The Open Technology Fund (OTF), “a U.S. government-funded nonprofit that provides encryption technologies to journalists and activists living under repressive regimes,” is under threat from Michael Pack, an appointee of President Donald Trump who now heads the U.S. Agency for Global Media (USAGM), the group that oversees the OTF.
Pack is pressuring the OTF to change its funding allocation in a way that could endanger LGBTQ activists and others strategizing for civil rights in countries like China, Russia, Iran and Turkey, leaving them subject harassment, arrest, violence, and death.
According to Vice News, Pack has packed USAGM’s board with Trump loyalists who are working to funnel tens of millions of taxpayer dollars to closed-source technologies. Closed-source technologies are privately developed apps that could contain backdoor and security vulnerabilities allowing repressive regimes to track users and monitor their online communications.
Pack’s shift to closed-source technology is a fundamental change to the OTF’s long-running investment in “open-source technology,” tech whose publicly available source code can be studied and tested to ensure others can’t access user data.
Pack’s USAGM is currently pushing for OTF to invest in Freegate and Ultrasurf, two closed-source apps that purport to get around the Great Firewall of China, a censorious and domestically controlled internet that blocks activists from any sites critical of the Chinese government.
Open-source software experts that spoke to Vice said, “[Ultrasurf’s] code is out of date, dangerously vulnerable to compromise, and lacks the user base to allow it to effectively scale even if they secured government funding.”
Laura Cunningham and Libby Liu, who very recently served as OTF’s president and CEO respectively, told Vice News that in March 2020 (shortly after Trump installed Pack), Katrina Lantos Swett, president of the Lantos Foundation Human Rights and Justice (one of the groups pushing Ultrasurf) threatened them to fund the app or else risk being ousted by Pack and his board.
On June 13, 2020, Michael Horowitz, former director of the Project for International Religious Liberty (another group pushing Ultrasurf), then went on the radio show of white supremacist-enabler and former White House Chief Strategist Steve Bannon and called for Pack to fire Liu — four days later, he did. A day later, Pack fired Cunningham without providing any reason whatsoever.
Current and former OTF staff members told Vice they’re worried about the OTF’s direction under Pack. Longtime open-source technology advocate Cory Doctorow summed up the worry in a Twitter thread that linked to a petition urging Congress to intervene:
The Trump admin wants to nuke the OTF and give all its money to a bunch of grifty, closed-source privacy and firewall-circumvention tools. These tools are NOT auditable, and the companied that make them stand to make BANK from the move… If i was a Uyghur in Xinjiang or a dissident in Tehran, I would NOT trust my life to these tools. No goddamned way.
OTF’s ironclad rule of funding open, free code isn’t just a way to allay suspicions about the tools’ true purpose – it’s also a preventative against corruption, because the projects OTF funds CAN’T insert spy code without being caught right away… Based on this administration’s track record, I’m about 70-30 that this is just a bro deal that lets some cronies suck up millions in corporate welfare while hanging out tools used by vulnerable people around the world to dry.
Remember, Congress allocated this money for the OTF, not as pork for a bunch of connected insiders. This money built the tools that #BlackLivesMatter protesters use, to say nothing of the #HongKongProtests and many other movements around the world.
It will be a genuine, deep, widespread tragedy if this move isn’t stopped.
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QAnon Congresswoman Talks with White Supremacist to Praise Her & Jan. 6 Coup Attempt
Georgia Republican House Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene, a woman who thinks a “Jewish space laser” stared this summer’s wildfires on the West Coast and that all school shootings are fake, recently sat for an interview with Katie Hopkins, a far-right, Islamophobic white supremacist who has compared migrants to “cockroaches” and “feral humans” (the former of which was used by Nazis and perpetrators of the Rwandan genocide) and also supported the “Defend Europe” campaign which has proclaimed the continent as a white one.
In the interview, which reportedly took place on January 7, the day after Trump’s supporters held an attempted coup on the U.S. Capitol to overturn the results of the November 2020 national elections, had Hopkins telling Greene, “On behalf of so many of us who look to this place for hope and look to Trump for hope, you are that. And what you did was so brave and made a difference to so many people and so I personally wanted to say thank you for being that person.”
In response, Greene says, “Thank you, thank you Katie. Thank you so much. That’s so nice,” Greene says in response. “Yeah, it was a hard thing we did yesterday, but I wouldn’t do anything else. I wouldn’t do anything else. I would love to trade you for some of our right people here who have no appreciation for our country. And I’m grateful, truly grateful.”
