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Jessamyn gets a mention in The Guardian
September 9, 2013 5:59 AM   Subscribe

Jessamyn's "THE FBI HAS NOT BEEN HERE" library sign gets a mention in The Guardian's "How to foil NSA sabotage" article.
posted by EndsOfInvention to MetaFilter-Related at 5:59 AM (78 comments total) 15 users marked this as a favorite

CORY DOCTOROW HAS NOT BEEN TO METAFILTER (watch very closely for the deletion of this comment)
posted by Curious Artificer at 6:18 AM on September 9, 2013 [14 favorites]


This is neat for Jessamyn, but if MetaFilter wasn't on a Watch List before...
posted by Rock Steady at 6:25 AM on September 9, 2013 [1 favorite]


I suspect MetaFilter is far down on that list. We probably can't even get into the VIP room and don't even get a +10,000.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 6:30 AM on September 9, 2013 [3 favorites]


This was amusing to wake up to since I think we were just discussing how this sort of thing (the "watch closely for removal of this message" signalling) is actually probably illegal under a gag rule situation. THAT said, I like the fact that people are at least talking about it and trying to find ways to deal with increasingly invasive spying tactics. I know Cory's not everyone's cup of tea, but I appreciate that there are people out there with voices and audiences who are keeping these issues under active discussion and talking about just how much surveillance and backdoors into "computers" really affects the fabric of everyone's daily lives not just internet nerds like us.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 6:59 AM on September 9, 2013 [31 favorites]


Radical librarian. Wouldn't have really thought that adjective could be applied to that noun.

Unless using it in the 80s way of "totally awesome and tubular dude, tubular!"
posted by ish__ at 7:20 AM on September 9, 2013 [2 favorites]


Radical librarian. Wouldn't have really thought that adjective could be applied to that noun.

Well we can all hope for the day when views on these issues, such as jessamyn's, are not viewed as radical.
posted by AElfwine Evenstar at 7:21 AM on September 9, 2013 [18 favorites]

This gave me an idea for a more general service: a dead man's switch to help fight back in the war on security. This service would allow you to register a URL by requesting a message from it, appending your own public key to it and posting it to that URL.

Once you're registered, you tell the dead man's switch how often you plan on notifying it that you have not received a secret order, expressed in hours. Thereafter, the service sits there, quietly sending a random number to you at your specified interval, which you sign and send back as a "No secret orders yet" message. If you miss an update, it publishes that fact to an RSS feed.
This seems like a super idea except for A) what if that service is compromised and B) all the effort required to regularly declare "No secret orders yet!"
posted by octobersurprise at 7:22 AM on September 9, 2013


I will endorse jessamyn's status as a totally tubular librarian, fwiw.
posted by capricorn at 7:24 AM on September 9, 2013 [4 favorites]


If Jessamyn West: Radical Librarian is not a media franchise by year's end, I might have to co-opt it. Fair warning!
posted by thinkpiece at 7:32 AM on September 9, 2013 [3 favorites]


I will not be franchised!
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 7:36 AM on September 9, 2013 [23 favorites]


So, what has actually happened to people who have broken the law by disclosing that they'd received a secret order/visit?
posted by Jacqueline at 7:41 AM on September 9, 2013


People mostly don't. You can see examples of people who have, in various ways, contested this sort of thing: Brewster Kahle was one, George Christian &c. were another. Christian's lawsuit actually helped overturn aspects of the USA PATRIOT Act's gag order as I understand it. It was a big deal.
The librarians took turns at the microphone at their lawyers' office and publicly identified themselves as the collective John Doe who had sued the United States attorney general after their organization received a confidential demand for patron records in a secret counterterrorism case. They had been ordered, under the threat of prosecution, not to talk about the request with anyone. The librarians, who all have leadership roles at a small consortium called Library Connection in Windsor, Conn., said they opposed allowing the government unchecked power to demand library records and were particularly incensed at having been subject to the open-ended nondisclosure order.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 7:56 AM on September 9, 2013 [21 favorites]


Jacqueline: "So, what has actually happened to people who have broken the law by disclosing that they'd received a secret order/visit?"

