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Open-source software experts that spoke to Vice said, “[Ultrasurf’s] code is out of date, dangerously vulnerable to compromise, and lacks the user base to allow it to effectively scale even if they secured government funding.”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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Trump Literally Hired a Random Sandwich Delivery Boy to Become His Vindictive Federal Personnel Director
Having lost his re-election bid, President Donald Trump has been busy hiding out, not taking questions from reporters, spreading lies about election fraud on Twitter, and firing key federal positions and restaffing them with loyalists.
The firing and restaffing have been helped along by Johnny McEntee, Director of the White House Presidential Personnel Office, a 30-year-old former football player who was denied security clearance back in March 2018 because of his gambling addiction and alleged financial crimes.
He became Trump’s Director of the Office of Presidential Personnel in February 2020, and has worked as Trump’s hatchet man ever since, firing people deemed insufficiently loyal to the president, including Trump’s “defense secretary and other top Pentagon aides, his second-in-command at the U.S. Agency for International Development, two top Homeland Security officials, a senior climate scientist and the leader of the agency that safeguards nuclear weapons,” according to The Washington Post.
What made McEntee so qualified for the position, you ask? “According to a tell-all book by Stephanie Winston Wolkoff, a former aide to the first lady, ” the Post reports, “McEntee happened to be delivering a turkey sandwich when Winston Wolkoff informed Trump that his inaugural committee was a “s— show.”
“Donald grabbed the [sandwich] bag and told the kid to sit down. ‘You’re in charge of the inauguration now,’ he said.”
McEntee has since conducted heavy-handed loyalty tests, asking people in completely unrelated agencies their opinions of the president’s various policies, where they get their news, and who seems unsupportive of Trump in general…. all because he happened to deliver a turkey sandwich to the president at the right time.
‘Vets for Trump’ Founder Arrested for Bringing Weapons to Philly Vote Count Center
On Thursday, 42-year-old “Vets for Trump” co-founder Joshua Macias was arrested alongside a 61-year-old QAnon and anti-Semitic conspiracy theorist Antonio Lamotta while the two men were headed to the Pennsylvania Convention Center, the site of the city’s ballot count, to “straighten things out,” according to the Daily Beast.
Police said the men drove from Virginia to Philadelphia, and that at the time of their arrest the men had pistols, an AR-15 rifle, and nearly 160 rounds of ammunition.
“They lacked valid Pennsylvania firearms permits to carry, and were charged with carrying a concealed firearm without a license, a third-degree felony, and carrying a firearm on public streets or public property, the District Attorney’s office said Friday.,” reporters Will Sommer and Pilar Melendez wrote.
While a friend of Macias claims he had just driven to Philadelphia to observe the vote count, Macias had spoken at a Trump rally in 2015 and posted images stating that Democrats were trying to steal the 2020 presidential election from President Donald Trump, something Trump himself and his campaign surrogates have repeatedly stated for months.
The District Attorney has suggested both men be denied bail and is considering other charges against Macias and Lamotta.
Trump Supporters Cheer as Protestor Calls for Assassinating Pro-LGBTQ Democrats
At a recent gathering of Trump supporters in the Oregon capital of Salem, one man with a megaphone accused LGBTQ people of normalizing child rape and suggested that politicians who support LGBTQ rights should be assassinated. People cheered and clapped after he said this.
“We have said all this LGBT agenda has set us back… They told us we were crazy. They told us we were homophobic. But the God’s honest truth is their pedophile agenda has been normalized. It is being pushed forward. I’m a goddamn man, but I think these Democratic leaders who allowed this to happen need to be shot dead in the streets.”
"Democrats need to be shot dead" and other Q crap demonizing LGBTQ.
SALEM, OREGON pic.twitter.com/8WVhPtMXnG
— Cozca Itzpapalotl (@KohzKah) September 7, 2020
While his rantings might sound the ravings of a paranoiac, he’s merely echoing beliefs of the ever-growing QAnon conspiracy theory. QAnon believes that Republican President Donald Trump is working to uncover an international pedophilia ring run by Democratic political leaders, “Deep State” operatives, liberal celebrities and other powerful people.
QAnon has also compelled at least one believer to shoot up a gay-owned business. In December 2016, Washington D.C. police arrested 28-year-old Edgar Maddison Welch after he entered the Comet Ping Pong pizzeria — a business owned by gay owner James Alefantis — with an assault rifle and fired at least one shot.
Welch went to “self-investigate” unfounded rumors that the non-existent basement of Comet Ping Pong was a venue in a child molestation ring involving Hillary Clinton. As such, Welch’s actions were just the modern iteration of a long, hateful history of anti-gay bigots linking homosexuality with child molestation.
Now that history has linked up with a modern-day conspiracy theory, and the Republican party is increasingly inviting QAnon believers into their ranks as they court voters and support political candidates who openly equate progressive rights with child rape.
Curiously, QAnon supporters don’t seem to speak much about the Catholic Church’s long history of child sex abuse.
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