Colbert on Snowden: “Was Mordor not accepting asylum requests?”

posted at 2:01 pm on March 2, 2014 by Jazz Shaw

Given all the high profile coverage of security issues dominating the media recently, things got a bit testy at the big annual security conference hosted by RSA Security LLC this week in San Francisco. In fact, a number of previously planned attendees bailed out on the conference and hosted their own parallel event – called TrustyCon – after revelations that RSA had a multimillion dollar contract with the NSA. Still, the RSA pressed on with the event, culminating with a speech by comedian Stephen Colbert.

In it, Colbert seemed to come out in support of US surveillance tactics and took time out to take a shot or two at Russian guest Edward Snowden.

He asked if it was fair to boycott this conference when other major companies such as Apple, Microsoft, Verizon and Yahoo had all been linked to the NSA. He also joked that as a freedom lover, he doesn’t engage in boycotts. And that he had signed a contract so his conscience was clear, as long as his checked cleared.

While the RSA got a pass, Colbert didn’t go as easy on the NSA or Edward Snowden, whom he referred to as “practically a war criminal” for taking top secret U.S. intelligence to China and then to Russia.

“Was Mordor not accepting asylum requests?” he quipped.

“We can trust the NSA because without a doubt it is history’s most powerful, pervasive, sophisticated surveillance agency ever to be totally pwned by a 29-year-old with a thumb drive,” said Colbert.

I’m not sure what’s more disturbing here… the fact that the domestic community is so clearly fractured over questions of security and privacy during times of international unrest, or that Stephen Colbert is considered a keynote speaker where such matters are being debated. But in the end, I take some comfort in the fact that people are engaging in these debates and are able to do so without being whisked off to a dungeon someplace.

Related: At the RSA Security Conference, Things Get Testy and Then They Get Awkward.

Exit questions: is RSA, as a commercial endeavor, somehow stained by having a ten year old contract with the NSA? It’s a private company designed to make a profit, and Uncle Sam is one of the biggest and most obvious customers in that market space. And if they do continue to work with the government, does that somehow preclude them from being a trustworthy source of private, commercial offerings? If you’re really concerned about how much of your mail the government is reading, every service provider and app designer in the world is probably going to wind up feeding the beast at some level, intentionally or not. Shouldn’t the real questions still be directed at the government entities doing the collecting, rather than the geeks who keep receiving love letters from the secret FISA courts?


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“Was Mordor not accepting asylum requests?” he quipped.

“We can trust the NSA because without a doubt it is history’s most powerful, pervasive, sophisticated surveillance agency ever to be totally pwned by a 29-year-old with a thumb drive,” said Colbert.

I’m not sure what’s more disturbing here… the fact that the domestic community is so clearly fractured over questions of security and privacy during times of international unrest, or that Stephen Colbert is considered a keynote speaker where such matters are being debated.

As a human population, this reflects that we can’t yet work this thing out. That thing being: our privacy and government intrusion into it — but far more concerning, whether or not privacy even exists.

We just may have been living in a fantasy all this while that there was such a thing as privacy. I think the overt arguments result because that’s really at the heart of the issue, that big question.

Lourdes on March 2, 2014 at 2:08 PM

Stephen Colbert is a Statist jerk?

I’m shocked!

Murphy9 on March 2, 2014 at 2:08 PM

I hope Snowden is learning Russian.

unclesmrgol on March 2, 2014 at 2:08 PM

Talk about a slow news day…..

KCB on March 2, 2014 at 2:08 PM

Stephen Colbert is considered a keynote speaker where such matters are being debated.

Enter the entertainment industry when the informational point is being deflected.

Lourdes on March 2, 2014 at 2:09 PM

I consider Snowden a hero. The secrets he released are things THE GOVERNMENT IS NOT ALLOWED TO KEEP SECRET. They aren’t allowed to ride roughshod over the Constitution and our civil liberties.

If only there were MORE of him.