I tell my son this bedtime story all the time. It's a family favorite:
Once upon a time, there was a little boy who received a National Security Letter. The letter said that he couldn't tell anyone, but he was scared so he told his mommy and daddy. The government found out and none of them were ever seen or heard from again. Some people say that they went to a secret prison somewhere overseas, but most people don't talk about it at all.

The End.
I think that we can all agree that this heartwarming tale teaches us a valuable lesson.
posted by double block and bleed at 7:57 AM on September 9, 2013 [22 favorites]


So, what has actually happened to people who have broken the law by disclosing that they'd received a secret order/visit?

They got [redacted] right in the [redacted].

Slightly more seriously, Ladar Levison, the founder of Lavabit, was apparently told by the US Attorney's office that by doing what he did (i.e shutting down his encrypted email servicer) he might have violated the terms of the court order, and could thus be prosecuted for contempt of court. That was revealed about three weeks ago, so may still be under consideration.
posted by running order squabble fest at 8:03 AM on September 9, 2013 [5 favorites]


Radical librarian. Wouldn't have really thought that adjective could be applied to that noun.

So far as I can tell, sharing information with the general population has been a radical action for most of history.

Now we have an increasing awareness of the volume of knowledge that is apparently fair game for secret agencies and not for the rest of us, some of the most widely known recent radical acts have involved information sharing.

In the information age, we, our governments and the corporate interests that lobby the governments, are building the rules and the framework that will control information access for the forseeable future; doesn't that make the librarians the ultimate radicals?
posted by emilyw at 8:08 AM on September 9, 2013 [4 favorites]


...and having written that comment, I switched to my work chat window to find work colleagues (not metafilterians) discussing this very link and Jessamyn the Radical Librarian.

I think there needs to be an action figure.
posted by emilyw at 8:16 AM on September 9, 2013 [10 favorites]


I think there needs to be an action figure.

What I really dream of is the metafilter command bunker playset which comes with bonus pb figurine. The mod action figures sold separately. And then of course the only way to get the matthowie action figure would be to save up your corn pops boxes and send in for it.
posted by AElfwine Evenstar at 8:22 AM on September 9, 2013 [6 favorites]


Or maybe just an edition of Clue.

Jessamyn, in the Library, with the Notice.
posted by The Whelk at 8:24 AM on September 9, 2013 [8 favorites]


One of the advantages of a dead man switch service is it allows you to detail the surveillance once you are immune to prosecution.

It also shines a light on the absurdity of security letters that make it illegal to stop telling people that you haven't been served.
posted by Mitheral at 8:25 AM on September 9, 2013


thinkpiece: If Jessamyn West: Radical Librarian is not a media franchise by year's end, I might have to co-opt it. Fair warning!

jessamyn: I will not be franchised!

Oh don't worry, my Wessamyn Jest: Radical Surfing Librarian Disney Channel series will have no reference to the real-life Jessamyn West. (You don't surf, do you?)
posted by filthy light thief at 8:27 AM on September 9, 2013 [10 favorites]


emilyw: I think there needs to be an action figure.

How much would it cost to get Sillof to work on it? (And maybe a "furry" variant, for the PowerPack Pals [see more]?)
posted by filthy light thief at 8:35 AM on September 9, 2013


I will not be franchised!

Ok, that's fine, I respect that. How about this: we create shares of your potential to be franchised at a future date. Then we sell those shares as part of a package that includes shares of potential franchising of the other mods, some of whom will not have a problem with being franchised. Everyone wins!

Hey what happened to that FBI si
posted by griphus at 8:55 AM on September 9, 2013 [2 favorites]


Why is Jessamyn so Radical? I just would label her Ingenious.
posted by bearwife at 9:03 AM on September 9, 2013


I think there needs to be an action figure.

Hollywood can route around intransigent hippies like her. If she doesn't want the franchise money we'll buy the life story of someone near and dear. I see action figures, t-shirts, cartoons and Happy Meals.

