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back to article Fine, you can mock us: NSA spies back down in T-shirt ridicule brouhaha

The NSA and Department of Homeland Security have abandoned efforts to shut down an internet site selling parodies of its logos on T-shirts, coffee cups and bumper stickers. A tee with a slogan reads: The NSA, the only part of the government that listens Fort Meade shows a poor sense of humor Almost three years ago the NSA …

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$500? really?

This is about as clearly a "political speech" case as it gets. Public Citizen couldn't do better than that?

Poor show, old chaps.

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Re: $500? really?

I don't reckon he can claim any real damages since he didn't relent and had the added benefit of free publicity to sell more.

Any kind of payment and withdrawal of the case is a tacit admission that they were wrong - what more were you expecting?

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Re: a tacit admission that they were wrong

>> the two agencies decided to settle the case with no admission of guilt <<

They made sure they didn't admit anything.

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Headmaster

Re: a tacit admission that they were wrong

"They made sure they didn't admit anything."

When someone involved in a legal case (especially a government agency with deep pockets and an even larger cynic gland) backs out and hands over money, it is a 'tacit admission'.

fyi "tacit admission"

-implied or indicated (as by an act or by silence) but not actually expressed

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Anonymous Coward

Mock?

Completely deserved.

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No Such Agency.

If only they helped out by enforcing the "Do Not Call" list, it isn't like don't have the data.

Just issue a monthly report: People who were called by telemarketers that don't want to be. Easy Peasy!

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Facepalm

Cease-and-desist letter?

No National Security Letter? Somebody didn't they get the memo, apparently.

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Re: Cease-and-desist letter?

Well, maybe they did...they're just not allowed to say so...

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I thought this had been settled a couple of months back when The Register (I think) had an article on it and I ordered one for myself (mug with "Spying on you since 1952").

Sometimes bureaucrats - managers in a bureau - have a sense of humor, but most often not. Those who work in a bureau are much less likely to be offended. I suspect that if I had a dollar for every one of these mugs in the NSA facility at Fort Meade I could take my wife out for dinner at a high end restaurant and have some change left.

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They're certain you could. After all, they know what you eat.

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Sometimes bureaucrats - managers in a bureau - have a sense of humor, but most often not

And sometimes, bureaucrats think this sort of thing is amusing and innocuous, but aren't going to be the ones to risk their jobs by not referring it to their legal departments. And the lawyers therein are not going to ignore it for the same reason. If there's a chance someone higher up the chain of command might take offense, the safe move is to demonstrate due diligence.

While I personally applaud McCall for taking a stand and am well pleased to see the case settled in his favor, I can also acknowledge that middle-management at the NSA and DHS were in a difficult position. They're people too, with bills to pay; and they didn't do anything particularly reprehensible in this case. It'd be nice if we could short-circuit this sort of thing, where First Amendment rights appear to clearly attach, but the wheels of justice grind slowly.

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MrT
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Reminds me of the Simpsons Movie...

Fake EPA logo and message at the start of the DVD...

" 'PROTECTING THE PLANET, PROTECTING OUR JOBS'

The Environmental Protection Agency wishes to strenuously object to its depiction in this film. We are a competent, well-meaning government bureaucracy, and if we were ever granted any real power we would never, ever abuse it, we promise.

Russ Cargill, Acting Head"

EPAAAA! EEEPAAAAAA!!

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"... and reaping donations to the cause via PayPal"

I wonder if they tried leaning on PayPal to freeze his account I also wonder if they accessed the PayPal database to find out who had been making donations

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Re: "... and reaping donations to the cause via PayPal"

"I wonder if they tried leaning on PayPal to freeze his account I also wonder if they accessed the PayPal database to find out who had been making donations"

That's rather paranoid. And additionally judges the organisation as some kind of vast entity, rather than separate departments. ie: Do you think that if you got into a trademark spat with Walmart that they'd stop you shopping there?

Legal departments are entities in their own right and generally reviled by every other part of the organisation, rather than work hand-in-glove with them.

