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Free Government Information (FGI) is a place for initiating dialogue and building consensus among the various players (libraries, government agencies, non-profit organizations, researchers, journalists, etc.) who have a stake in the preservation of and perpetual free access to government information. FGI promotes free government information through collaboration, education, advocacy and research.

NSA: Best Practices for Keeping Your Home Network Secure

Steven Aftergood says: “The National Security Agency published a brochure this month on “Best Practices for Keeping Your Home Network Secure” (pdf). Among other online security measures, the NSA suggested providing false answers to password recovery challenge questions.”

The pamphlet is available from the NSA and from the Federation of American Scientists:

Hackers Targeted House.gov Sites

Hackers Target House.gov Sites. By Brian Krebs, Washington Post (August 6, 2009).

Hackers broke into more than a dozen Web sites for members of the U.S. House of Representatives in the past week, replacing portions of their home pages with digital graffiti, according House officials.

The sites hit were hosted by a private vendor, GovTrends, which provides Web hosting for about 100 House sites.

Freedom and Information: Assessing Publicly Available Data Regarding U.S. Transportation Infrastructure Security

Assessing Publicly Available Data
From RAND website:

How much data regarding U.S. anti- and counterterrorism systems, countermeasures, and defenses is publicly available and how easily could it be found by individuals seeking to harm U.S. domestic interests? The authors developed a framework to guide assessments of the availability of such information for planning attacks on the U.S. air, rail, and sea transportation infrastructure, and applied the framework in an information-gathering exercise that used several attack scenarios. Overall, the framework was useful for assessing what kind of information would be easy or hard for potential attackers to find. For each of the attack scenarios, a team of “attackers” was unable to locate some of the information that a terrorist planner would need to gauge the likely success of a potential attack. The authors recommend that procedures for securing sensitive information be evaluated regularly and that information that can be obtained from easily accessible, off-site public information sources be included in vulnerability assessments.

Bipartisan Data-Mining Bill

Senators Feingold and Sununu have introduced a bill seeking disclosure of federal data-mining activities.

The legislation:

…requires all federal agencies to report to Congress, in classified form if need be, within 180 days and every year thereafter on certain data mining programs and how these programs impact the civil liberties and privacy of Americans.

While we at FGI would prefer a public report, or at least one that included all 435 Members of Congress, this is a good start towards better oversight of the administrations many reported surveillance programs.

This bill is similar to legislation that died in the last Congress, but will hopefully have a better chance with a Democratic majority in both houses.

Of course if it passes, the President may well try to void the reporting requirements with a Presidential Signing Statement. If that happens, perhaps it will finally provoke judicial scrutiny of such statements.

20061013 – Keeping Internet gambling in the dark

The October 13, 2006 Statement on Statement on Signing the SAFE Port Act contained this statement:

The executive branch shall construe as advisory provisions of the Act that purport to direct or burden the conduct of negotiations by the executive branch with foreign governments, international organizations, or other entities abroad, that purport to direct executive branch officials to negotiate with foreign governments or in international organizations to achieve specified foreign policy objectives, or that purport to require the executive branch to disclose
deliberations between the United States and foreign countries. Such provisions include subsections 205(d) and (i) and 803(b) of the Act; subsection 431(b) of the Homeland Security Act of 2002, as amended by section 301 of the Act; and subsection 629(h) of the Tariff Act of 1930,
as amended by section 404 of the Act. Such provisions, if construed as mandatory rather than advisory, would impermissibly interfere with the President’s constitutional authorities to conduct the Nation’s foreign affairs, participate in international negotiations, and supervise the unitary executive branch.

The full text of the Safe Port Act can be found on its Thomas page.

One of the more surprising areas where the Administration is refusing to report on is Internet Gambling. The President fears for the safety of the country if this report is made to Congress:

803 (b) Report Required- The Secretary of the Treasury shall submit an annual report to the Congress on any deliberations between the United States and other countries on issues relating to Internet gambling.

One would think that the Administration would want to document progress towards eliminating Internet gambling. What purpose is served in keeping it secret?

Of course, one can also be surprised that Internet gambling made into a ports bill to begin with!