This is gonna be big big BIG, baby!
posted by Meatbomb at 9:13 AM on September 9, 2013


It needs to have a sassy soundtrack with in-your-face attitude, but also with heart. Isn't it request month at MefiMusic?
posted by LobsterMitten (staff) at 9:21 AM on September 9, 2013


You know it.
posted by cortex (staff) at 9:23 AM on September 9, 2013


Meatbomb: Hollywood can route around intransigent hippies like her.

Or the grey-market Custom Sassy T-Shirts and Car Decals scene can fill the void left by the lack of merchandise. Take that, Bill Watterson Jessamyn West!
posted by filthy light thief at 9:32 AM on September 9, 2013


I think there needs to be an action figure.

Yeah, we can make that!
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 9:50 AM on September 9, 2013 [9 favorites]


I asked a guy at the FBI whether they have a sign that says "JESSAMYN WEST HAS NOT BEEN HERE" and he was all like, "Pfft. No?!"

*taps side of nose*

*winks*

*raises eyebrows in that "Do you follow me?" sort of way*

*leans forward, raises eyebrows even higher as if to say, "No, you follow me, right? Like, they don't have a sign ... any more!!!"*

*sits back, nods in that "yeah - I KNOW!!!" kind of way*

*scratches his ear, but only in the "my ear is itchy" kind of way*
posted by the quidnunc kid at 9:56 AM on September 9, 2013 [2 favorites]


I'm thinking Kate Winslet for Jessamyn. Check her out in Enigma. With her cute little glasses and Nancy Drew, girl detective, thing going on.
posted by Naberius at 10:01 AM on September 9, 2013



Why is Jessamyn so Radical? I just would label her Ingenious.


Hmm, if anything, she's Revolting.

Some of that seems more timely than ever.
posted by zabuni at 10:14 AM on September 9, 2013 [1 favorite]


So, what has actually happened to people who have broken the law by disclosing that they'd received a secret order/visit?

I've wondered this too. I am a civil disobedience type of guy. I do whatever the hell I like and I worry about the consequences only if I am caught. Generally this works out well, since my own code of ethics is generally in line with much of society's. I don't need a law to tell me killing is bad for example. Most of the things I disagree with I don't much worry about, but the penalties are also generally not draconian, so I figure if I do get popped I'll pay my fine and move on.

These letters are the kind of thing that put me in a quandary. I'm not really in a position to get one, so I am not too worried about it, but these companies that turn their bellies up totally lose my respect. I'm not sure what other choice they have though.

It's telling to me though that I am more afraid of the NSA and the TSA than I am terrorists.
posted by cjorgensen at 10:39 AM on September 9, 2013 [3 favorites]


Does this sort of gag order require you to positively lie if asked? If I came in to your library every evening and asked if the FBI had been there, and you usually answered "no", and then one day, after they have visited, you simply refuse to answer, are you in violation?
posted by George_Spiggott at 12:07 PM on September 9, 2013


Why is Jessamyn so Radical?

It has to do with how her electrons are structured.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 12:09 PM on September 9, 2013 [7 favorites]


So, what has actually happened to people who have broken the law by disclosing that they'd received a secret order/visit?

I've wondered this too. I am a civil disobedience type of guy. I do whatever the hell I like and I worry about the consequences only if I am caught.


Basically, they will have to appear at a show cause hearing as to why they are violating a court order. The judge then goes in the back room and says if you do it again I will fine and jail you and you then agree in writing to follow all of the judge's orders from here on out.

Its all swell to ignore court orders, until someone you're suing does it.
posted by Ironmouth at 12:16 PM on September 9, 2013


I thought her official title was "librarian superhero." Did jessamyn hire a rebranding consultant from the 1990s?
posted by schmod at 12:16 PM on September 9, 2013


No, that would be Jessa.myn
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 12:17 PM on September 9, 2013 [1 favorite]


1980's gag order: spoon optional.
posted by not_on_display at 12:22 PM on September 9, 2013 [3 favorites]


Does this sort of gag order require you to positively lie if asked? If I came in to your library every evening and asked if the FBI had been there, and you usually answered "no", and then one day, after they have visited, you simply refuse to answer, are you in violation?

