Beta
×

Welcome to the Slashdot Beta site -- learn more here. Use the link in the footer or click here to return to the Classic version of Slashdot.

Thank you!

Before you choose to head back to the Classic look of the site, we'd appreciate it if you share your thoughts on the Beta; your feedback is what drives our ongoing development.

Beta is different and we value you taking the time to try it out. Please take a look at the changes we've made in Beta and  learn more about it. Thanks for reading, and for making the site better!

Patents vs. Secrecy

CowboyNeal posted more than 8 years ago | from the need-to-know-basis dept.

Patents 219

giampy writes "New Scientist is reporting that the NSA appears to be having its patent applications increasingly blocked by the Pentagon. From the article: 'the fact that the Pentagon is classifying things that the NSA believes should be public is an indication of how much secrecy has crept into government over the past few years.'"

Sorry! There are no comments related to the filter you selected.

If you can't patent it... (5, Funny)

Spy der Mann (805235) | more than 8 years ago | (#13893898)

publish it! :D

Re:If you can't patent it... (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#13893978)

You are almost as faggish as Tripmaster Asswhore-Monkey and his "Hooray 4 teh Googel!"-posts.

Do you guys actually have penises or are you fucking webcunts in disguise? Judging from the bullshitty, completely humor-less shit-trickle running out of your filthy mounths, I assume not.

Re:If you can't patent it... (1, Informative)

letxa2000 (215841) | more than 8 years ago | (#13894107)

the fact that the Pentagon is classifying things that the NSA believes should be public is an indication of how much secrecy has crept into government over the past few years.'"

What a load... "Over the past few years?" Come 'on, cut any silly implications that government secrecy is somehow something new with the Bush administration. The FOIA was passed for a reason and it was passed long before "a few years ago."

Government secrecy is nothing new... just the spin.

Re:If you can't patent it... (2, Funny)

nmb3000 (741169) | more than 8 years ago | (#13894241)

Dear sir.

I can tell by your UID that you're not new here. I can only believe that perhaps you've been on sabbatical for the last 7 years. Perhaps you are recently recovering from amnesia? Did you buy your Slashdot account on Ebay?

In any case it is my unfortunate duty to inform you that everything is the Bush administration's fault. In fact, I have it on good authority that the Bush administration caused cancer, created the 2004 Tsunami, and were the real authors behind the "Hot Coffee" mod. These acts and many others been uncovered by trusted sites such as MichaelMoore.com, The Onion, and Slashdot.

The truth is that they are responsible for just about everything since their takeover of the Lewinsky administration. Sorry to break it to you like this but they are pure dag-nasty evil, it's just a fact.

Re:If you can't patent it... (5, Informative)

Mattcelt (454751) | more than 8 years ago | (#13894270)

cut any silly implications that government secrecy is somehow something new with the Bush administration

You're right, secrecy isn't a new idea in government. However, the sheer amount of secret things - classified data, blocked FOIA requests, and so much more has grown exponentially in the past 20 years or so. The amount of secrecy allowed in the US now is leaps and bounds above what it was when Reagan was president. (And it was a lot then!)

It used to be that data defaulted to "unclassified" unless it was specifically classified. But lately it's taken a quite a turn - more and more data is defaulting to "classified".

I think a large part of this has to do with two realizations at the government level. One, the less information about the government is out there, the less accountable their constituents can hold them. (This is why the FOIA is so critical for the protection of rights for US citizens.) Two, statistical mining, data interpolation and extrapolation, and other sophisticated, computationally-intensive information guessing techniques have advanced so rapidly and with such efficacy that even when only "non-sensitive" portions of data are released, people are becoming extremely good at figuring out the underlying secrets.

Personally, it scares me that the government can keep secrets from me without even telling me why they're keeping it a secret. ("National Security" has become the catch-all reason to classify ANYTHING, it seems.) It scares me more that the government will no longer let me keep secrets from it. That disparity is beginning to undermine the balance of power between the electors and the elect, and could very easily lead this country into a tryannical state. I thank God that there are still some idealists in the government who are trying to make the right decisions; it is they who help to counteract the creep of power and those it affects.

Re:If you can't patent it... (3, Insightful)

kcbrown (7426) | more than 8 years ago | (#13894550)

I thank God that there are still some idealists in the government who are trying to make the right decisions; it is they who help to counteract the creep of power and those it affects.

