Ten

« Two Teen Films w/a Twist | Main | NYT Notices Jon Stewart is God »

April 19, 2003

MyCarthyite Undermining of Security & Science

I just wasn't that bothered by the public boycotts of the Dixie Chicks or attacks on celebrities like Tim Robbins and Susan Sarandon. Public boycotts of products and even people are all part of free speech-- I've participated in a few myself-- so they are not some incipient McCarthyite scourge.

The danger of McCarthyism was not that popular individuals might lose income because fans or customers didn't like their views-- it was that the government would use public power to punish those views irregardless of the public.

So here is an example of McCarthyism, and McCarthyism that is actually making us more vulnerable to terrorism and undermining scientific progress to boot.

Critical computer systems increasingly run on open source software systems such as Linux or other free UNIX variations. DARPA, the arm of the U.S. Department of Defense that funds research and development and is best known for funding what became the Internet, gave a grant to Berkeley researchers in 2001 in order to strengthen security features in OpenBSD, a key open source operating system.

But all of a sudden DARPA pulled the remainder of the grant:

The project's leader, Theo de Raadt, said Thursday he was informed by e-mail that the remaining portion of the $2.3 million grant has been pulled. An e-mail message from a professor who is managing the grant did not provide a reason, but de Raadt said he believes the cancellation was prompted by concerns about the money going to too many foreign developers and to antiwar statements that de Raadt made to reporters.
Part of the problem may have been that he was helping fund some foreign researchers to help on the project, but his outspokenness on the war seems to have been a key problem as well:
Earlier this week, de Raadt said he was told that officials from DARPA were concerned about statements appearing in press reports that indicated most of the grant was being funneled to foreign researchers, an apparent no-no for government-funded projects. Moreover, de Raadt believed that the U.S. government took exception to comments he made indicating that the money spent on his project meant that fewer cruise missiles were being built.

"In the United States today, free speech is just a myth," de Raadt said.

Whether a xenophobic rejection of working collaboratively with the global research community or flat-out censorship of antiwar views, this attack on the BSD project reflects the authoritarian unilateralism of the Bush administration. All of which is endangering the security of our computer systems and the global research collaborations that built the Internet in the first place.

Posted by Nathan at April 19, 2003 11:10 AM

Trackback Pings

TrackBack URL for this entry:
http://www.nathannewman.org/cgi-bin/mt-tb.cgi/697

Comments

"statements appearing in press reports that indicated most of the grant was being funneled to foreign researchers, an apparent no-no for government-funded projects."
If this is true, then I can see any US gov't having to do something about it. Like telling him to redirect the grant money. I don't think that justifies pulling the plug, but I can see a bureaucracy doing that.
Of course, if this is false, then it's what you say. They must have a % for how much can go abroad, that's what gov'ts are for.

Posted by: John Isbell at April 19, 2003 04:22 PM

Isn't Theo, like, Canadian? So the money was explicitly given to a foreigner in the first place.

Posted by: dmm at April 20, 2003 01:13 PM

>I just wasn't that bothered by the public boycotts of the Dixie Chicks or attacks on celebrities like Tim Robbins and Susan Sarandon. Public boycotts of products and even people are all part of free speech-- I've participated in a few myself-- so they are not some incipient McCarthyite scourge.

>The danger of McCarthyism was not that popular individuals might lose income because fans or customers didn't like their views-- it was that the government would use public power to punish those views irregardless of the public.

Nathan, though I often disagree with you, your history is usually more accurate than this. Though governemt action was central, it still could not have succeed without private boycotts. In fact most of the people who lost their jobs during that era were the victims of private blacklists, not direct government actions. And the targeting of Hollywood and famours people was a key part of the strategy to intimidate others. My parents were among the ordinary non-famous people who were blacklisted as part of that campaign. So please don't take private blacklists lightly, just because they start with famnous people. That is not where they end.

Posted by: Gar Lipow at April 23, 2003 12:12 AM

Gar- But most of the private blacklists, such as those in Hollywood, were defacto government blacklists since the government was threatening to call up to HUAC hearings or attack anyone seen as "collaborating" with Communists. When blacklists are defensive moves against government attacks, they are still de facto state action.

But gays boycotting Laura Schlesinger or Mike Savage because of their retrograde views, or conservatives boycotting Tim Robbins or the Dixie Chicks because of their antiwar views is just part of consumer choice. I don't have to buy products that fund or support the political positions I dislike.

In practice, you fight boycotts you don't like by counterprotests. That's organizing. But I think it is bad argument to equate state action with private protest.

Posted by: Nathan Newman at April 23, 2003 12:34 PM

Post a comment




Remember Me?

(you may use HTML tags for style)