Near as I've gathered, it's not about "Did you tell someone or not, and do you lie", it's about "Did you disclose/signal". So saying something, not saying something, saying "not something"...

Did they know before? Do they know now? If that's changed, there's your violation.
posted by CrystalDave at 12:33 PM on September 9, 2013 [1 favorite]


CORY DOCTOROW HAS NOT BEEN TO METAFILTER (watch very closely for the deletion of this comment)

Seeing as how this is MeTa and I'm not afraid of being too derail-y, can someone finally explain to me why mefi hates that guy? It never seems like its just a few people or anything, it always seems like widespread nearly unanimous "lol what a chump".

It seems like I missed some event here?
posted by emptythought at 12:53 PM on September 9, 2013


it always seems like widespread nearly unanimous "lol what a chump".

Very far from unanimous -- you're seeing a self-selection bias. You don't hear from the people who don't derail every thread he's mentioned in by spewing their guts out, except an occasional pained "must we do this every time?"
posted by George_Spiggott at 1:00 PM on September 9, 2013 [2 favorites]


jessamyn: "this sort of thing (the "watch closely for removal of this message" signalling) is actually probably illegal under a gag rule situation."

Hah, so the feds would need an order forcing you to keep the sign up.
posted by Conrad Cornelius o'Donald o'Dell at 1:00 PM on September 9, 2013 [1 favorite]


Perhaps rather than another Cory Doctorow meta-discussion here, you might be interested in this prior thread.
posted by Conrad Cornelius o'Donald o'Dell at 1:04 PM on September 9, 2013


If it were unanimous it wouldn't be a problem. It's that he's a polarizing figure. The above thread does a great job of saying why.
posted by cjorgensen at 1:10 PM on September 9, 2013


Got to admit I didn't realise the article was written by Doctorow when I posted this.
posted by EndsOfInvention at 1:12 PM on September 9, 2013


I have nothing against him at all; I was just riffing on the idea that he must have heard about jessamyn's sign by seeing it on MetaFilter and making a funny that if he DID show up here that the comment saying he was would have to be deleted.
posted by Curious Artificer at 1:28 PM on September 9, 2013


And then of course the only way to get the matthowie action figure would be to save up your corn pops boxes and send in for it.

Only if it comes with a Little Orphan MeFi Secret Decoder Ring. Watch closely for the removal of this jewelry.
posted by MonkeyToes at 1:41 PM on September 9, 2013 [1 favorite]


Watch closely for a special announcement about Ovaltine.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 4:19 PM on September 9, 2013 [1 favorite]


Yeah, we can make that!

What did you do to her hand? You monster! Man the barricades!
posted by arcticseal at 4:36 PM on September 9, 2013


Why is Jessamyn so Radical ?

Ionic or Iconic, Erwin Schrodinger has not been here
posted by y2karl at 5:10 PM on September 9, 2013


What, exactly is the point of "watch this sign closely"? Severalâ„¢ thoughtful people in recent NSA threads here have made the seemingly logical argument that there is no end-run around keeping an NSL secret. Announcing is announcing even if that means lack of an announcement of not-X to mean X.

If it's actually to let library patrons know that they're being watched, doesn't it
a) serve as a "big brother is watching you" sign without government expense1 and
b) drive actual evildoers to do their research elsewhere? [not hurting librarians' cause but hurting counter-terrorism's]
c) cause actual evildoers to just steal the books? [definitely hurting librarians' cause]

1govt. avoids actually paying to print posters and avoids libertarians foaming. I'd tear down a gummint poster, but not Jessamyn's.

If it's to make people aware of the effects of the TRAITOR act, even at the local, "what, you mean my borrowing records at my little library" so people might vote out privacy hawks like Feinstein, then I get it. It also strikes me as a bit of a "fuck you" to traitor-enforcers-- though they can actually insist the sign stays up, just making them do something so Kafkorwellian might make them sleep less well.

I wonder though, if becoming so aware of the ways in which we are not free is sort of building our own jail.
posted by morganw at 5:20 PM on September 9, 2013


if becoming so aware of the ways in which we are not free is sort of building our own jail.