Frankly, I'd like to think that even the NSA's fingernail pulling department* look down on the lawyers.

It's also kind of laughable that you'd make a watch-list for buying a T-shirt.

*Yes, I know they don't have one.

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Black Helicopters

Re: "... and reaping donations to the cause via PayPal"

"It's also kind of laughable that you'd make a watch-list for buying a T-shirt."

You can laugh yourself all the way to the library then. You aren't paranoid enough if you ask me.

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Coat

Re: *Yes, I know they don't have one.

That's exactly what they want you to think.

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Re: "... and reaping donations to the cause via PayPal"

"You can laugh yourself all the way to the library then. You aren't paranoid enough if you ask me."

And you seem to think that the government is a lot more efficient than it is.

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Alert

@ Psyx: Re: "... and reaping donations to the cause via PayPal"

And you seem to think that the government is a lot more efficient than it is.

I don't claim to speak for Sir Spork, but I will say this: The efficiency of the "government" has nothing to do with it. Nor, for that matter, does the efficiency of any particular agency. An agency, regardless of how slow and clunky its internal machinations are, only needs one or two well-placed bureaucrats with a mean streak and sufficient power to really fuck you up.

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Re: "... and reaping donations to the cause via PayPal"

Fingernail pulling department: "Yes, I know they don't have one".

HOW do you know? They are, after all, the No Such Agency.

Would you be one of those who "doesn't work there"?

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Thumb Up

"I'm glad the case helped reaffirm the right to lampoon our government"

Possibly the most important right in a free society.

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Re: "I'm glad the case helped reaffirm the right to lampoon our government"

+1 Lack of humour is a definite indicator of megalomania if you ask me. Cracking down on piss-taking is the early warning for cracking down on everything, so it just shows what kinds of attitude prevails at the NSA decision making level.

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Re: "I'm glad the case helped reaffirm the right to lampoon our government"

"so it just shows what kinds of attitude prevails at the NSA decision making level."

No it doesn't: It shows what kind of attitude prevails at the NSA copyright legal team level.

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Re: "I'm glad the case helped reaffirm the right to lampoon our government"

The legal team in a company does not make decisions, they give advice to decision makers and carry out instructions from the decision makers, even if they are ill-advised standing ones.

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"a crime to mutilate or alter the seal of any department or agency of the United States."?

That's the sort of thing you expect in a totalitarian state.

Oh, wait...

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There is absolutely nothing about this that is peculiar to the NSA or indicative of totalitarianism. People with a little authority and a larger sense of self-importance sometimes act before thinking of consequences (and appearances) and wind up looking quite foolish, as in the case of the now famous Salt Lake City school lunch fiasco. It nearly always is safe to bet on human error and stupidity against plots and conspiracies, especially if the latter involve more than a few dozen.

Beyond that, the law in question appears doubtfully applicable; there is no chance at all that the articles in question could be judged "reasonably calculated to convey the impression that such use [of the NSA seal] is approved, endorsed, or authorized by the National Security Agency." It also is near certain that any action of this type would fail a First Amendment test in the first court, as the government's capitulation suggests they might also have thought.

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Except that they could make the claim that - following Snowden's revelations - a reasonable person could believe that this WAS the agency's motto.

Although standing up in court and saying that might be even more embarrasing than a few T-shirts

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So, where's the GCHQ version?

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Black Helicopters

Give it time, or send an email to Mr McCall and see if he'll front it. I would pay for one!

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"So, where's the GCHQ version?"

http://www.keepcalm-o-matic.co.uk/p/gchq-always-listening-to-our-clients/

Not really very amusing, and based on the now very tired KC&CO graphics, not the current "the state is embracing all your data" GCHQ logo:

http://www.gchq.gov.uk/pages/homepage.aspx

Of course, you could breach crown copyright and lift the logo from the GCHQ web page (and the MI5 and SIS logos on links at the bottom) and make your own image and have a unique mug printed? Maybe the logos and your own legend - some starters for you:

"If you're reading this you're a subversive, and we're watching you".

