Homeland Security Decides ‘Open Source’ is in Name Only

Here’s an oddity of the Obama administration’s promoted transparency campaign, and a contradicting trend to the routine availability of government information online: The Department of Homeland Security has ended public distribution of its “open source” reports, pulling them behind a controlled firewall and limiting their distribution.

I know this because I’ve been receiving these reports – such as the DHS Daily Cyber Report — for years, and even note that when they did arrive in my inbox, the formerly helpful department “encouraged” redistribution.  “Please feel free to forward this email w/attachment to your co-workers and colleagues that might be interested in this product,” the daily email said.  The Report mostly ended up in my trash – they were little more than clippings and news summaries – but they were useful to get a sense of what DHS was distributing.

Now the Department is developing a closed “Community of Interest (COI)” on the Homeland Security Information Network (HSIN) and inviting its “partners” to apply for “secure” access to the reports.  If one is not already an HSIN user – limited to government, law enforcement, and contractors – one can apply for access.  New users should be nominated for access into one or more of the following HSIN communities:

  • DHS Federal Operations
  • FEMA Emergency Management
  • Emergency Services Information Sharing
  • Federal Law Enforcement
  • HSIN Critical Sectors

Oh, and only government and contractor personnel who are citizens of the United States will be given access.

The A-students of the Obama government have already elevated the status of unclassified information – that is, information whose release has no impact on national security – by creating a new category called “controlled unclassified information” (CUI), a way in which more not less can be withheld in the name of standardization.

The DHS, always seeking ways to be more national security, is intrinsically also forcing everyone to get special privileges before they can be members of a not very exclusive club.  This is the story of government, particularly in the excuse-laden era of cyber defense and Wikileaks: Nothing will be voluntarily surrendered to the people unless legislation demands it, and even then, what is formerly innocuous is then declared controlled and security in order to serve only the interests of those inside.

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