What the US Government Really Thinks About Encryption

The national debate over the growing use of encryption on consumer devices is often framed in stark terms: Silicon Valley versus Washington in a bicoastal battle over privacy.

It’s easy to see why. FBI Director James Comey grabs headlines every time he says that law enforcement efforts are hindered by strong security features commonly used in popular apps and smartphones. His concerns took center stage in the Justice Department’s recent legal campaign to force Apple to help unlock an iPhone used by the gunman in the Islamic State-inspired San Bernardino, Calif., terrorist attack.

But inside the Obama administration, behind closed doors, the discussion is much more nuanced. A vigorous debate over the merits of widespread encryption is playing out, with many key government figures quietly advocating against any government policy decision or legislation that would force tech companies to weaken privacy-enhancing products to allow greater government access to communications.

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Can White House, Tech Startups Overcome Gun Lobby Resistance to ‘Smart Guns’?

As an engineer who has worked to ensure the safety of power plants and improve the performance of automotive airbags, Omer Kiyani has been drawn to jobs where he can help save lives.

So after the Sandy Hook Elementary School mass shooting in December 2012 sparked a nationwide debate over gun control and safety, Mr. Kiyani knew his engineering skills could make a difference.

A lifelong gun owner and member of the National Rifle Association (NRA), Kiyani felt that additional gun control wasn’t the answer to curbing firearm violence but that technology could help saving lives.

While some are hailing smart guns and similar technology as part of the solution to gun violence, others complain the technology is a backdoor to further gun control. Furthermore, many critics and researchers have demonstrated defects in smart gun technology that raise concerns over reliability and security.

The Obama administration added fuel to the smart gun debate last week. A joint report released by the Justice Department, Department of Defense, and the Department of Homeland Security details the administration’s efforts to jumpstart smart gun research and to create a market for the weapons among law enforcement.

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(Joshua Eaton)

The Disaffection of Tibetan Elections

Lhadolma Sherpa wasn’t bothered by the rain on Boston Common as she led fellow Tibetans in chants of “China lies, Tibetans die” and “China lies, the UN listens.”

It was March 10 — Tibetan Uprising Day, the anniversary of a 1959 revolt against Chinese rule. Around 200 Tibetans and their supporters were marching in laps around the Common, holding signs and chanting slogans to raise awareness about the dire situation in Tibet.

“I’m just trying to voice my support for all the 6 million [Tibetans inside Tibet] who can’t speak up for their basic human rights,” Sherpa said. “Even holding a Tibetan flag, you can land in prison for that.”

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Rapper Killer Mike speaks in support of Bernie Sanders at Atlanta University Center, Feb. 16, 2016, in Atlanta. (Prince Williams/WireImage)

Dems in Dixie: Sanders Campaign Deploys New Southern Strategy

Melissa Link shares her personal testimony as if she were at a religious retreat. Standing on a table in front of 200 mostly young, white residents of this Southern college town, she explains how she came to believe and asks them to spread the message to the world.

The crowd erupts in applause and cheers wildly. But this isn’t a camp meeting or faith-based revival. She is endorsing Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders at the launch party for his campaign’s Athens field office.

“Don’t be ashamed, ever. And don’t be afraid, ever, to let people know what you believe. And share the truth about Bernie,” Link exclaims. “People have given up hope. They have totally given up hope … We need to restore that hope.”

It’s a scene that has repeated itself across this state and even the region.

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Republican presidential candidate Sen. Marco Rubio holds a town hall meeting in Londonderry, New Hampshire, Feb. 7, 2016. The state’s immigrant population is less than half the national average. (Charles Ommanney/The Washington Post/Getty Images)

Rising Immigrant Population Looks to Influence New Hampshire Primary

Eva Castillo and her colleagues wait eagerly for presidential candidate Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., to arrive for his speech at the New Hampshire Institute of Politics.

The lobby is packed with supporters waiting for a handshake or even a signature. Suddenly, the doors swing open, and Rubio enters, followed by a scrum of news cameras and microphones.

As Rubio makes his way down the rope line, Castillo gets ready. When he finally reaches she, she swings into action. “Senator, you’re criticized now by Sen. [Ted] Cruz on immigration. He used to support immigration reform, but without a path [to citizenship],” she tells Rubio, as a partner records the exchange. “What are the differences between you and Sen. Cruz?”

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Comedian Robert Smigel interviews Vermin Supreme during the New Hampshire Republican Party #FITN Leadership Summit at the Radisson Hotel in Nashua, N.H., January 23, 2016. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

From Supreme to Stein, Undercard Candidates Stumping in Granite State

Vermin Supreme is sidled up to a bowl of cottage pie in a dimly lit bar here in Manchester. A half-dozen ties dangle from his neck, and the black rubber boot he wears as a hat is resting in his lap. Suddenly, two young men interrupt him: “Excuse us, Mr. President, can we get a photo?” Supreme gladly obliges, hoisting the boot onto his head for the photo op.