ConstantineXI on March 2, 2014 at 2:11 PM

These time traveling comments are starting to be annoying. Is there a plan to correct this, or is it the new normal?

KCB on March 2, 2014 at 2:12 PM

Good for them for hiring such a hackneyed, unfunny, one-trick clown as Colbert.

John the Libertarian on March 2, 2014 at 2:14 PM

Colbert likes to mock people by adopting their point of view and then acting like a moron (“See how dumb the other side of this issue is? Derp, derp!”). That’s the whole point of his show, in which he satirizes conservative pundits for the amusement of the hipster crowd.

I mention it because without actually seeing a video, I wonder if his comments were in mockery of people who do think Snowden is a traitor. But yeah, he can’t really be taken seriously on the issue either way.

NathanHale on March 2, 2014 at 2:15 PM

Did he have the clown nose on or off?

Flange on March 2, 2014 at 2:16 PM

“Was Mordor not accepting asylum requests?” he quipped.

quip
kwip/
noun
1.
a witty remark.
synonyms: joke, witty remark, witticism, jest, pun, bon mot, sally, pleasantry; More
archaic
a verbal equivocation.
verb
verb: quip; 3rd person present: quips; past tense: quipped; past participle: quipped; gerund or present participle: quipping
1.
make a witty remark.
““Flattery will get you nowhere,” she quipped”
synonyms: joke, jest, pun, sally; More

A quip is supposed to be funny. Colbert is not funny.

VegasRick on March 2, 2014 at 2:16 PM

Oooh…an IT company has a contract with a government agency. Booga booga!

The anger directed at RSA is childish. Scores of IT vendors have contracts with NSA (and other government agencies) to provide goods and services. In fact, 98% of the “revelations” concerning NSA are big, fat nothingburgers. Or little, skinny nothingburgers as it were.

Snowden’s not a hero, he’s a criminal. I had a small amount of sympathy for him when he was going on about domestic programs, but when he started giving away the whole damned farm to the bad guys, he showed himself for what he really is.

flipflop on March 2, 2014 at 2:19 PM

Snowden’s not a hero, he’s a criminal. I had a small amount of sympathy for him when he was going on about domestic programs, but when he started giving away the whole damned farm to the bad guys, he showed himself for what he really is.

flipflop on March 2, 2014 at 2:19 PM

I get this odd feeling that you might change your mind about Snowden at some point.

VegasRick on March 2, 2014 at 2:21 PM

Snowden’s not a hero, he’s a criminal. I had a small amount of sympathy for him when he was going on about domestic programs, but when he started giving away the whole damned farm to the bad guys, he showed himself for what he really is.

flipflop on March 2, 2014 at 2:19 PM

You will enjoy life during Obama’s third term then. It will be a nice fascist regime where you won’t have any freedom, and the only news will be of how AWESOMELY AWESOME Dear Leader is, and how gloriously “beautiful” Moochelle looked at last night’s White House gala for the glorious .1%.

ConstantineXI on March 2, 2014 at 2:23 PM

I get this odd feeling that you might change your mind about Snowden at some point.

VegasRick on March 2, 2014 at 2:21 PM

Really? I don’t. I’m not looking to pick a fight or anything, but having worked on that side of the fence in a past life, I can’t tolerate, condone or forgive what he did. He’s a criminal.

flipflop on March 2, 2014 at 2:24 PM

Really? I don’t. I’m not looking to pick a fight or anything, but having worked on that side of the fence in a past life, I can’t tolerate, condone or forgive what he did. He’s a criminal.

flipflop on March 2, 2014 at 2:24 PM

So you believe the government has the right to monitor ALL COMMUNICATIONS of Americans without cause or warrant, and to keep the program secret?

ConstantineXI on March 2, 2014 at 2:25 PM

ConstantineXI on March 2, 2014 at 2:23 PM

Lucky for me, you’ll be sent to the camps long before I will.

flipflop on March 2, 2014 at 2:26 PM

Snowden’s not a hero, he’s a criminal. I had a small amount of sympathy for him when he was going on about domestic programs, but when he started giving away the whole damned farm to the bad guys, he showed himself for what he really is.

flipflop on March 2, 2014 at 2:19 PM

I agree wit’ ya’.