Unfortunately, I believe their numbers are dwindling, as corporate sponsorship (what else can you call the necessity of corporate "campaign contributions") continues to become more necessary for one to be elected.

Re:If you can't patent it... (2)

bleckywelcky (518520) | more than 8 years ago | (#13894338)

Unfortunately there are these little things like ITAR (International Traffic in Arms Regulations) and Export Control restrictions. Whereby, no matter how innocent the action may be, if they can trace the source of controlled information back to you, they'll fine the hell out of ya and throw you in jail. Although, I guess if you publish anonymously, you could try to skirt that.

People sometimes think these restrictions only apply if you cross borders. But even if you are in the USA, if you talk about restricted information around non-citizens, you are in violation, even if you did not know they were non-citizens.

3P! (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#13893902)

Third post?

Classified: (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#13893904)

Pirst Fosts are classified. Go back, do not remember any of this.

its bush's fault (2)

Dragoonkain (704719) | more than 8 years ago | (#13893905)

really..

Not really. (3, Interesting)

WindBourne (631190) | more than 8 years ago | (#13894164)

NSA has always done a number of things in the open. Up till the iron curtain fell, the pentagon actually had a lot of power. After that, poppa bush and congress scaled back the military. Clinton decreased spying earlier on, but then increased them after a few years, but did not spend a whole lot extra on the military.

Now, that the military is fighting a 2 front war (and looking at the very real possibility of a 3 front war in another year), they are getting a lot of power. More importantly, they are willing to use it.

win/win (5, Funny)

tooba (710518) | more than 8 years ago | (#13893914)

Does this mean that there are a bunch of secret ideas out there that I can patent for my own personal profit? Score!

Re:win/win (3, Informative)

mfago (514801) | more than 8 years ago | (#13893949)

Try to patent something that the government thinks should be (or is) secret and suddenly you'll find you no longer have any rights to it. Not sure if they are required to pay you, although Feynman eventually did manage to get $1 for the idea of a nuclear submarine...

cue the stories... (1)

weighn (578357) | more than 8 years ago | (#13894181)

...of the backyard inventor working on some perpetual motion device who gets a mention in the local rag and subsequent vists from strange dudes in suits who drop vague warnings about continuing to develop...

Re:win/win (4, Interesting)

David Gould (4938) | more than 8 years ago | (#13894192)


  although Feynman eventually did manage to get $1 for the idea of a nuclear submarine...

Heh. Though of course, while you could call that story an example of an inventor being screwed out of his IP rights by the government, I'd say it's more an example of patents being granted frivolously.

As I recall, the way he told it was that, after the Manhattan Project was done, Feynman was asked if he could think of any other (i.e., non-bomb) applications for atomic energy. He replied by listing, off the top of his head, a bunch of "things that use energy". He later found that he'd been granted, for each $X in his list, a patent on "an atomic-powered $X".

Kinda puts "1-click shopping" to shame, huh? In a way, it's heartening -- at least the USPTO's willingness to grant patents on vague ideas, without even requiring them to have been implemented first, is nothing new.

In Soviet Russia... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#13894175)

...secrets patent you!

What are they keeping Secret? (1)

Alien54 (180860) | more than 8 years ago | (#13894528)

They let stuff out on the net like this:

http://www.hedfud.com/media/albums/videos02/mobile _laser.wmv [hedfud.com]

Direct link to WMV file of a military film introducing an operational high power laser. They show it taking out shells and rockets in midair. Some lousy special effects, but educational.

So what stuff are they keeping secret?

Geritol. (4, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#13893921)

"From the article: 'the fact that the Pentagon is classifying things that the NSA believes should be public is an indication of how much secrecy has crept into government over the past few years.'""

Now there's a double helping of Irony.

The pentagon is more paranoid than the NSA.

Plus it was the NSA that was paranoid back during the RSA era.

Re:Geritol. (5, Insightful)

Daniel Dvorkin (106857) | more than 8 years ago | (#13894048)

I suspect it's the sign of a culture clash as much as anything. Below the top level of bureaucracy, the NSA employs a lot of very smart people -- and not just smart, but creative and curious people as well, many of them mathematicians and computer scientists engaged in pure research. (One of my math professors, an absolutely brilliant guy and a great teacher, was hired away by them to work on Some Project for Some Amount Of Money That Was Unspecified, But Was Much More Than He Was Making Teaching College. I was happy for him, but sad that I wouldn't be able to take any more classes from him.) Even if they work for "No Such Agency," they're basically long-haired hippies who want to share their work with, like, the human race, man. And of course the Pentagon is ... well, it's the Pentagon. No hippies allowed. It's like the standard IT-guys-vs.-suits conflict that's played out in the corporate world all the time, but with much higher stakes.

