"Nota Bene" means "note this well" or "take particular notice." We at the O'Quinn Law Library will be posting tips on legal research techniques and resources, developments in the world of legal information, happenings at the Law Library, and legal news reports that deserve your particular attention. We look forward to sharing our thoughts and findings and to hearing from you.

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-Spencer L. Simons, former Director, O'Quinn Law Library and Associate Professor of Law



Thursday, April 18, 2013

Information Must be Free!



The idea that information must be free, that is without restriction, is a mantra among open government folk and librarians. A companion quote is “. . .and this is especially true concerning cool information.”  I recently stumbled (hat tip to Boing Boing) upon some real cool information that, while not entirely free, is being let out of its cage to touch the grass for the first time.

The National Security Administration (NSA, aka “No Such Agency” or “Never Say Anything”) is responsible for the American intelligence community’s “Signit” (Signal intelligence) operations. They are America’s code breakers. These are the guys who “supposedly” listen to every long distance phone call out of the country and read everyone’s email. This agency is responsible for the collection and analysis of foreign radio signals. They have a huge complex in the Maryland suburbs of Washington DC on a heavily patrolled stretch of road where I used to drive my kids around so that they would nap. I have heard that the NSA hires more computer science and math majors than anyone else.  According to Wikipedia they are allowed to file for patents with the USPTO that “are not revealed to the public and do not expire.” If someone files for an identical patent, the USPTO will reveal the NSA’s patent and then let the NSA hold the patent for the entire term. 

Recently they have released back issues of their in-house magazine, Cryptolog. While the front-cover looks like a fanzine from the early days of Dungeons & Dragons, these issues are packed with a lot of interesting information; as long as you don’t mind redaction; lots and lots of redaction.  The coverage begins in 1974 and ends in 1997. For an more information be sure to read the FAQ’s. 

If the reader can get past the huge amounts of redacted material, from authors and editor’s names to entire articles, a wealth of material still exists. I read a multipage article on slang in Soviet prisons. I skimmed multiple issues and found articles on Church-State relations in the Mexican state of Chiapas, packet radio (?), radar intercept systems used by the North Vietnamese, and an article titled, “Third Party Relationships” which sounds interesting, but I couldn’t tell because the whole thing was redacted. 

While I can’t verify it, this may just be an attempt to skim IP addresses, so visit the archive at your own risk.

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