"Imagine a boot tripping over itself forever"

"It was a bright cold day in April, and the clocks were striking thirteen"

Or perhaps:

War is peace

Freedom is slavery

Ignorance is strength

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"It was a bright cold day in April, and the clocks were striking thirteen"

Kudos for that one.

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should it not be...

All men are equal... but some are more equal than others!

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FAIL

I wonder if the GCHQ logo is copyright?

@Ledswinger:

I'm off down to our T-shirt embosser tomorrow - only Fifty (US) Cents for a 2-colour computer stitched embossed logo (100 pieces)! Should look good on a dark blue T-shirt.

Both GCHQ and NSA have very poor Press Kits - no logos.

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re: where's the GCHQ version?

I got mine from the Guardian offers page at http://entertainment.guardianoffers.co.uk/i-aa-rm001699/g-c-h-q-always-listening-to-our-customers/. My wife bought me the NSA version for Christmas.

Unfortunately, the GCHQ version does actually not feature their logo - more a generic HMG "crown". As another poster has said though, GCHQ's site specifically states that the logo may not be used "inappropriately".

No sense of humour.

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Re: re: where's the GCHQ version?

@charlie-charlie-tango-alpha

>GCHQ's site specifically states that the logo may not be used "inappropriately".

We should ask GCHQ to stop using it, then !

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Coat

I rather like the ""Imagine a boot tripping over itself forever" myself.

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Facepalm

a crime to mutilate or alter the seal of any department or agency of the United States

It is also a crime to use the seal without permission, and getting permission is an incredible feat. One that I failed on. As I had applied retrospectively to use the seal on an intranet site the following thing happened.

1. I received a stern email saying no.

2. I received a very stern letter saying no.

3. I received a phone call from the FBI stating that I had perpetrated a federal crime and that if I didn't desist then they would attempt extradition.

All I wanted to do is hot link using the seal as a click button so that employees in America could see health and safety information.

Can you imagine the HSE taking such action in the UK?

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Anonymous Coward

Re: a crime to mutilate or alter the seal of any department or agency of the United States

Can you imagine the HSE taking such action in the UK?

Yes, IMHO - all it takes is you hitting the wrong bureaucrat on a Monday morning before coffee. Part of the problem is that such processes, once kicked off, because self sustaining to the point where they will roll on, even if you try to stop them because you spotted something stupid is about to happen.

To me, NOT having a sense of humour is a sign of weakness.

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Re: a crime to mutilate or alter the seal of any department or agency of the United States

"Can you imagine the HSE taking such action in the UK?

Yes,"

Er, no, because you don't need permission to use the HSE logo in such a way. So the whole thing fails before you even get to step one. If you don't have to ask for permission you would never be refused.

I think, Mr Coward, that your tinfoil hat is showing.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: a crime to mutilate or alter the seal of any department or agency of the United States

3. I received a phone call from the FBI stating that I had perpetrated a federal crime and that if I didn't desist then they would attempt extradition.

I take it you told them to fuck off, and continued using the seal? Maybe asked them what year they believed United States Federal laws became applicable to people outside the jurisdiction of the United States?

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Black Helicopters

Re: a crime to mutilate or alter the seal of any department or agency of the United States

3. I received a phone call from the FBI stating that I had perpetrated a federal crime and that if I didn't desist then they would attempt extradition.

I take it you told them to fuck off, and continued using the seal?

I would guess he did what most people would do and complied with the request because it really isn't worth the fight nor grief. Not when you can't trust your own government to protect you and the law they impose is designed not to.

They rule and control through fear and not everyone can afford to stand up against that.

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Re: a crime to mutilate or alter the seal of any department or agency of the United States

@ukKDE

>As I had applied retrospectively to use the seal on an intranet site the following thing happened.

I guess you are the type of guy who would ask for travel permission in the GDR back in day ...

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Re: a crime to mutilate or alter the seal of any department or agency of the United States

Y'all do know that United States Code states that no government work can be copyrighted?

