We begin with a new US measure to secure its supply chain for a critical infrastructure – the bulk power grid. David Kris unpacks a new Executive Order restricting purchases of foreign equipment for the grid.

Nick Weaver, meanwhile, explains the remarkable extent of surveillance built into Xiaomi phones and questions the company’s claim that it was merely acquiring pseudonymous ad-related data like others in the industry.

It wouldn’t be the Cyberlaw Podcast if we didn’t wrangle over mobile phones and the coronavirus. Mark MacCarthy says that several countries – Australia, the UK, and perhaps France – are deviating from the Gapple model for using phones for infection tracing. Several have bought in. India, meanwhile, is planning a much more government-driven approach to using phone apps to combat the pandemic.


Continue Reading Episode 314: Mirror-Image Decoupling

In this episode, I interview Thomas Rid about his illuminating study of Russian disinformation, Active Measures: The Secret History of Disinformation and Political Warfare. It lays out a century of Soviet, East European, and Russian disinformation, beginning with an elaborate and successful operation against the White Russian expatriate resistance to Bolshevik rule in the 1920s. Rid has dug into recently declassified material using digital tools that enable him to tell previously untold tales – the Soviets’ remarkable success in turning opposition to US nuclear missiles in Europe into a mass movement (and the potential shadow it casts on the legendary Adm. Hyman Rickover, father of the US nuclear navy), the unimpressive record of US disinformation compared to the ruthless Soviet version, and the fake American lobbyist (and real German agent) who persuaded a German conservative legislator to save Willy Brandt’s leftist government. We close with two very different predictions about the kind of disinformation we’ll see in the 2020 campaign.


Continue Reading Episode 312: Russia’s online disinformation has a 100-year history

Nick Weaver and I debate Sens. Graham and Blumenthal’s EARN IT Act, a proposal to require that social media firms follow best practices on preventing child abuse. If they don’t, they won’t get full Section 230 immunity from liability for recklessly allowing the abuse. Nick thinks the idea is ill-conceived and doomed to fail. I think there’s a core of sense to the proposal, which simply asks that Silicon Valley firms who are reckless about child abuse on their networks pay for the social costs they’re imposing on society. Since the bill gives the attorney general authority to modify the best practices submitted by a commission of industry, academic, and civic representatives, critics are sure that the final product will reduce corporate incentives to offer end-to-end encryption.


Continue Reading Episode 298: Bill Barr as Bogeyman

Our interview is with Alex Joel, former Chief of the Office of Civil Liberties, Privacy, and Transparency at the Office of the Director of National Intelligence. Alex is now at the American University law school’s Tech, Law, and Security Program. We share stories about the difficulties of government startups and how the ODNI carved out a role for itself in the Intelligence Community (hint: It involved good lawyering). We dive pretty deep on recent FISA court opinions and the changes they forced in FBI procedures. In the course of that discussion, I realize that every “reform” of intelligence dreamed up by Congress in the last decade has turned out to be a self-licking compliance trap, and I take back some of my praise for the DNI’s lawyering.


Continue Reading Episode 283: Is intelligence “reform” a self-licking ice cream cone and compliance trap?

Camille Stewart talks about a little-known national security risk: China’s propensity to acquire US technology through the bankruptcy courts and the many ways in which the bankruptcy system isn’t set up to combat improper tech transfers. Published by the Journal of National Security Law & Policy, Camille’s paper is available here. Camille has enjoyed great success in her young career working with the Transformative Cyber Innovation Lab at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, as a Cybersecurity Policy Fellow at New America, and as a 2019 Cyber Security Woman of the Year, among other achievements. We talk at the end of the session about life and advancement as an African American woman in cybersecurity.


Want to hear more from Camille on this topic? She’ll be speaking Friday, September 13, at a lunch event hosted by the Foundation for Defense of Democracies. She’ll be joined by fellow panelists Giovanna Cinelli, Jamil Jaffer, and Harvey Rishikof, along with moderator Dr. Samantha Ravich. The event will be livestreamed at www.fdd.org/events. If you would like to learn more about the event, please contact Abigail Barnes at FDD. If you are a member of the press, please direct your inquiries to press@fdd.org.



Continue Reading Episode 277: Bankrupting National Security?

Our News Roundup leads with the long, slow death of Section 230 immunity. Nick Weaver explains why he thinks social media’s pursuit of engagement has led to a poisonous online environment, and Matthew Heiman replays the astonishing international consensus that Silicon Valley deserves the blame – and the regulation – for all that ails the Internet. The UK is considering holding social media execs liable for “harmful” content on their platforms. Australia has already passed a law to punish social media companies for failure to remove “abhorrent violent material.” And Singapore is happily drafting behind the West, avoiding for once the criticism that its press controls are out of step with the international community. Even Mark Zuckerberg is reading the writing on the wall and asking for regulation. I note that lost in the one-minute hate directed at social media is any notion that other countries shouldn’t be able to tell Americans what they can and can’t read. I also wonder whether the consensus that platforms should be editors will add to conservative doubts about maintaining Section 230 at all – and in the process endanger the US-Mexico-Canada Agreement that would enshrine Section 230 in US treaty obligations.


Continue Reading Episode 258: The death of Section 230