While it’s unclear what exactly Greene is referring to when she said “it was a hard thing we did yesterday,” it could either mean voting against certifying President Joe Biden as the winner of the 2020 elections or it could mean the attempted coup on the U.S. Capitol.
This video has been shared a lot but it needs to be noted she is being interviewed by Katie Hopkins, a notorious bigot and hatemonger who is loved by white supremacists. Trump praised and supported both women many times. This is the Republican Party. This is it. https://t.co/2YoyHGCjFX
— Wajahat Ali (@WajahatAli) January 30, 2021
Not sure why folks like @WajahatAli and many others have to keep saying this for everyone to understand. These are not the exceptions, they are the rule for the Republicans. When you take out Never Trumpers you are left with a party captive to white nationalists and bigots. https://t.co/kZAOKAhYBz
— Joe Lockhart (@joelockhart) January 30, 2021
Greene is currently facing calls to resign because of her embrace of far-right conspiracy theories, including the repeatedly debunked theory that an unprecedented national conspiracy of widespread voter fraud somehow “stole” the election from former President Donald Trump.
She also believes that the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center were an inside job, has advocated for the murder of former President Barack Obama and Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, and thinks that former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton once sliced off a child’s face and wore it before drinking the child’s blood.
Republicans recently placed Greene on the House Committee on Education and Labor. They have remained silent about Greene’s past social media behavior and her recent interview with a white supremacist.
GOP Leader Kevin McCarthy Says “Everyone” Is to Blame for Capitol Riots
While Republican House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy of California has previously said that he thinks former President Donald Trump bears some responsibility for the January 6 coup attempt in which his supporters ransacked the Capitol to overturn the election that he and Republicans baselessly claimed was stolen, McCarthy added in a Thursday interview, “I also think everybody across this country has some responsibility [for the coup attempt.]”
McCarthy then said that anti-Trump Democrats, rude social media users, unprepared law enforcement authorities were all responsible too, even though Trump literally told his followers on the morning of January 6 to march to the Capitol and fight to stop legislators from approving the election victory of now-President Joe Biden.
“I think this is what we have to get to the bottom of, and when you start talking about who has responsibilities,” McCarthy said. “I think there’s going to be a lot more questions, a lot more answers we have to have in the coming future.”
It’s especially telling that his Senate counterpart, now-Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell has directly blamed Trump for the riots.
“The mob was fed lies,” McConnell said Wednesday. “They were provoked by the president and other powerful people, and they tried to use fear and violence to stop a specific proceeding of the first branch of the federal government which they did not like.”
After months of making baseless claims that a national conspiracy of widespread voter fraud stole the election from him, a claim laughed out of courts 60 times over for lack of evidence by judges that Trump himself appointed, Trump held a “Stop the Steal” rally on the morning of January 6 in which he said, that he won the election “by a landslide” and encouraged his followers to “stop the steal” by going to the Capitol. If people don’t “fight like hell,” Trump said, “you’re not going to have a country anymore.”
GOP Rep Andy Harris Tried to Bring a Concealed Gun Into the Capitol House Chamber
Republican Representative Andy Harris of Maryland was recently prevented from entering the House chamber at the U.S. Capitol after a metal detector indicated that he had a concealed gun on him while trying to enter, something that is forbidden by security rules.
A spokesperson for Harris said, “As a matter of public record, he has a Maryland handgun permit and the congressman always complies with the house metal detectors and wanding. The congressman has never carried a firearm on the House floor.”
However, it’s remarkable that Harris tried it at all, as Democratic legislators say that they have felt increasingly unsafe around their Republican colleagues in the day following the Republican-led January 6 coup attempt in which insurrectionists stormed the Capitol in hopes of killing those who refused to give former President Donald Trump an undeserved second term.
About 139 House Republicans and 8 Senate Republicans voted on January 6 against certifying Biden’s Electoral College victory. While some have admitted off-the-record that they only voted that way in fear of being targeted for violence by Trump’s supporters, one Republican in particular, Congresswoman and QAnon supporter Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia, has previously suggested that she herself would personally gun down the progressive female House members of color known as “the Squad.”
The House had metal detectors installed following the January 6 coup attempt, but Republicans began walking past them and ignoring guards stationed at them. In response, Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said any politicians who do such things will be fined $5,000 or more.
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