To boil it down to /. terms: the Pentagon loves Microsoft, the NSA released its own Linux distro. You figure it out.

Re:Geritol. (0, Flamebait)

gnuLNX (410742) | more than 8 years ago | (#13894291)

Ok....I figured it out.....you.....are a...quack.

Ok that was totally outta line. just put down the tin foil hat sir.....sir move away from the hat.

Re:Geritol. (1)

shbazjinkens (776313) | more than 8 years ago | (#13894340)

I didn't know there was a Linux distro, so I googled it.

Here is a link [nsa.gov] for the rest of the curious.

Re:Geritol. (1)

SpaceLifeForm (228190) | more than 8 years ago | (#13894385)

The NSA has not released a distro. Just patches, library code and userland tools to implement SELinux. Most of it is now in 2.6 kernel. But the NSA never put together a complete distro.

As to the the Pentagon being pro-MS, well, lets just say that the NSA is pro-freedom.

Re:Geritol. (2, Interesting)

NoTheory (580275) | more than 8 years ago | (#13894155)

No, one could make a case that this is directly in line with the rest of the Grover Norquist school of thought.

From the article:
However, at another level, the Pentagon appears to be relaxing slightly: it seems to be loosening its post 9/11 grip on the ideas of private inventors, with the number having patents barred on the grounds of national security halving in the last year.

The Pentagon is blocking patents from the government, but allowing patents to private inventors... i.e. corporations. (this of course assumes that the sorts of patents given to private individuals are on average similar to the stuff the NSA is trying to publish, which may be a safe thing to assume) If you're looking for an ulterior motive, it's really easy to build a case that the Bush admin is trying to give away the government to the rich & powerful.

Re:Geritol. (2, Interesting)

VP (32928) | more than 8 years ago | (#13894560)

The pentagon is more paranoid than the NSA.

I am wondering if this is indeed related to secrecy, or if it has more practical (read "monetary") implications. If a patent is granted, do you want Halluburton (as the default DoD contractor) to pay a license fee? Or do you just give them the information to use as they see fit (and probably charge the governament for R&D in the process)?

Never underestimate the corruption of the political elite...

Compensation? (5, Interesting)

Karma_fucker_sucker (898393) | more than 8 years ago | (#13893932)

From TFA: So there are now 4915 secrecy orders in effect - some of which have been in effect since the 1930s.

If the Pentagon makes your patent secret, will they compensate you? I know that's a hard call as far as value is concerned. But let's say you're in negotiations with some company. You're coming to an amount of $5 million. Will the Pentagon send you a check for $5 million. Will they compensate the company in negations with you too? Or will they just say "Eminent Domain" and just take the thing and if you object, put you in jail?

What would happen if you just said "Fuck you!" and release it on the Net - jail you? The cat's already out of the bag.

Re:Compensation? (2, Informative)

xiphoris (839465) | more than 8 years ago | (#13893973)

Or will they just say "Eminent Domain" and just take the thing

The principle of eminent domain does not allow the government to just "take" things. Eminent domain [wikipedia.org] requires that the government compensate you a fair market value [wikipedia.org] .

Of course, that says nothing about other methods they have of preventing you from releasing your invention (national security?) or who decides what "fair market value" is.

Re:Compensation? (5, Informative)

ScrewMaster (602015) | more than 8 years ago | (#13894130)

Not at all. This has nothing to do with eminent domain, this has to do with military secrets, and how the ability to peg something as "classified" results in the effective theft of intellectual property.

Back in the sixties, a company my father started did a lot of government contract electronics design and manufacturing, mostly for the Navy (some Air Force.) Some of his designs were parsecs beyond what the Navy was currently using at the time, so good that the Navy simply classified them outright. Okay, that's a compliment in a way, but it meant that he couldn't tell anyone about his concepts, couldn't use them for anything himself, and couldn't market any products made with them unless the government chose to buy them from him. Which they didn't, because after stealing his IP they simply shopped it around to other vendors to get a better deal (or to somebody's brother-in-law, whatever.) After that experience, he learned to withhold key parts of specifications so even if they classified what he gave them it wouldn't do them any good. He pissed off more than a few Navy engineers that way, but his attitude was simple: if it's good enough for the Navy to steal it's good enough for them to pay the inventor a fair price.

