Bruce Schneier joins EFF board

Minneapolis-based cryptographer, blogger, and security expert Bruce Schneier has joined the board of online civil rights group EFF. Schneier, whose site Schneier on Security is a must-read, says, "EFF is one of the leading organizations fighting the government's unconstitutional spying, marshaling legal and technological expertise to battle surveillance in the courtroom and in Congress. I'm excited to work together with the board and the staff as we learn more about this spying and how we can shut it down."


Off-Ramp Art: Minneapolis

Hidden behind weeds on a dangerously busy stretch of off-ramp from Interstate 94 in Minneapolis' Wedge neighborhood, I spotted this piece, a subtle paint-on-newspaper work wheat-pasted to a concrete retaining wall. Given its placement--hidden from speeding cars but close to the stoplights where panhandlers hold their signs--the quiet work feels like a gift, overlooked by all but the most observant or the very lucky.


Bits: 06.25.13

• June 25 is George Orwell's 110th birthday! Let's celebrate with a look at the architecture of spying, news that sales of the Centennial Edition of Orwell's 1984  skyrocketed by 7000 percent in the days following leaks about the NSA's domestic surveillance programs, and a look at ZXX, the OCR-defying typeface my colleague and former NSA contractor Sang Mun made as both a piece of protest art and an homage to activists and artists fighting for civil rights online and off.

• Artist/experimental geographer Trevor Paglen on Edward Snowden and the threat of "turnkey tyranny":
...Politicians claim that the Terror State is necessary to defend democratic institutions from the threat of terrorism. But there is a deep irony to this rhetoric. Terrorism does not pose, has never posed and never will pose an existential threat to the United States. Terrorists will never have the capacity to “take away our freedom.” Terrorist outfits have no armies with which to invade, and no means to impose martial law. They do not have their hands on supra-national power levers like the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund. They cannot force nations into brutal austerity programs and other forms of economic subjugation. But while terrorism cannot pose an existential threat to the United States, the institutions of a Terror State absolutely can. Indeed, their continued expansion poses a serious threat to principles of democracy and equality...
• Istanbul-based artist Erdem Gündüz's protest against the Turkish government's crackdown on dissenters last week--in which he stood stock still, intent on doing so for a full month--has drawn the attention of police and a spate of silent protests across the country in solidarity.

• Ai Weiwei's first rock album, The Divine Comedy, is now available on iTunes, or you can listen to it at Soundcloud or on his website.


Drones and Art

Returning to Lahore from the US, artist Mahwish Chishty decided upon a new subject matter for her paintings: US surveillance drones that have been wreaking havoc along the Pakistani border. Leveraging the local tradition of truck painting, she says, "I wanted people to think maybe what would happen if these drones were friendlier looking, instead of such hard-edged, metallic war machines."

Far more critical is the art of James Bridle's Dronestagram project. Disrupting Instagram's stream of selfies and look-what-I-ate-for-dinner shots, the UK-based artist posts “images of the locations of drone strikes to the photo-sharing site Instagram as they occur." Along with kindred spirits Trevor Paglen and Omer Fast, Bridle is deeply interested in drones and how what they mean in an online age. The Predator drone, he told Vanity Fair, “embodies so many of the qualities of the network. Sight at a distance, action at a distance, and it’s invisible... I started thinking about it as an emanation of the network itself—not just a surveillance platform, but a dark mirror."

Bridle's work these days focuses on "the New Aesthetic," a research project in which he collects " material which points towards new ways of seeing the world, an echo of the society, technology, politics and people that co-produce them."
Pictured (top to bottom):
Mahwish Chishty, X-47B, 2012

James Bridle, Dronestagram ("May 29 2013 - A strike on a mud-built house in Miranshah or the nearby village of Chashma, at 3am, killing 4-7 people. According to local resident Bashir Dawar, “The bodies were badly damaged and beyond recognition.”
James Bridle, Drone Shadow 002, 2012