Lourdes on March 2, 2014 at 2:27 PM

Lucky for me, you’ll be sent to the camps long before I will.

flipflop on March 2, 2014 at 2:26 PM

I’m always amazed by those who’s survival strategy is to be eaten last.

ConstantineXI on March 2, 2014 at 2:28 PM

ConstantineXI on March 2, 2014 at 2:25 PM

What does any of that have anything remotely to do with exposing secrets on foreign surveillance?

flipflop on March 2, 2014 at 2:28 PM

Colbert’s lame schtick is well past its expiration date.

Pork-Chop on March 2, 2014 at 2:30 PM

I’m always amazed by those who’s survival strategy is to be eaten last.

ConstantineXI on March 2, 2014 at 2:28 PM

How do you survive commenting here if you can’t understand sarcasm?

flipflop on March 2, 2014 at 2:30 PM

Snowden’s not a hero, he’s a criminal. I had a small amount of sympathy for him when he was going on about domestic programs, but when he started giving away the whole damned farm to the bad guys, he showed himself for what he really is.

flipflop on March 2, 2014 at 2:19 PM

Who are the bad guys exactly? That is what a lot of people are asking because Obama and his lot keep referring to the TEA Party, Christians, and conservatives as their enemies so it does matter. Why this massive domestic spying program while they have a hands-off policy on Mosques?

Who is the security apparatus aimed at if not radical Muslims?

sharrukin on March 2, 2014 at 2:30 PM

What does any of that have anything remotely to do with exposing secrets on foreign surveillance?

flipflop on March 2, 2014 at 2:28 PM

The foreign surveillance had to be exposed because Prism is designed to MONITOR EVERYONE. Citizen. Foreigner. Ally. It sucks in everything.

There was no way to expose part of it without exposing ALL OF IT. This is not Snowden’s fault, it’s the fault of the Bush and Obama Regimes who ran a program like this.

ConstantineXI on March 2, 2014 at 2:31 PM

I’m sure this will break the hearts of his lefty hipster fans who are as dopey in love with Snowden as the their unserious counterparts on the right.

thebrokenrattle on March 2, 2014 at 2:38 PM

Snowden’s not a hero, he’s a criminal. I had a small amount of sympathy for him when he was going on about domestic programs, but when he started giving away the whole damned farm to the bad guys, he showed himself for what he really is.

flipflop on March 2, 2014 at 2:19 PM

Given everything you’ve seen of the Obama Admin and the government in general, do you honestly believe, deep deep down, that anything Snowden had was fresh to Putin?

They probably know what Obama has on his desk to read before Obama does, which isn’t saying much, but well ya know.

kim roy on March 2, 2014 at 2:48 PM

They probably know what Obama has on his desk to read before Obama does, which isn’t saying much, but well ya know.

kim roy on March 2, 2014 at 2:48 PM

The lasting damage is in the coming neutering of NSA. I know that for now, with a (D) in the White House, especially one who views his political opponents as Obama does, a lot of people on the right will view that as a good thing. But it’s really not. The age of Obama will pass (ConstantineXI’s ranting about a third term notwithstanding), and a future president will need capabilities that NSA may no longer possess.

flipflop on March 2, 2014 at 2:56 PM

Oooh…an IT company has a contract with a government agency. Booga booga!

The anger directed at RSA is childish. Scores of IT vendors have contracts with NSA (and other government agencies) to provide goods and services. In fact, 98% of the “revelations” concerning NSA are big, fat nothingburgers. Or little, skinny nothingburgers as it were.

