Monday Mail: AU plus NSA equals top secret

September 8, 2013 

We're using code names, and it's Monday Mail.


Today's opening is from a scene in the film "Raising Arizona," in which one bank robber accidentally uses another's real name in front of witnesses, whom the robbers then tell, "Y'all hear that? We're using code names."

Name game

Here's an email from SOA Watch, which has me on its mailing list:

Dear Tim,

If you haven't already, you'll soon receive a copy of the new edition of Presente!, hot off the presses. Due to a computer error, your first name may appear incorrectly. Rest assured, we know your name is Tim. … Please accept this note as our apology for the mishap.…

In Solidarity,

SOA Watch.

Dear SOA Watch:

It's OK as long as you don't blow my cover by using my National Security Agency code name ("T-Bone").

Mooo-ving on

Speaking of codes, my alma matter sends this:

Auburn University is one of four universities selected by the National Security Agency to carry the designation of a National Center of Academic Excellence in Cyber Operations. Joining Auburn are Carnegie Mellon University, Mississippi State University and the Air Force Institute of Technology.

The program is designed to cultivate more U.S. cyber professionals in an ever-changing global environment. … In addition, the program offers some participants opportunities to apply their learning or enhance their teaching in summer seminars at NSA. Participating students and faculty members do not engage in actual U.S. government intelligence activities.... Summer seminar participants must undergo background checks and obtain temporary, top-secret security clearances.…

Dear Auburn:

This NSA program involves you and Mississippi State? Are you breeding cows to spy on people?

No Secrets Allowed

Speaking of the NSA, the journalism nonprofit ProPublica sends this:


Newly disclosed documents reveal The National Security Agency is winning a long-running secret war on encryption, using supercomputers, technical trickery, court orders and behind-the-scenes persuasion to undermine the major tools protecting the privacy of everyday communications in the Internet age.

Documents provided to ProPublica, the New York Times and the Guardian by former NSA contractor Edward J. Snowden, show that the NSA "has circumvented or cracked much of the encryption that guards global commerce and banking systems, protects sensitive data like trade secrets and medical records, and automatically secures the emails, Web searches, Internet chats and phone calls of Americans and others around the world."

After the NSA lost a public battle in the 1990s to insert its own backdoor into all encryption, the agency deployed its own program to break codes. It collaborated with technology companies to build access points into their products, used secret court orders to compel companies to hand over their master encryption keys, surreptitiously stole those keys and covertly introduced weaknesses into encryption standards that are used by hardware and software developers around the world.…

Dear ProPublica:

I wish I could have learned to violate everyone's privacy when I went to Auburn.

Tim Chitwood,, 706-571-8508.

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