This all happened was forty years ago, and given the turn our society and our government has taken since, I can't believe the situation has improved any. Really, working for the military is a risky business for any private-sector operation, no matter how you slice it. Money to be made, sure, but you gotta be careful.

Re:Compensation? (1)

afaik_ianal (918433) | more than 8 years ago | (#13893994)

Accoding to this [uspto.gov] , yes, it looks like inventors are entitled to compensation if a secrecy order is placed on their patent.

It's the government's IP. No doubt about it. (1)

technoextreme (885694) | more than 8 years ago | (#13894002)

If the Pentagon makes your patent secret, will they compensate you? I know that's a hard call as far as value is concerned. But let's say you're in negotiations with some company. You're coming to an amount of $5 million. Will the Pentagon send you a check for $5 million. Will they compensate the company in negations with you too? Or will they just say "Eminent Domain" and just take the thing and if you object, put you in jail? Im fairly certain that it's not anyone's intellectual property but the United States government. At least any sane company would not let their pions have sole use to IP. Even my University has a rule stating that any IP created using their property is partially theirs.

Re:Compensation? (1)

mboverload (657893) | more than 8 years ago | (#13894008)

No necessarily. On Slashdot a few weeks ago they were talking about how a big patent was taken by the DoD and they got NO money for it.

Re:Compensation? (1)

Punboy (737239) | more than 8 years ago | (#13894449)

Heh, no, they'd have you killed. Its called treason.

Re:Compensation? (1)

Fujisawa Sensei (207127) | more than 8 years ago | (#13894455)

What would happen if you just said "Fuck you!" and release it on the Net - jail you? The cat's already out of the bag.

The can may be out of the bag, but don't think they wont try and make an example out of you. You're likely to end up in jail, then bankrupted from legal expenses, and a convicted felon when you get out.

The government has locked people in prison for months, untill they finished their investigation, because they "think" they "mishandled" classified information.

Is DOD screwing up great NSA plans? (-1, Flamebait)

mbkennel (97636) | more than 8 years ago | (#13893941)

tin-foil hat theory.

NSA publishes details of what-seem-to-be-awfully-good-security-systems
except they have a tiny-little-flaw-that-only-we-know about.

Hoping that they get included in products, "NSA-designed security system!!"

DOD, stultified and paranoid in the Rumsfeld regime thwarts it without thinking.

Re:Is DOD screwing up great NSA plans? (2, Informative)

LnxAddct (679316) | more than 8 years ago | (#13894108)

The NSA, despite being secretive as hell, is one of the few government agencies that has consistently been upfront with the public. Multiple times they've found weaknesses in algorithms and fixed them, never giving an explanation, just a fix. In some cases it was years later that anyone started figuring out how exactly the changes worked to make the algorithm more secure, and some modifications still aren't understood by the public, but its been shown that they all increase the overall security of the algorithms in question. The NSA has motivation to make these as secure as possible simply because they also use these algorithms to securely exchange information among contractors and other agencies. I've read before that the NSA is as much as 50 to 100 years more advanced in mathematics than the rest of the world, now I don't know how accurate this is, but judging from their history it probably isn't too far off.
Regards,
Steve

There is not enough data... (5, Insightful)

Xabraxas (654195) | more than 8 years ago | (#13893942)

...to make the judgement that the government is becoming more secretive. The article states that in each of the three years prior the Pentagon has blocked 4, 5, and 9 patents submitted by the NSA. Three years of evidence is hardly enough to go by. There may be a perfectly good reason as to why more patents were blocked this year. With such a small number of patents denied it is possible that the NSA applied for more patents and the percentage of patents blocked is actually less than previous years. It is also possible that The NSA developed more inventions this year that could be deemed sensitive information. I would like to know how many patents submitted by the NSA have been blocked by the pentagon in the past 50-60 years and what percentage of patent applications have been blocked each year. That information would be much more useful. Move on, nothing to see here.

I hope they give you compensation (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#13893951)

i wondered about this but never looked into it ..anyone know if they secretize a patent or something .. do they pay or commercial losses? It's reasonable that you are owed compensation for whatever legitimate commercial value the damn thing has (not just payment for the govt. to use it .. since well they can dictate the price since they are the only customer you can sell it to).

