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[liberationtech] Deconstructing the security risks narrative of Haystack

Gabe Gossett Gabe.Gossett at
Sat Sep 18 13:48:11 PDT 2010

From: liberationtech-bounces at [liberationtech-bounces at] On Behalf Of Matt D. Harris [mdh at]
Sent: Saturday, September 18, 2010 5:22 AM
>I believe that questioning the government on this is a good thing. 

I agree that questioning the US government's role in this is worthwhile, but for a different reason than funding (though that is important).  While there was no open peer review of Haystack there was some sort of unpublicized government review.  The extent of that review is an important question.  When I spoke with Austin about this issue he assured me that there had been some sort of rigorous testing and review of Haystack that preceded issuing the OFAC license.  What would be valuable to know is how extensive the review really was.  Whatever may be the case, Haystack received a stamp of approval, and was lent authority, when the license was issued.  I have no idea what the reality of the review process was, but according to the OFAC license there was an application of some sort that CRC submitted.  Knowing contents of that application might help us better understand government policy, and how sound it is, on issues like this.

Interestingly, the government has never publicly explicitly connected itself to Haystack, or at least not that I have seen.  They might be partially responsible for the claims CRC was making, primarily by giving them a stamp of credibility, but there is not much solid evidence available.  I understand that there are freedom of information requests pending on Haystack's OFAC license, but I think it would be surprising if they actually made it somewhere. 

It will be interesting to see what Evgeny and others might turn up exploring this issue.

As a side note, I do think there is some good that can come out of this.  The Haystack debacle is an excellent case in point for the importance of peer review.  Part of my job is to educate university students on the importance of basing their own scholarship on peer reviewed sources, and in turn having their own work reviewed.  This will be a great way to highlight that point.



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