Copyright Law of the United States of America and Related Laws Contained in Title 17 of the United States Code

http://www.copyright.gov/title17/92chap1.html#105

Circular 92

§ 102 . Subject matter of copyright: In general

(b) In no case does copyright protection for an original work of authorship extend to any idea, procedure, process, system, method of operation, concept, principle, or discovery, regardless of the form in which it is described, explained, illustrated, or embodied in such work.

§ 105 . Subject matter of copyright: United States Government works37

Copyright protection under this title is not available for any work of the United States Government, but the United States Government is not precluded from receiving and holding copyrights transferred to it by assignment, bequest, or otherwise.

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acronyms

It is said that employees of the FBI claim that DEA stands for Drunk Every Afternoon, and that DEA staff return the favor with Famous But Incompetent. I'm not sure who came up with Uncle Sam;'s MIsguided Children for the USMC, but Marines actually seem to like it.

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Re: acronyms

I wonder how much they'd like it if it were 'Uncle Sam, Murdering Children'

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Re: acronyms

To be lectured on the norms of war or international conduct generally by a Briton? I am sure they would bow to your moral superiority, wit, etc.

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Mushroom

Re: acronyms

"To be lectured on the norms of war or international conduct generally by a Briton?"

The American English definition of 'lecture' must be far removed from the one I'm familiar with I must say.

However, in the interests of fair play, I reckon soldiers from every country, not just the USA, have been guilty of killing children at some point in mankind's history. Since Britain once had an empire forged with violence I can be fairly certain that this country isn't exempt.

" I am sure they would bow to your moral superiority, wit, etc."

I'm pretty sure they wouldn't bow. In fact I rather suspect they would just rather shoot me in the head than think about what they were doing - much easier.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: acronyms

Since Britain once had an empire forged with violence I can be fairly certain that this country isn't exempt.

You could try reading a history book... it might help with your lack of knowledge about and understanding of how the British Empire came to be.

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Re: acronyms

"You could try reading a history book... it might help with your lack of knowledge about and understanding of how the British Empire came to be."

Whilst I freely admit to taking a bit of poetic licence in my post, I can't see how Britain created an Empire based on mutual admiration and trade without killing a few fuzzy-wuzzies* along the way.

I'm pretty sure the Royal Navy had a lot to do with it and their ships had lots of guns on them if I recall. We also had a well trained army. I'm not sure a bunch of civil servants turning up with a clipboard and pencil would have had the same effect on cornering certain resources that funded our once great nation.

However, I am always ready to be corrected, so please do direct me towards your historical information that I may educate myself further on this matter.

*Since we all have to police ourselves and one another, let me save anyone saying I'm racist by clearing that one up..

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hadendoa

Rudyard Kipling wrote a poem extolling the virtues of aforementioned tribe from the perspective of a warrior - so please be clear that it is not meant in any way to be offensive to anyone, no matter their nationality, creed or colour

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Anonymous Coward

Re: acronyms

Whilst I freely admit to taking a bit of poetic licence in my post, I can't see how Britain created an Empire based on mutual admiration and trade without killing a few fuzzy-wuzzies* along the way.

Like I said a good book can help you with that.

I'm pretty sure the Royal Navy had a lot to do with it and their ships had lots of guns on them if I recall. We also had a well trained army. I'm not sure a bunch of civil servants turning up with a clipboard and pencil would have had the same effect on cornering certain resources that funded our once great nation

There's three groups of people who only got involved long after the foundations of the Empire had been sown by private companies. Capitalists, you'd be amazed what they'll do for money.

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IT Angle

Re: acronyms

"by private companies"

I'm wondering if you are referring to the state sponsored East India Trading company there?

Please put some meat in your posts, all you keep saying is 'you're wrong - look it up'. I have looked it up, there is a big list of wars that were fought over territory with other colonial powers from the 16th/17thC onwards, up until the early 20th Century.

Give me one clear example of how the first British Empire was established without the use of force and I'll concede the point.

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