Snowden’s not a hero, he’s a criminal. I had a small amount of sympathy for him when he was going on about domestic programs, but when he started giving away the whole damned farm to the bad guys, he showed himself for what he really is.

flipflop on March 2, 2014 at 2:19 PM

Even his supposed revelations about domestic programs were hyperbole meant to seduce and dupe all of those who think the NSA is monitoring them, so none of them would pay attention to his release of foreign intelligence gathering operations. He is a traitor. BTW, I worked 6 years as a Chinese translator and intelligence analyst for an agency in which the NSA was in our operational chain of command. So call me a statist or whatever.

rlwo2008 on March 2, 2014 at 2:57 PM

“Was Mordor not accepting asylum requests?” he quipped.

Stephen Colbert

For those who might not be familiar with ‘Lord of the Rings’ …

Mordor was the province of the Dark Lord, Sauron, a malevolent evil. Because Sauron lacked the one Ring of Power, he could not take form, existing only as “The Great Eye”!

Well …

Here in the United States, we currently have our own malevolent evil, Obama – The Great ‘I’!

r27cj on March 2, 2014 at 2:58 PM

Stephen Colbert is a Statist jerk?

I’m shocked!

Murphy9 on March 2, 2014 at 2:08 PM

Remember who’s in office at the moment.

I’m sure this would be a far different joke if an “R” was in charge of the Presidency.

Skywise on March 2, 2014 at 2:59 PM

Remember who’s in office at the moment.

I’m sure this would be a far different joke if an “R” was in charge of the Presidency.

Skywise on March 2, 2014 at 2:59 PM

There would be marches in the streets. There SHOULD be marches in the streets by us but I guess we are too busy working so the lazy asses don’t have to.

VegasRick on March 2, 2014 at 3:05 PM

The lasting damage is in the coming neutering of NSA. I know that for now, with a (D) in the White House, especially one who views his political opponents as Obama does, a lot of people on the right will view that as a good thing. But it’s really not. The age of Obama will pass (ConstantineXI’s ranting about a third term notwithstanding), and a future president will need capabilities that NSA may no longer possess.

flipflop on March 2, 2014 at 2:56 PM

A lot of people don’t think that overlords watching every move you make is a good thing REGARDLESS of what color of shorts they wear.

It is NOT a good thing, Democrat or Republican.

sharrukin on March 2, 2014 at 3:10 PM

I mention it because without actually seeing a video, I wonder if his comments were in mockery of people who do think Snowden is a traitor. But yeah, he can’t really be taken seriously on the issue either way.

NathanHale on March 2, 2014 at 2:15 PM

I’d say this is a ‘Clown Nose Off” moment for Stephen — he had a bunch of those a year ago when his sister was running for that open South Carolina congressional seat, and this is a situation where, for someone in Colbert’s position on TV, it’s OK to be pro-government, because of who is in the White House. Set up the same scenario with Snowden but put George W. Bush or some other Republican in the White House, and Colbert’s over with the folks at TrustyCon, if he even accepts the invitation to speak at the RSA event in the first place.

jon1979 on March 2, 2014 at 3:18 PM

I consider Snowden a hero. The secrets he released are things THE GOVERNMENT IS NOT ALLOWED TO KEEP SECRET. They aren’t allowed to ride roughshod over the Constitution and our civil liberties.

If only there were MORE of him.

ConstantineXI on March 2, 2014 at 2:11 PM

This pretty much makes you an idiot, bless your heart.

Snowden isn’t a hero. He committed crimes which arguably exposed information that Americans needed to know. But when he shared millions of classified documents and the methods of collection with the Russians and Chinese…… well that pretty much eradicates hero status. Even if Clapper and Alexander deserve to be put on trial for their roles in collecting this information.

Bottom line, Snowden should be willing to come back to the US and answer for his crimes.

Happy Nomad on March 2, 2014 at 3:23 PM

Watching this story is like playing the parlor game, “Rumors,” where one person tells something to the person next to him, then it’s repeated around the circle until it gets back to the originator and the end result is compared with the starting line.

First off, the program in question collects only metadata. It’s not listening to every cellphone conversation you have (though, being on public airwaves, they are not protected by any privacy rights any more than your CB or ham radio conversations are), and it’s not collecting every email you’ve ever sent.