I'm not entirely sure I understand what you're saying. To me I think understanding the mechanics of the systems that you work within are useful for people who care about that sort of thing and other people tend to ignore them. I see no evidence at all that evildoers
"do research elsewhere" or that anyone is stealing more books. People should, however, know that as much as we-as-librarians say that what you read/surf/checkout is private and between you and us only, there are limits to that and if you care about that sort of thing, you should speak to us about it.

I think signalling that librarians care about these sorts of issues (much less that many of them have decently sophisticated understandings of these issues) are useful things for people to know since many of us are public employees (at public libraries and at publicly funded schools and universities) and are concerned about people's intellectual freedom and infringements on it. The sign says many more things than what it actually says, as most signs do.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 5:26 PM on September 9, 2013 [9 favorites]


> people in recent NSA threads here have made the seemingly logical argument that there is no end-run around keeping an NSL secret

Oh, it was Cortex

I wish I had a timestamp for when he says it, but in the 29C3 Enemies of the State panel either Drake or Binney makes the comment that when they want you, they have you. You can try to keep your things private before they get interested, but Manning & Snowden (& Radack) don't benefit much from PGP.
posted by morganw at 5:26 PM on September 9, 2013


THE FBI HAS NOT BEEN HERE

Is this a subtle way of saying "[Other Three-letter Agency] Has Been Here", or am I being too obtuse?
posted by HiroProtagonist at 6:54 PM on September 9, 2013


            ____________
  jessamyn /
       \  /  librarian      =    FTW
        \/ 
posted by not_on_display at 7:26 PM on September 9, 2013 [5 favorites]


making a funny that if he DID show up here that the comment saying he was would have to be deleted.


Disemvowelled, surely.
posted by Nonsteroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drug at 7:41 PM on September 9, 2013


Jess if you ever need a bouncer at your library to throw out the occasional FBI or NSA agent. Call me.
posted by Splunge at 8:05 PM on September 9, 2013 [1 favorite]


Curious Artificer: "CORY DOCTOROW HAS NOT BEEN TO METAFILTER (watch very closely for the deletion of this comment)"

but....
posted by not_on_display at 9:57 PM on September 9, 2013 [1 favorite]


but....

doh. well, that was a nice feeling while it lasted
posted by Bwithh at 12:56 AM on September 10, 2013


HiroProtagonist: "THE FBI HAS NOT BEEN HERE Is this a subtle way of saying "[Other Three-letter Agency] Has Been Here", or am I being too obtuse?"

It just means that when they take the sign down, you can infer they've had a visit.
posted by Static Vagabond at 6:13 AM on September 10, 2013


THE NOTORIOUS INNACURATE-SIGN GRAFFITI GANG HAS NOT VISITED THESE PREMISES
posted by the quidnunc kid at 8:26 AM on September 10, 2013 [2 favorites]


"THE NOTORIOUS INNACURATE-SIGN GRAFFITI GANG HAS NOT VISITED THESE PREMISE"
—the quidnunc kid
         ______________
       /.--------------.\
      //                \\
     //                  \\
    ||      CE N'EST      ||
    ||                    ||
    ||       PAS UN       ||
    ||                    ||
     \\       SIGNE       //
      \\                //
       \\______________//
        '--------------'
              |_|_
       ____ _/ _)_)
           '  | (_)
        .--'"\| ()
      mx      | |
              | |
              |_|
posted by not_on_display at 10:08 AM on September 10, 2013 [1 favorite]


Ironmouth: Basically, they will have to appear at a show cause hearing as to why they are violating a court order. The judge then goes in the back room and says if you do it again I will fine and jail you and you then agree in writing to follow all of the judge's orders from here on out.

What if instead of the above, Fictional Jessamyn has a sign that includes an URL to 'http://onthiswebsite.theremay.ormaynot.be.a.sign.indicatingthat.fictionaljessamynslibrary.hasnotbeenvisitedbythefbi.onion', whose content is controlled by someone a) who regularly asks Fictional Jessamyn whether the FBI has visited her library, and b) with whom Fictional Jessamyn has a contract obliging her not to lie about whether the FBI has visited her library, and c) who lives outside US jurisdiction?

