University with deep ties to NSA forced professor to remove blog post critical of spy agency
- School says order did not come from the NSA
- John Hopkins is a "designated trusted agent to the National Security Agency"
- The school is less than 20 miles from NSA headquarters in Maryland
Administrators at John Hopkins University in Maryland have acknowledged they ordered a well-known cryptography professor to a remove a blog post he wrote lambasting the nearby National Security Agency (NSA) for tinkering with encryption standards and recruiting large corporations to offer them unrestricted access to American's data.
“The NSA has been doing some very bad things,” Green wrote in the Thursday post, entitled “A Few Thoughts on Cryptographic Engineering.”
The university, which according to its official website enjoys sponsorship as a "designated trusted agent to the National Security Agency (NSA)," has now acknowledge it that ordered Prof. Matthew D. Green in an email to remove the post or get a lawyer.
Dennis O'Shea, a school spokesman, told a local publication, the Baltimore Sun, that Green’s article had been initially flagged by an employee of the Applied Physics Lab, the part of the school which works with the nearby spy agency, but that the order had not come from the NSA itself.
The school’s concern, according to O'Shea, was that the post may have contained an Internet link to classified material and that it contained the NSA logo, which is copyrighted.
But on Monday, the university reversed course when Johns Hopkins Interim Dean of Engineering Andrew Douglas issued an apology in an email to Green.
"Dear Matt… I write to apologize for any difficulty I caused you yesterday over the post on your blog," wrote Douglas. "I realize now that I acted too quickly, on the basis of inadequate and – as it turns out – incorrect information."
The apology, however, came too late to prevent Green's colleagues and some First Amendment advocates to wonder what role the NSA or the school’s cozy relationship with the agency may have played in the temporary censorship.
Christopher Soghoian, the American Civil Liberties Union's principal technologist and a former John Hopkins student, told the Baltimore Sun he believed it was entirely possible that the NSA had been involved in ordering the removal of the post.
"Even if no one at the NSA picked up the phone, there may have been some self-censorship coming out of APL hoping to preserve their good working relationship with the NSA," Soghoian said.
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