Re:I hope they give you compensation (2, Informative)

MstrFool (127346) | more than 8 years ago | (#13894555)

No, they don't. They take it and run, use it how ever they like and hire any one they wish to make it for them. There is a case right now where that happened with some underwater cable connections. The guy is totaly SOL as being clasifide, he can't even show the evidence to a judge so it can't even go to court.

I dunno... (4, Insightful)

susano_otter (123650) | more than 8 years ago | (#13893954)

Seems to me more like an indication of how much secure cryptography has gained value as a tool of war.

I suspect that the Pentagon is more concerned with preserving an edge in weapons technology, than with secrecy-as-secrecy.

The secrecy thing is just a side effect of wanting the edge.

Re:I dunno... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#13894246)

Didn't you say you were leaving Slashdot, bitch?

Or "otter," I guess...probably one of those brainfucked furries, too.

Just wait... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#13893955)

Once I patent the Aurora i'll be filthy rich, and be able to fly anywhere on earth really fast :p

Is this really that significat??? (-1, Flamebait)

technoextreme (885694) | more than 8 years ago | (#13893960)

When Coca-cola does this people call it a trade secret. When the United States government does this it infringes on someone's rights???

Re:Is this really that significat??? (1)

Fulcrum of Evil (560260) | more than 8 years ago | (#13893974)

When Coca-cola does this people call it a trade secret. When the United States government does this it infringes on someone's rights???

Yeah. Coke keeps its forumla secret. You try to patent something, only to have the Pentagon declare ti secret and not pay you.

Re:Is this really that significat??? (4, Insightful)

Elrond, Duke of URL (2657) | more than 8 years ago | (#13893998)

Honestly now...

Coca-cola is a private company. The government is by definition a public body that we, ideally, control. If Coke invents some new thing and decides to keep it a secret, you can tell them how you feel by not buying any Coke. You have no choice with the government.

They take your taxes, period. I think it is quite reasonable to insist that what the government does/creates with our money be made, if at all possible, public. That's how government is supposed to work.

Re:Is this really that significant??? (1)

alexo (9335) | more than 8 years ago | (#13894371)


> The government is by definition a public body that we, ideally, control [...]
> They take your taxes, period. I think it is quite reasonable to insist that what
> the government does/creates with our money be made, if at all possible, public.
> That's how government is supposed to work.


That only works with a government that only governs.
Unfortunately, some governments are not content with just governing. They want to rule.

Re:Is this really that significant??? (1)

StikyPad (445176) | more than 8 years ago | (#13894479)

What?

govern

v 1: bring into conformity with rules or principles or usage; impose regulations; "We cannot regulate the way people dress"; "This town likes to regulate" [syn: regulate, regularize, regularise, order] [ant: deregulate] 2: direct or strongly influence the behavior of; "His belief in God governs his conduct" 3: exercise authority over; as of nations; "Who is governing the country now?" [syn: rule]

v. ruled, ruling, rules
v. tr.
1. To exercise control, dominion, or direction over; govern.
2. To dominate by powerful influence.
3. To decide or declare authoritatively or judicially; decree. See Synonyms at decide.
4. a. To mark with straight parallel lines.
      b. To mark (a straight line), as with a ruler.


Ah, I see. I hate governments that want to mark with straight parallel lines too.

All joking aside, assuming that you were trying to say that our government wants absolute control rather than limited powers, that's inherent in any government because it's inherent in people, and governments are run by people. That's why the framers of the Constitution tried to limit and balance that power with term limits, 3 branches of government, and public accountability.

So in fact, openness doesn't "only work in a government that wants limited controls", it creates and sustains such limitations.

Re:Is this really that significat??? (1)

syzler (748241) | more than 8 years ago | (#13894383)

If Coke invents some new thing and decides to keep it a secret, you can tell them how you feel by not buying any Coke. You have no choice with the government.

You can tell the government how you feel by voting out the current politicians at election time in favor of politicians that agree with your beliefs and ideals. You choice is to vote for or against currently elected officials. Granted this will not help you at this precise moment, but neither will not buying Coca-Cola products provide instant results from Coca-Cola.

Secrecy (3, Insightful)

mister_llah (891540) | more than 8 years ago | (#13893962)

Honestly, the fact we know there ARE secrets is progress from the Cold War, in my opinion.