Can a court order force the violation of such a contract?
posted by Anything at 10:16 AM on September 10, 2013


The irony of catching up on this thread, then catching up on the latest iPhone news to discover there's a fingerprint scanner but hey it's okay, that data won't be uploaded oh no no no.

It feels this summer like we're living in a particularly crap remake of Minority Report.
posted by Wordshore at 12:02 PM on September 10, 2013 [2 favorites]


Action figure? I have a 3D printer. We can make this happen.
posted by mrbill at 12:48 PM on September 10, 2013


A Makie might be appropriate...
posted by running order squabble fest at 1:18 PM on September 10, 2013


I will not be franchised!

The status quo has been televised. Watch very closely for the removal of this camera.
posted by flabdablet at 1:02 AM on September 11, 2013


catching up on the latest iPhone news to discover there's a fingerprint scanner

which is way more secure than a password on a post-it because it's not like a handheld device could ever get covered in the owner's fingerprints mumble mumble
posted by flabdablet at 1:27 AM on September 11, 2013


TFA:
No one's ever tested this approach in court, and I can't say whether a judge would be able to distinguish between "not revealing a secret order" and "failing to note the absence of a secret order"...
Here's Scott Adams on secret police vs smartarse civilians.
posted by flabdablet at 2:47 AM on September 11, 2013 [1 favorite]


The radical Jessamyn West -
The FBI's most-wanted pest!
Her cunning design
Was to fashion a sign:
"The Feds ain't been here," it attests.

If that sign goes missing, it shows
That Big Brother's sticking his nose
Into our reading hist'ry -
Their snooping's no myst'ry!
So watch out if that signage goes.

And the Federal Bureau of "I"
Don't like it, 'cos now they can't spy
Without a librarian
(Acting contrarian)
Telling us that they've come by!

So three cheers for Jessamyn West
And "hip, hip, hooray!" for the rest
Of her library crew
'cos they'll all protect you
From unreasonable search and arrest.
posted by the quidnunc kid at 5:40 AM on September 11, 2013 [8 favorites]


This has not been the innaculate conception....
posted by y2karl at 11:18 AM on September 11, 2013


I think there needs to be an action figure.

Yeah, we can make that!


I dunno, the librarian action figure I was given wasn't as much fun as I hoped it'd be. I even had the one with the book cart.
posted by Margalo Epps at 3:46 PM on September 11, 2013


I dunno, the librarian action figure I was given wasn't as much fun as I hoped it'd be.

Well, have you tried creating a stop-motion librarian action figure re-make of the Beastie Boys' "Sabotage" yet?
posted by MonkeyToes at 5:33 PM on September 11, 2013


Just a guy in a huge cardboard librarian outfit, smashing up Tokyo.
posted by The Whelk at 5:51 PM on September 11, 2013


Here's Scott Adams

Speaking about widespread nearly unanimous "lol what a chump".
posted by radwolf76 at 10:29 PM on September 14, 2013 [1 favorite]


Don't know about that, but it does look like Mombert could use a few pointers from scarabic.
posted by flabdablet at 10:34 AM on September 15, 2013


So easy a kitty can do it!
posted by Splunge at 7:13 PM on September 21, 2013


>> if becoming so aware of the ways in which we are not free is sort of building our own jail.

> I'm not entirely sure I understand what you're saying.


sweetkid's comment gets at what I was trying to say better than I could. I know it's a different context.

In trying to come up with a better way to explain myself, I've mostly decided that it's up to the individual-- when I've gotten fed up at working at one of the Prism 9 or watched another YouTube of a cop beating the shit out of someone, it's time for me to turn off the computer & go for a bike ride, not time to shut down the internet.

But what do you advocate to your friends & family? Always be looking over your shoulder? Study up on how to survive a police encounter? Don't check Das Kapital or The Monkeywrench Gang out of the library? "Bow down, lie down."? Or just pretend you live in a free society and try to make the world more beautiful until the hammer comes down (which it won't for the gross majority of the privileged)?
posted by morganw at 4:48 PM on September 23, 2013


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