“Sometimes, you get the feeling that it could happen, I could be president, just because of the excitement of people on the street,” the Democratic presidential candidate says. “It creates this incredible illusion that they’re joining my delusions. It’s a beautiful thing that so many people are willing to suspend disbelief.”

Vermin Supreme is probably the most colorful candidate canvassing New Hampshire in advance of the presidential primary on Tuesday. But he’s not alone on the undercard.

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Democratic Presidential candidate Hillary Clinton speaks during a community forum on substance abuse September 17, 2015 in Laconia, New Hampshire. (Darren McCollester/Getty Images)

New Hampshire Addiction Crisis Turns Personal Tragedy into National Issue

Visits to the local pharmacy by presidential candidates have become a tradition in Hollis, a town of 7,600 people in southern New Hampshire. On a brisk morning in January, Republican hopeful Carly Fiorina was surrounded by children on one side and veterans in garrison caps on the other while she spoke passionately about the problems in Washington she wants to fix.

Her appearance had extra meaning for the pharmacy’s owner, Vahrij Manoukian. Both he and Fiorina have lost children to addiction.

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Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump at a rally in Lowell, Massachusetts, Jan. 4, 2016. (Melina Mara/The Washington Post/Getty Images)

At New England Rally, Trump Campaign Accentuates Deep Divide

Lisa Sefarian smiled and laughed with her family as she walked out of Donald Trump’s rally at the Paul E. Tsongas Center on Monday night.

She went to the event skeptical of Trump, the longtime front-runner in the race for the GOP presidential nomination. But, she said, he won her over.

“I just thought he was really good. He’s very charismatic. He’s very positive. And it’s just nice to see positivity,” said Sefarian, a 58-year-old teacher from Wayland. “I think he would bring the country together instead of dividing it.”

She was not alone. Many supporters said Trump’s unapologetic style and tough attitude were exactly what they believe is needed to overcome dysfunction in Washington and restore America’s reputation around the world.

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A supporter of Republican Presidential candidate Donald Trump stares down a man who shouted Bible verses during a town hall event at Rochester Recreational Arena September 17, 2015, in Rochester, N. H. (Darren McCollester/Getty Images)

Trump’s Untruths Woo Working-Class Whites Who ‘Want to Be Proud Again’

It was a miserable wintry night, with temperatures dropping fast and sleet covering the roads in rural Waterville Valley. But businessman and Republican presidential front-runner Donald Trump quickly warmed up the crowd.

Trump lambasted President Barack Obama for not bombing oil wells used by the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) to fund its operations. “One of the reasons Obama didn’t want to bomb the oil is because of the environment. Can you believe this?” Trump asked, receiving rapturous applause.

That odd-sounding accusation originated with comments from a former CIA director who left the agency a year before the U.S. bombing campaign against ISIL began.

But — in a move that is increasingly being seen as a signature of the Trump campaign — his rampage was not hindered by any respect for the facts.

“Now I don’t know if that’s true or not,” he said, “but it sounds like it’s true.”

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Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton speaks after receiving an endorsement from Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.) Sept. 5, 2015 in Portsmouth, N.H. (Darren McCollester/Getty Images)

Clinton, Tacking Left on Economic Issues, Tries to Fend Off Sanders Threat

The event room at the Puritan Backroom restaurant was overflowing with people, and all eyes were fixed on Hillary Clinton, who stood on a low stage at the front of the room, framed by a deep blue New Hampshire flag.

As she neared the end of her speech, she talked about her family history.

“My grandfather worked in the Scranton Lace Mills in Scranton, Pennsylvania,” she told the crowd, many of them from organized labor groups. “He always believed his hard work would pay off for his children, and it did. My father got to go to college.”

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GOP presidential candidate Donald Trump speaks at a campaign rally in Hampton, N.H., on Aug. 14, 2015. (Brian Snyder/Reuters)

Trump’s Women Supporters Pledge Allegiance: ‘We Need a Businessman’

Billionaire businessman Donald Trump has drawn criticism from both Democrats and Republicans for his controversial remarks about women that many have dubbed sexist and demeaning.

But for college senior Kaffa Cote, all that comes second to jobs. That’s why she drove three hours from her internship at a lab in Hopkinton, Massachusetts, to see Trump speak at a rally on a recent Friday night.