Second, why doesn’t he give up a few of those URL and URNs that connect to those so-called secret programs? He says he has information from them, but anyone can fake data. A named website from within the Agency would be much better proof.

Third, why believe a proven liar who lied to get his job, cheated to pass his accreditation test, and lied to steal information?

He’s no hero.

JamesS on March 2, 2014 at 3:24 PM

This is not Snowden’s fault, it’s the fault of the Bush and Obama Regimes who ran a program like this.

ConstantineXI on March 2, 2014 at 2:31 PM

Do you actually believe that other nations do anything differently?

mad scientist on March 2, 2014 at 3:25 PM

Snowden’s not a hero, he’s a criminal. I had a small amount of sympathy for him when he was going on about domestic programs, but when he started giving away the whole damned farm to the bad guys, he showed himself for what he really is.

flipflop on March 2, 2014 at 2:19 PM

Agreed; he went from being a misguided whistle-blower to offering to trade secrets for asylum.
No guts, no glory.

mad scientist on March 2, 2014 at 3:28 PM

There is ONE and ONLY ONE Over-reaching, all Encompassing EVIL in the world Today:

That is Obama and ANYTHING associated with him

ANYTHING or ANYONE that brings negative attention to him or his administration or takes actions that could cause doubt of Obama or Destroy him – IS A HERO!!

williamg on March 2, 2014 at 3:29 PM

WHERE IS THIS STORY ON THIS BLOG?!!!!!!!!

Other than the obvious, same Mainstream Media Contempt for Sarah Palin that this site shares with them and llahpundits perseverating obsession with hating her – WHY ISN’T THIS A POST HERE?!!

http://www.breitbart.com/Big-Peace/2014/02/28/Palin-on-Putin-Ukraine-I-Could-See-This-One-from-Alaska

http://www.breitbart.com/Big-Peace/2014/02/28/Flashback-Palin-Mocked-in-2008-for-Warning-Putin-May-Invade-Ukraine-if-Obama-Elected-President

http://www.breitbart.com/Big-Journalism/2014/03/02/Double-Down-Editor-Who-Mocked-Palin-Over-Ukraine-Refuses-to-Give-Her-Credit

williamg on March 2, 2014 at 3:23 PM

williamg on March 2, 2014 at 3:31 PM

Who are the bad guys exactly? That is what a lot of people are asking because Obama and his lot keep referring to the TEA Party, Christians, and conservatives as their enemies so it does matter. Why this massive domestic spying program while they have a hands-off policy on Mosques?

Who is the security apparatus aimed at if not radical Muslims?

sharrukin on March 2, 2014 at 2:30 PM

…this!

KOOLAID2 on March 2, 2014 at 3:35 PM

why is this pos even deserve a post?

oh…..it jazz. nevermind.

renalin on March 2, 2014 at 3:46 PM

“…after revelations that RSA had a multimillion dollar contract with the NSA. Still, the RSA pressed on with the event, culminating with a speech by comedian Stephen Colbert.”

Jazz, yes they had a contract with NSA, but they also agreed to adjust the random number generator to make it easier for NSA to crack the codes it created. And RSA continued to market their product as the ultimate in security.

RSA was a trusted source for encryption technology. It is now just a whore, pretending to be respectable woman. There is no way they can be trusted again. They should close up shop.

Corky Boyd on March 2, 2014 at 3:54 PM

Agreed; he went from being a misguided whistle-blower to offering to trade secrets for asylum.
No guts, no glory.

mad scientist on March 2, 2014 at 3:28 PM

This! But you won’t ever convince the “Snowden as hero” people that he is anything else. They’ve got a blind spot and hold that exposure of a small sliver of corruption justifies the by massive damage that occurred to our intelligence operations. It is as if justifying the St. Valentine’s Day Massacre because there was an annoying fly in that Chicago garage.

