John Paczkowski

Recent Posts by John Paczkowski

House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform: Me Lose Brain? Uh, Oh! Ha Ha Ha! Why I Laugh?

homerbrain.pngAdd to the steadily growing list of threats to national security one more: peer-to-peer networks.

At a hearing yesterday by the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, Chairman Henry Waxman (D., Calif.) declared P2P networks a “national security threat,” claiming they’d caused federal employees to accidentally share sensitive or classified documents. “We used the most popular P2P program, LimeWire, and ran a series of basic searches,” Waxman said, referring to a bit of research done by his staff. “What we found was astonishing: personal bank records and tax forms, attorney-client communications, the corporate strategies of Fortune 500 companies, confidential corporate accounting documents, internal documents from political campaigns, government emergency-response plans and even military-operation orders. … It is truly chilling to think of what private information an organized operation or a foreign government could acquire with additional resources.”

Certainly is. But not nearly as chilling as the idea of government employees installing P2P software on government-issued computers holding classified government documents. No wonder the government got a C- on its 2006 Federal Computer Security Report Card.
The FBI is losing laptops like baby teeth, the Transportation Security Administration is misplacing hard drives with the Social Security numbers and bank account information of its employees, and now federal employees are jeopardizing the security of government emergency-response plans and military-operation orders by messing around with P2P clients.

Don’t try telling that to committee members like Rep. Jim Cooper (D., Tenn.), though. During yesterday’s hearing, he drew and quartered the lone representative from a peer-to-peer software company in attendance: LimeWire Chairman Mark Gorton. After suggesting that Gorton’s own home computer was likely leaking sensitive documents, Cooper lambasted him as “one of the most naive chairmen and CEOs” he’d ever encountered. “I’d feel more than a shade of guilt at this point, having made the laptop a dangerous weapon against the security of the United States,” Cooper said. “Mr. Gorton, you seem to lack imagination about how your product can be deliberately misused by evildoers against this country.”

Evildoers, huh. Is that a euphemism for federal employees doing government work on computers connected to peer-to-peer networks?


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The problem with the Billionaire Savior phase of the newspaper collapse has always been that billionaires don’t tend to like the kind of authority-questioning journalism that upsets the status quo.

— Ryan Chittum, writing in the Columbia Journalism Review about the promise of Pierre Omidyar’s new media venture with Glenn Greenwald