“I luv a man in a uniform” blog disappears
This morning I was trying to explain to an engineer-physicist all about the Human Terrain System. That got me to explaining about the blog, “iluvamaninauniform.blogspot.com.” The nom de plume of the blog is “Pentagon Diva” but the author was recently named as Montgomery McFate, as Open Anthropology, Savage Minds, and In Harmonium reported last week.
But when I went there to show him, the blog was gone! It’s been taken down. I wish I’d made some copies of the text (fortunately there are a few choice excerpts on Open Anthropology and In Harmonium).
“Never fear!” I proclaimed to the engineer-physicist (let’s call him Dave). “I know a site that archives web pages.” So I went to the Internet Archive to look for it. Sadly, it appears that it’s not available on the Internet Archive, but that doesn’t seem to be because of a deliberate block but rather because it’s relatively recent.
But then Dave told me that he’d heard an interview on NPR’s On the Media with Brewster Kahle, the co-founder of the Internet Archive, describing how he fought back when he received a “National Security Letter” (NSL) from the FBI requesting data on a particular user of the archive. According to Kahle, some 50,000 of these requests are made every year. What’s alarming about these NSLs, besides the fact that they are outside of judicial review, is that they put a gag order on the recipients, preventing them from discussing the NSL request with anyone except their lawyers. Of the estimated 200,000 issued over the past several years, only 3 NSL recipients have legally challenged the demand for information. It reminds me again why I’m glad to have left the U.S.
Anyway, Kahle fought back with the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) and the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and eventually the FBI settled. One of the terms of the settlement was that the gag order was lifted and Kahle was allowed to discuss the NSL and his fight against it. Three cheers for the EFF, the ACLU, and the few people who have had the courage to fight an NSL. (As a result of a previous challenge to an NSL, a U.S. judge found the whole system of NSLs to be unconstitutional.)
There’s a video describing another NSL recipient’s fight against this, and the EFF has made publicly available information on how anyone who receives an NSL can fight it. I know we anthropologists probably aren’t on the front line when it comes to NSLs. But then again, given the gag order, who knows who’s getting these things? Might they include requests to teachers to provide information on a student? So I thought it might be something that educators should generally be aware of.