Happy Nomad on March 2, 2014 at 4:05 PM

williamg on March 2, 2014 at 3:31 PM

THIS!!!!!!!!!!!

renalin on March 2, 2014 at 4:17 PM

Happy Nomad on March 2, 2014 at 4:05 PM

They see a hero, I see a pathetic wimp with delusions of grandeur. When reality set in he quickly folded, thereby selling any claim to a moral standing.

mad scientist on March 2, 2014 at 4:20 PM

Snowden knew the system was corrupt. He would have been destroyed and his concerns buried if he had tried the normal whistleblower routine. This was proven to all by the previous two patriots who tried to work within the system.

The Marxist democrats and the Greedy, statist french republicans are in bed on 99%of all issues, this being one of them.

Snowden is a hero in my book.

Exninja on March 2, 2014 at 4:25 PM

Snowden is a hero in my book.

Exninja on March 2, 2014 at 4:25 PM

What book, the Necronomicon? :P

thebrokenrattle on March 2, 2014 at 4:47 PM

This was proven to all by the previous two patriots who tried to work within the system.

Exninja on March 2, 2014 at 4:25 PM

I mean seriously dude, who are these other two “patriots”? Manning? Who else?

thebrokenrattle on March 2, 2014 at 4:53 PM

They see a hero, I see a pathetic wimp with delusions of grandeur. When reality set in he quickly folded, thereby selling any claim to a moral standing.

mad scientist on March 2, 2014 at 4:20 PM

Yep. He didn’t even take care of his stripper girlfriend as he was fleeing from the US.

I do agree with the Snowden supporters that talking to his supervisor would have been pointless. But that leaves a lot of territory before you steal 7M documents which you go on to disclose to our nation’s two biggest adversaries and use to bargain for political asylum in South America.

Happy Nomad on March 2, 2014 at 5:03 PM

I mean seriously dude, who are these other two “patriots”? Manning? Who else?

thebrokenrattle on March 2, 2014 at 4:53 PM

I’m guessing Pollard and Manning.

Happy Nomad on March 2, 2014 at 5:05 PM

Bottom line, Snowden should be willing to come back to the US and answer for his crimes.

Happy Nomad on March 2, 2014 at 3:23 PM

Are you serious? With President Lawless? A.G. Eric ‘The Red’ Holder and this DOJ?

If Snowden came back, he would be arrested, denied bail, and would shortly either be found hanging in his cell or else shot while trying to escape!

Snowden’s biggest, most heinous crime: Making HE WHO IS THE OBAMA look bad!

r27cj on March 2, 2014 at 6:40 PM

I never understand when people quote John Stewart or reference Steven Colbert. Just a reminder, they are comedians on the COMEDY channel cable network. They present fake news, you lnow, for a laugh, except it often times isn’t that funny. The fake news schtick often works on SNL because it is a short skit, not a thiry minute show.

Ellis on March 2, 2014 at 7:00 PM

is RSA, as a commercial endeavor, somehow stained by having a ten year old contract with the NSA?

No, they’re stained by the allegation that they deliberately weakened security so that the NSA could easily crack the encryption.

The Monster on March 2, 2014 at 8:35 PM

It’s interesting watching the split between people are are conservative, and the Neo Con shills in these comments. It gives you hope that the traitorous Neo Cons will be ousted at some point.

Another Libertarian on March 2, 2014 at 8:55 PM

Exit questions: is RSA, as a commercial endeavor, somehow stained by having a ten year old contract with the NSA?

I had to go back and look, and lo and behold, yes, it was the moron Jazz Shaw.

RSA has contracts with thousands of companies. Their job is security. But the Patriot Act, unbeknownst to most people, made it a crime to discuss when the NSA came calling. And so the NSA gave them a back door.

Now when the government is heading down a decidedly fascist direction, Snowden’s leaks have alerted us to the danger. I wish I knew now what I knew then. Many conservatives do….