“It doesn’t matter if you’re a man or a woman, as long as you have a job,” Cote, 21, said after the rally, a stack of blue-and-red Trump yard signs in her hand. “I think that’s what the key issue is in this election. And I think he is the guy, of all of them, who can solve it — especially over Hillary [Clinton]. Especially over Hillary. I think she’s focused more on social issues, from what I see.”

Many women who support Trump echo that sentiment. At a recent Trump rally in New Hampshire, women there described him as a candidate who would create jobs and take a tough stance on foreign policy. While much of Trump’s media coverage has focused recently on his derogatory comments about women, those female voters said issues like jobs and health care have won him their support. Although he has gained notoriety for castigating a number of individuals and groups, his supporters don’t seem to mind.

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Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders at a town meeting in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, May 27, 2015. A strong showing in the state’s Feb. 9 primary is key to boosting his national numbers. (Win McNamee / Getty Images)

Bernie Sanders Campaign Rallies Drawing Enthusiastic Progressive Crowds

NASHUA, New Hampshire — Amberlee Jones was lucky to get a seat. The crowd at Nashua Community College was overflowing into the aisles as they waited to hear Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt. When he took the stage, the room grew instantly quiet. When he stepped up to the microphone after a brief introduction, the room exploded in cheers.

“I think that he has a lot of integrity. That’s incredibly important to me,” Jones, a 28-year-old sign-language interpreter from Rochester, New York, said afterward. “I don’t think that we can run our country without some sort of moral or ethical guidelines. So that’s why I’m going to vote for him.”

Sanders is trying to start what he calls a “political revolution.” An independent who identifies as socialist, Sanders is running for the presidential nomination of the Democratic Party, with which he caucuses in Congress. He has refused to take super PAC funds or run negative campaign ads. Instead, he’s taking a message of economic populism directly to voters.

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As Senate Rejects Cyber Bill, Privacy Trumps Security Concerns

A controversial cybersecurity bill that drew heavy criticism from privacy advocates may have been put on the backburner last week, but some observers fear that the issue may return later in the year.

The Cybersecurity Information Sharing Act (CISA) failed a procedural vote in the Senate, 40 to 56, despite bipartisan support and a heavy push by Republican leaders. It encourages organizations to monitor their networks and share “cyberthreat indicators” — which could include users’ personal data — with the intelligence community.

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Aaron Swartz at a Boston Wikipedia Meetup in 2009. (Sage Ross via Flickr)

Lawmakers Revive Support for Aaron’s Law to Reform Anti-Hacking Statute

In 2011, her partner, the Internet activist Aaron Swartz, snuck into a wiring closet at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and downloaded millions of scholarly articles from an online database. He was later arrested and prosecutors charged him with violations under the fraud and abuse act that carried up to 35 years in prison. Before any trial or deal with federal prosecutors, however, Mr. Swartz, 26, committed suicide.

Swartz’s friends, family members, and fellow activists blamed his death on an overzealous prosecution and a harsh application of the federal anti-hacking statute.

As a result, in June 2013, Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D) of California introduced a bill known as “Aaron’s Law” to reform the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act (CFAA), which critics such as the Electronic Frontier Foundation have long complained has been so abused that it stifles security research and hampers innovation.

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Sean Haugh talks in one of his campaign's YouTube videos (Sean Haugh/YouTube)

Pizza Delivery Man for Senate: Delete All the NSA’s Files

Sean Haugh is sitting at the bar in jeans and a t-shirt, holding court about the problems in Washington. Occasionally, he pauses to take a big gulp out of a pint glass emblazoned with a picture of libertarian economist Murray Rothbard. It’s a scene you might not expect to come across at a bar in Durham, N.C., where Haugh lives. It’s also at least slightly bizarre for a campaign ad in a tightly contested race.

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Bhikkhu Bodhi at the first meeting of the Center for Interfaith Action's Global Initiative for Faith, Health and Development in Washington, D.C. ( Shambhala Sun)

Beyond the Search for Inner Peace: An Interview with Ven. Bhikkhu Bodhi on Buddhism as a Force for Social Justice

When I showed up, the room at Harvard Divinity School was already overflowing. World-renowned professors and undergrads alike were packing the aisles, standing in the doorways, and squeezing in behind furniture. At the front of the room stood Bhikkhu Bodhi—a short, soft-spoken Buddhist monk with a marked Brooklyn accent—who held the audience rapt even as he explained dry, technical details of meditation.

Born Jeffrey Block, Bikkhu Bodhi has a PhD in philosophy and years of monastic training in Sri Lanka. However, it wasn’t his impressive abilities as a translator and scholar that brought me there that day. Since returning to the States Ven. Bodhi has established himself on the forefront of Buddhist social justice movements.

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