===

Having done a smidge of work for the government, I'm happier with secrets "just in case" than creating holes that might not have to have been made.

Does this mean that what is being kept secret *needs* to be? Not always... but it is better safe than sorry.

[obviously there are extremes, making an office supply order confidential for example, but patents are understandable]

Re:Secrecy (1)

Karma_fucker_sucker (898393) | more than 8 years ago | (#13893981)

. but it is better safe than sorry.

I'm sorry, but that argument is almost up there with "If you're doing nothing wrong then you have nothing to worry about."

Re:Secrecy (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#13894010)

pinko commie homo islamist lover! You're mama wears combat boots! Support the troops!

Why? (1)

mister_llah (891540) | more than 8 years ago | (#13894014)

If you are going to try to negate an argument, I'd like to at least know why.

===

If you've never been in a position handling classified information, it may be hard to see security holes.

I garauntee, in that position, you see a lot more paranoia than declaring certain patents a secret.

I don't think it is out of line... the line "better safe than sorry" may be a cliche, but in my experience, when it comes to government security, the cliche holds true.

*shrug*

That's just my point of view, you are free to your own... but I'd like to know why you have it, there may be some element of your experience we could all benefit from.

Re:Why? (4, Insightful)

Daniel Dvorkin (106857) | more than 8 years ago | (#13894090)

If you've never been in a position handling classified information, it may be hard to see security holes.

I have "been in a position handling classified information" -- some of it very classified indeed -- and here's why I think you're wrong:

1) Classification costs insane amounts of money; not just the classification process and the protections classified material requires, but in the case of technology, the potential profit to be realized by releasing the technology for civilian use. A good example of this is what the British government did to their nascent computer industry after WW2. At the end of the war, they had the best computer technology and computer scientists in the world, bar none. No one else, including the US, was even in the running. So, of course, in classic late-stage empire style, they classified everything, destroyed the actual machines, hounded people out of that line of work (and at least one of them to death) ... and gave away the entire computer industry in the process. The world could have been at least a decade ahead in computer technology, and the UK far richer, if not for this display of paranoia.

2) Classifying everything is equivalent to classifying nothing. People who work with classified information which they know is bullshit tend to get contemptuous of the rules (I've seen classified documents just sitting around in public areas, no one watching them, with people milling by!) So it increases the chances of genuinely important information getting leaked.

3) We, the people of the United States, pay for that work with our tax dollars. I don't think anyone will argue that everything the government comes up with should be for sale at Radio Shack -- but the government must have an overriding interest in keeping potentially useful technology (and everything else, for that matter) secret from the people who paid for it, and whose interests it is supposed to serve. And no, "this might be useful to someone somewhere sometime who wants to do something bad, better safe than sorry" just doesn't cut it.

Re:Why? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#13894114)

okay, how about better safe then my million dollar ass and 450 million dollar plane lost. Classification is expensive. Loosing people and hardware is very expensive. Loosing a war is terminal.

Re:Why? (5, Insightful)

geomon (78680) | more than 8 years ago | (#13894139)

okay, how about better safe then my million dollar ass and 450 million dollar plane lost. Classification is expensive. Loosing people and hardware is very expensive. Loosing a war is terminal.

Yes, but in an over-classified world, how would you know that we were losing the war?

Secret governments fail due to internal decay. The only cure for that disease is the sunshine of open government.

Only in the most extreme cases should information be classified. Once you start creating state secrets "just in case" it is impossible to stop.

Re:Why? (4, Insightful)

laughingcoyote (762272) | more than 8 years ago | (#13894406)

In my experience, those with broad powers to keep secrets will eventually misuse such power in order to cover up wrongdoing. The temptation is simply too great-you screwed up, badly, you can either:
A: Admit it, or
B: Keep it secret.
While there are exceptions, most will choose to keep it secret. That's an unfortunate reality but a true one.

And in fact, it's been found that classification has quite often been used unnecessarily or even maliciously. It has also been found that information is kept classified far longer then it need be (i.e., it held strategic value 50 years ago, and needed to be classified, it lost its strategic value 40 years ago and could've safely been declassified, but it stayed classified until 2 years ago because it would've embarrassed someone. Coincidentally, of course, that person died 2 years ago.)