As for Colbert. The guy is a clown. He pretends to be conservative so he can subtly mock what he hates. I’m shocked that RSA invited him to be a keynote speaker, without realizing that all his speeches are parody and comedy. In this case he mocks Snowden, but does he really? Because he is a clown, and not to be considered serious, he might have well have blown a big honky horn. He’d be no less a clown than Jazz, who continues to show his cluelessness.

deadite on March 2, 2014 at 11:56 PM

But the Patriot Act, unbeknownst to most people, made it a crime to discuss when the NSA came calling. And so the NSA gave them a back door.

What section of the Act was that?

JamesS on March 3, 2014 at 12:13 AM

I never understand when people quote John Stewart or reference Steven Colbert. Just a reminder, they are comedians on the COMEDY channel cable network. They present fake news, you lnow, for a laugh, except it often times isn’t that funny. The fake news schtick often works on SNL because it is a short skit, not a thiry minute show.
 
Ellis on March 2, 2014 at 7:00 PM

 
Here’s the sad part:
 

Nearly one-third of Americans under the age of 40 say satirical news-oriented television programs like The Colbert Report and The Daily Show with Jon Stewart are taking the place of traditional news outlets.
 
http://www.rasmussenreports.com/public_content/lifestyle/entertainment/march_2009/nearly_one_third_of_younger_americans_see_colbert_stewart_as_alternatives_to_traditional_news_outlets

 
1/3rd of Americans under 40. This is why a person like Obama can win a second term. FWIW, I’d bet you’d have a tough time finding one of that 1/rd to balance your checkbook.

rogerb on March 3, 2014 at 6:34 AM

Exit questions: is RSA, as a commercial endeavor, somehow stained by having a ten year old contract with the NSA? It’s a private company designed to make a profit, and Uncle Sam is one of the biggest and most obvious customers in that market space.

That depends on what purpose a company serves. Would Fox or CNN be stained if they had a contract with the government, contents undisclosed, as news companies? As a privacy and security company, RSA skirts the line. The government needs security, absolutely, but what is the content of the contract? Is it just to provide encryption software to the US government? Thanks to Snowden, we know the answers is ‘no’.

And if they do continue to work with the government, does that somehow preclude them from being a trustworthy source of private, commercial offerings?

Given what we know of the contract they have with the NSA, the answer is absolutely, positively ‘YES!’. Encryption security (how difficult it is to break) depends on three things: a very difficult math problem that does not have shortcuts, the length of the key or cipher, and the quality of the random number generator that ‘seeds’ the key. Without getting into too much detail, RSA sabotaged the random number generator for their encryption scheme in two ways.

First, they based it on non-random information (specifically, things like system time, MAC addresses, or GPS locale), and then had the software randomize the numbers using what’s called double elliptic. And…curses, I’m going to have to get technical.

RSA produces a public/private keypair. The public key can be distributed freely, and is used to encrypt or ‘lock’ a message. The private key is held by the owner, and is the only thing that can decrypt or ‘unlock’ a message. These keys have a commonality, a pair of very large prime numbers that are the factors of the key. Finding these factors is, mathematically, incredibly tedious, especially when they run into the thousands of digits.

The problem with double elliptic is that the factors in question have a direct, mathematical relationship to each other. Depending on the severity of the tampering, a 4096 bit RSA key generated with double elliptic can have its security cut by as much as 75%, though more typically by 40%-50%. The former is breakable on private computers in a few weeks, the latter is practical for a government entity (China, corporate and industrial espionage, enough said, even if you don’t care about the NSA) in a couple months.

These changes were implemented without any official announcement by RSA. While settings exist in their official software to override these new defaults, and force a true random source and scramble, most users will never see or know about this.

They sabotaged their product in a way that directly compromises their promises to consumers. That’s a massive violation of trust.

If you’re really concerned about how much of your mail the government is reading, every service provider and app designer in the world is probably going to wind up feeding the beast at some level, intentionally or not. Shouldn’t the real questions still be directed at the government entities doing the collecting, rather than the geeks who keep receiving love letters from the secret FISA courts?

