Cybersecurity / Education / Federal government / Media / Public safety

Why Johns Hopkins asked this professor to remove his blog post about the NSA

Johns Hopkins "did not receive any inquiry from the federal government to take down the mirror site," according to a statement from a university spokesperson.

Matthew Green. Photo courtesy of Twitter.

Matthew Green is a cryptographer and research professor who teaches at the Johns Hopkins University (JHU). He blogs about cryptographic engineering on Blogger. And, up until yesterday, his Blogger posts were also published on a Johns Hopkins University-hosted mirror site.
But on Monday, the interim dean of JHU’s engineering school sent him an e-mail asking him to remove from the university’s servers a blog post on the National Security Agency, according to Green via Twitter.
In that post, Green used the logo of the NSA and linked to now-declassified documents detailing how the NSA circumvents the encryption systems that safeguard Americans’ e-mails, web searches, online chats and more, the subject of a story reported by the New York Times, the Guardian and ProPublica and published Sept. 5.
It was also suggested to Green via that same e-mail that he should “seek counsel” if he didn’t take down the blog post and “desist from using the NSA logo.”
Green told the dean he wouldn’t shut down his personal blog not affiliated with Johns Hopkins, but he did shut down the JHU-hosted mirror site.
Green explained what happened on Monday via Twitter, which we’ve gathered together in this Storify.
A spokesperson for Johns Hopkins said that Green’s mirror site may now be restored since “the NSA logo has been removed and that he appears to link to material that has been published in the news media.”
In addition, the school “did not receive any inquiry from the federal government to take down the mirror site,” according to a statement given to Ars Technica, which also has a cached version of the blog Green was told to take down, “On the NSA.” (We’ll update this post with a link to Green’s JHU-hosted mirror site if and when it has been restored.)
As Green wrote in “On the NSA” on Sept. 5, a post that still lives on his Blogger site but has been stripped of the NSA logo, he had spoken sometime in August with a reporter from ProPublica who had questions about encryption, and whether the NSA possessed means of getting around it.
In a blog post Tuesday morning, Green explained why he decided to blog about the NSA on Sept. 5. Among his points, in light of this summer’s continual news about NSA surveillance operations:

The question to me — as an American and as someone who cares about the integrity of speech — is how we restore faith in our technology. I don’t have the answers to this question right now. … So while I know there are people at NSA who must be cursing Edward Snowden’s name (and possibly even my own!) I hope that they understand the game we’re playing now. Their interests as well as mine now depend on fixing the damage. Downplaying the extent of the damage, or trying to restrict access to (formerly) classified documents does nobody any good.

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