A democratic government (or ANY government which claims to serve, rather than rule, the people it represents) must by definition be open. If we cannot get a complete picture of what any given leader or organization is up to, then we cannot make an informed choice as to whether to re-elect that leader. If we do not know a problem exists, we cannot protest it to our Congressmen/Senators. If the press are routinely denied access to critical information on potential wrongdoing, their "freedom of the press" becomes a farce.

We are indeed "better safe then sorry"-and we are safest when we can keep a close, critical eye on our government. Not when they're allowed to keep anything secret they wish with no oversight and no consequences for misuse of that authority.

Re:Secrecy (5, Informative)

geomon (78680) | more than 8 years ago | (#13894027)

Having done a smidge of work for the government, I'm happier with secrets "just in case" than creating holes that might not have to have been made.

I'm sorry, but this attitude just smacks of laziness on the part of a classification clerk. When I worked at Department of Energy sites I was amused to discover that groundwater well construction documents known as 'as-builts' were classified during the Cold War. We had to send over a guy with a clearence to review the well log and report back to the classification clerk that no national security information would be disclosed by declassifying the record. At one site the DOE was custodian to over 4,000 wells, of which 90% of the records were classified. Every hour spent by a PhD geologist reviewing well records cost the government real money. This laziness in applying a classified status to well records cost the taxpayers millions of dollars throughout the DOE complex without advancing national security one iota. Countless other examples of construction records for other non-proliferation items were also classified.

Perhaps you like throwing money away for useless 'feel good' measures, but I don't.

Re:Secrecy (1)

mister_llah (891540) | more than 8 years ago | (#13894047)

You are right, it does cost money. There are certain things which are wasteful to make secret.

I don't feel that patents are one of them.

===

Of course, that assumes that putting the patent out there will drum up problems, who knows if it does.

By the same reasoning, though, let us use the analogy of a plane. You go up in a plane, it is nice to have the parachute with you, even if you are never going to use it.

Patents aren't "wasteful" secrets. It's not clerical laziness. I don't feel that it is a waste of money.

I'd like to hear why, on patents specifically, you feel it would be wasteful, however... (since that is the issue at hand)

===

Also, the Cold War era, as I inferred in the 1st post I made, much more paranoid than we are now... (but we're inching back up there)... I am not educated enough on the intricacies of our internal security, however, to make any comments to support or rebutte what you stated.

Re:Secrecy (1)

geomon (78680) | more than 8 years ago | (#13894121)

I'd like to hear why, on patents specifically, you feel it would be wasteful, however... (since that is the issue at hand)

No, patents were the issue of the article and the submission. You generalized the topic with the statement "Having done a smidge of work for the government, I'm happier with secrets "just in case" than creating holes that might not have to have been made." but, to be fair, you did qualify your statement by citing examples of poor classification candidates.

My point was that I prefer an open government and that a classification should be applied to a document only in the most EXTREME examples. Unfortunately, this Administration is going BACKWARD on the issue of classification to the same system that existed in the Cold War. I offered my comments as a cautionary tale of what costs are borne by *us*, the taxpayers, in producing a government where all activities are given a classification first "just in case".

I won't bother to bore you with a discussion of the threat that a secret government has on democracy.

Re:Secrecy (1)

benjamindees (441808) | more than 8 years ago | (#13894171)

DOE built thousands of water wells during the cold war? Were they looking for uranium or something?

Re:Secrecy (1)

geomon (78680) | more than 8 years ago | (#13894229)

DOE built thousands of water wells during the cold war?

That sounds rather high, I know, but they were monitoring an area of 560 square miles.

The wells tended to be concentrated around reactors, separation facilities, fuel fabrication facilities, and liquid disposal facilities (read: the ground).

Were they looking for uranium or something?

That and tritium, nitrate, and cobalt-60. Now they monitor for a whole raft of nuclear and non-nuclear materials.

Re:Secrecy (1)

SpaceLifeForm (228190) | more than 8 years ago | (#13894545)

And that monitoring will continue forever. At least at Hanford [hanford.gov] , and other locations.

Re:Secrecy (4, Insightful)

SillyNickName4me (760022) | more than 8 years ago | (#13894417)

Does this mean that what is being kept secret *needs* to be? Not always... but it is better safe than sorry.

The USA has a supposedly democratically elected government.

Virtually everything that government tries to keep secret somewhat undermines the ability of the people of the USA to judge what their government is doing with their money, and hence undermines their ability to make a good choice on whom to vote for next time.

So, keeping secrets undermines democracy, which to me means that while you need them in specific cases, it is a very good idea to limit that to situations where it is really really needed.

