Johns Hopkins and the case of the missing NSA blog post

The university asked a cryptography expert to remove a blog post, but it remains available online


Justin ElliottJeff Larson
September 10, 2013 4:13PM (UTC)
This originally appeared on ProPublica.

ProPublicaCiting concerns about linking to classified material, Johns Hopkins University asked a professor this morning to remove a blog post discussing  last week’s revelations about the NSA’s efforts to break encryption. The post had linked to government documents published by ProPublica, the Guardian, and the New York Times.

Several hours later, after computer science professor Matthew Green tweeted about the request, the university reversed itself.

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Baltimore-based Johns Hopkins, which is short drive from the NSA’s headquarters at Fort Meade, works closely with the spy agency.

The university’s Applied Physics Laboratory, which employs about 5,000 people, does many projects with the NSA.

According to the lab’s website, “APL staff working with NSA are engaged in strategic planning, development of enterprise and program architectures, conducting quantitative analysis to support engineering decisions, development of engineering processes, and formulation of the governance structures for the work in the new Technology Directorate (TD).”

The website also notes that the lab “completed a strategic study that analyzed NSA’s global information technology infrastructure to determine the top locations for the large-scale data centers.”

Green said on Twitter that he had “been told” that someone from the Applied Physics Laboratory had first flagged his blog post.

Asked about the Applied Physics Laboratory’s role, Hopkins spokesman Dennis O'Shea said, “We are still tracing the path of this event, which all exploded into our notice over the past couple of hours. So I don’t think we’re ready yet with an answer on that.”

In an earlier statement, O’Shea said: “The university received information this morning that Matthew Green’s blog contained a link or links to classified material and also used the NSA logo. For that reason, we asked Professor Green to remove the Johns Hopkins-hosted mirror site for his blog.”

He continued: “Upon further review, we note that the NSA logo has been removed and that he appears to link to material that has been published in the news media. Interim Dean Andrew Douglas will inform Professor Green that the mirror site may be restored.”

Green removed the post from his university site but it remained mirrored on Google’s blogger service. Green has since removed the agency’s logo from the post on his blog.

An expert in the field of cryptography, Green was quoted in the story published by ProPublica and the New York Times.

In his blog post, Green linked to a document that outlines the NSA’s SIGINT Enabling Project, a program focused on subverting encryption products. The document is marked Top Secret and was part of the cache taken by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden.

Green added in the post that he has not seen documents beyond the ones published with the story last week.


Justin Elliott

Justin Elliott is a reporter for ProPublica. You can follow him on Twitter @ElliottJustin

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Jeff Larson

MORE FROM Jeff Larson

Related Topics ------------------------------------------

Baltimore Cryptography Johns Hopkins National Security Nsa Propublica

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