I have a secure gpg-generated private key/public key pair. gpg generates their keys using RSA standards, making it easy to use, but does so properly, making it very secure. If I encrypt a message and send it, and a government intercepts it, they won’t be able to decrypt it in a practical period of time until (at the earliest, by very paranoid estimates) 2030, and more likely sometime between 2040 and 2050. I’m going to throw in my public key at the bottom of this post. You can find a number of web-based encryption programs if you’d like to play with it, but I wouldn’t suggest web-based for actual secure communications (you’re transmitting the information to be encrypted in the clear to the website, which is sending the encrypted product back). Beyond the Constitutional concerns (which are MASSIVE, don’t get me wrong), I don’t give a rat’s behind what the government reads in my email. If it’s important, they can only see gibberish.

—–BEGIN PGP PUBLIC KEY BLOCK—–
Version: GnuPG v1

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Asurea on March 3, 2014 at 7:17 AM

Hey, Colbert, Can you name one other NSA whistleblower without using Google to look them up?

I doubt it.

dogsoldier on March 3, 2014 at 8:29 AM

Snowden is a hero in my book.

Exninja on March 2, 2014 at 4:25 PM

I agree. If the “official” whistleblower avenues worked, I would not agree, but look what has happen to those who took that road lately.

The “official” avenues are designed to protect the perpetrators. They do not work. Worse, the government attacks and threatens them.

dogsoldier on March 3, 2014 at 8:37 AM

I agree. If the “official” whistleblower avenues worked, I would not agree, but look what has happen to those who took that road lately.

dogsoldier on March 3, 2014 at 8:37 AM

Is Manning a hero as well?

thebrokenrattle on March 3, 2014 at 8:47 AM

Is Manning a hero as well?

No, because he disclosed information that effectively blew the covers not only of our operatives, but of people who provided information to help us fight the Taliban.

Snowden disclosed how the government is spying on us and our allies. He didn’t give any information that could compromise anyone’s identity.

The Monster on March 3, 2014 at 10:39 AM

And if they do continue to work with the government, does that somehow preclude them from being a trustworthy source of private, commercial offerings?

Of and by itself, no.

Of greater concern is their encryption software, since it’s closed source and most people/companies will not be able to gain access to the source for purposes of auditing. So you’ll just have to take their word for it that there’s no back doors, no fumble fingered programmers (see Apple’s recent issue) and that the software works as advertised.

RSA’s word is pretty much worthless, since they set some of the defaults for some of their programs to be so weak as to be worthless.

At the behest of the NSA. So, yes, it does make them an untrustworthy partner for any one not the NSA.

I R A Darth Aggie on March 3, 2014 at 11:35 AM

So you’ll just have to take their word for it that there’s no back doors, no fumble fingered programmers (see Apple’s recent issue) and that the software works as advertised.

Well, no we won’t. Snowden blew that away. I covered in detail the intentional sabotage the NSA bribed them to use. Thankfully, systems like gpg4usb and tails2win exist and work damned well.

Asurea on March 3, 2014 at 11:56 AM

What Snowden is or isn’t is irrelevant, since the real issue is government misconduct. The proper response to those who criticize his motives at this point is “Why are you trying to distract us from the government’s misdeeds?”

PersonFromPorlock on March 3, 2014 at 3:14 PM

Asurea on March 3, 2014 at 7:17 AM:

There’s a cartoon that went around the IC a few years ago, a rewrite of a XKCD cartoon. It was a 2-panel toon that showed two people, one exclaiming, “Drat! He’s encrypted it with a 2048-bit key!”

In the first panel, labeled “NSA”, the other person says, “We’ll have to use a supercomputer and it’ll take months to decode.”

In the other panel, labeled “CIA”, the other person says, “Here’s a $3 wrench. Hit him with this until he gives us the key.”

Says a lot about the real differences between the agencies, and also about one’s chances if one has information deemed critical by them.

JamesS on March 3, 2014 at 3:58 PM

Wow. Someone actually gives a sh1t what Stephen Colbert says!?!?

S. D. on March 3, 2014 at 9:12 PM