or other issues. Over the course of a proceeding like this, companies and organizations on both sides of the debate will file many comments, including after they visit FCC Commissioners and staff to make their cases. So don’t hesitate - we need to build the strongest possible record if the net neutrality rules, and an open Internet, are to be preserved.

[Gigi Sohn is a Fellow with Georgetown Law’s Institute for Technology Law & Policy, the Open Society Foundations and Mozilla. She served as Counselor to former FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler from November 2013-December 2016.]

President Trump: Why is Clinton not investigated but I am?

President Donald Trump questioned why Hillary Clinton isn’t the subject of Russia-related investigations but he is. “Why is that Hillary Clintons family and Dems dealings with Russia are not looked at, but my non-dealings are?” President Trump tweeted. “Crooked H destroyed phones w/ hammer, 'bleached' emails, & had husband meet w/AG days before she was cleared- & they talk about obstruction?” he added, in reference to the investigation into Clinton’s private e-mail server.

Company Lost Secret 2014 Fight Over ‘Expansion’ of NSA Surveillance

An American communications company in 2014 balked at an “expansion” of the National Security Agency’s warrantless surveillance program, but was ordered to comply by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, a newly declassified document shows. The previously secret fight, which played out quietly amid a public debate over surveillance that was prompted by the 2013 leaks by the intelligence contractor Edward J. Snowden, was described in a 37-page ruling issued in 2014 by Judge Rosemary Collyer.

The ruling was heavily redacted when it was made public this week. Its uncensored portions did not say whether the challenge was brought by a telecommunications provider like AT&T that is part of the program’s “upstream” system or by a Silicon Valley internet company like Google that is part of the program’s “Prism” system. It also did not say what the “expansion” was or what legal arguments the company had made about it.

House Science Committee Chairman Smith blames media after lawmaker shooting

In a speech on the House floor, House Science Committee Chairman Lamar Smith (R-TX) argued that the mainstream media’s critical coverage of President Donald Trump has fed what he described as “an environment of hatred and violence.” “We must speak truth to the powerful liberal media,” Rep Smith said. “The media’s constant barrage of personal attacks can incite someone to take irrational actions.” He pointed to a Facebook post from the shooter that said, “It's Time to Destroy Trump & Co." “That’s not much different from the tone of many media articles,” Smith said. “The American people deserve better than a biased media. For the sake of our country, let’s hope they will drop their abusive language.”

Rep Smith is also the chairman of the Media Fairness Caucus, an effort to “examine the causes of one-sided reporting, develop strategies to combat media bias, promote an open dialogue between members of the media and elected officials, and remind the media of their profound obligation to provide the American people with the facts.” Rep Smith delivers House floor speeches on a near-weekly basis to criticize the mainstream media.

FCC makes net neutrality commenters’ e-mail addresses public through API

If you’re one of the many people filing comments on the Federal Communications Commission plan to gut network neutrality rules, be aware that your e-mail address and any other information you submit could be made public. There’s nothing nefarious going on, but the FCC’s privacy policy could lead people to believe that e-mail addresses will be kept secret if they file comments on FCC proceedings.

The commission’s privacy policy has a section titled “Comments,” which says the following: "Prior to commenting, you will be prompted to login, either by providing your e-mail address, or by linking your comment to an existing account on a popular website such as Google, Facebook, Flickr, Instagram or Twitter. While your e-mail address will not be made public, if you login with a social media service, your picture, as well as a link to your profile will be posted alongside your comment." However, this privacy policy applies not to comments on FCC proceedings but to comments on blog posts, such as those posted by Chairman Ajit Pai. When you go to submit comments on the net neutrality plan—or any other FCC proceeding—you are told the following: “You are filing a document into an official FCC proceeding. All information submitted, including names and addresses, will be publicly available via the web.”

How Policy Could Advance Open Data in Government

Citizens could soon get access to more federal data if new legislation is passed, a General Services Administration official said. The Open, Public, Electronic and Necessary Government Data Act, or the OPEN Government Data Act, directs federal agencies to share their nonsensitive data sets in a machine-readable format, and it could prompt more to submit their information to, the catalog of data sets maintained by GSA Program Manager Hyon Kim. The bill, recently introduced in both the House and the Senate, would codify Barack Obama's 2013 executive order mandating agencies make their data machine readable. It's "basically saying there has to be a, and that agencies have to maintain it," Kim said.