The 'better be safe then sorry' should be applied to this in an entirely different way then you did, better be safe and not undermine the voters then be sorry that you lost democracy.

What The Post Doesn't Say (4, Insightful)

GabrielF (636907) | more than 8 years ago | (#13893963)

The brief description of this article on slashdot as well as the article itself are a bit alarmist. The article does say that the number of secrecy orders on NSA patents has increased (nine in '05, as opposed to five in '04 and none in the previous three years), but the number of secrecy orders on private inventors has been cut nearly in half, from 61 to 32. This indicates that in some ways the USPTO is being less secretive, not more. It is possible that the small change in NSA patents is due to a different bureaucratic mechanism for screening patents, perhaps the NSA itself has gotten less stringent so the USPTO and the Pentagon have had to become more sensitive in order to compromise, and it is even possible that the change is statistically meaningless due to the small sample size, but it is harder to account for the larger drop (numerically) in the secrecy of the patents of private inventors.

Re:What The Post Doesn't Say (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#13893991)

Since November 29th, 2000, the USPTO has been required to publish all patents after 18 months of recieving them, or on acceptance, whichever is first. So yes, the PTO is being less secretive. I think the article is talking about patent applications that don't even make it TO the PTO, and are stopped before they leave the NSA/DoD.

HIMINT (1)

Lord_of_the_nerf (895604) | more than 8 years ago | (#13893972)

Does that mean the NSA will have to fall back on good old reliable Human Inteliigence to infringe on our rights? Damn, just when I thought I'd be getting rid of the 'inconspicuous' (N)o (S)uch (A)gency van sitting outside my house.....

Re:HIMINT (1)

digitalchinky (650880) | more than 8 years ago | (#13894131)

The NSA doesn't infringe upon your rights - or any US citizen for that matter - they are a foreign intelligence gathering outfit, not domestic. Human intelligence is generally undertaken beneath the guise of a different 3 letter agency. :-) that said, I know you are joking.

I wish we knew what they were trying to patent... (1)

tacarat (696339) | more than 8 years ago | (#13893979)

That might make it easier to know how justifiable these patent blocks were. I knew that most of us think the Pentagon is being paranoid, but it's possible that maybe the NSA submitters missed an angle. Security through obscurity isn't exactly the best, but if it's one of those "oh,wow" sorts of things, then I can see that.

Domestic or foreign, I doubt the leadership (i.e. non-pawns) of a terrorist group would be be unwilling to make the best use of anything they can get their hands on. It's just too bad we won't know if the benefits of the patents would have balanced that out by providing to the American public :(

Re:I wish we knew what they were trying to patent. (1)

Mkoms (910273) | more than 8 years ago | (#13894044)

Uh huh. Maybe we should have a public referendum on whether or not to classify each patent too?

Re:I wish we knew what they were trying to patent. (1)

tacarat (696339) | more than 8 years ago | (#13894088)

NDA's for everybody!

Re:I wish we knew what they were trying to patent. (1)

Ironsides (739422) | more than 8 years ago | (#13894281)

Domestic or foreign, I doubt the leadership (i.e. non-pawns) of a terrorist group would be be unwilling to make the best use of anything they can get their hands on.

Something tells me that the Pentagon is more concerned with foriegn governments getting a hold of the patents rather than terorists.

Inventions for Bond Jr. (5, Interesting)

Bemmu (42122) | more than 8 years ago | (#13893985)

Quite interesting what kind of patents they have for example "US05224756 Integrated child seat for vehicle". I bet James Bond never had that one! Full list of patents: http://cryptome.org/nsa-patents.htm [cryptome.org]

Re:Inventions for Bond Jr. (2, Funny)

afaik_ianal (918433) | more than 8 years ago | (#13894051)

Oh no - we're all screwed...

"US04375625 Method and apparatus for penetrating tin-foil hats"

Re:Inventions for Bond Jr. (4, Insightful)

Kadin2048 (468275) | more than 8 years ago | (#13894159)

Thanks for that link, there's some pretty cool stuff on there.

I went to the uspto.gov site and looked up a few of them (in particular "rocess of preventing visual access to a semiconductor device by applying an opaque ceramic coating to integrated circuit devices," No. 5,258,334) and the assignee is listed as "The U.S. Government as represented by the Director, National Security."

I wonder if this means that the patented idea is essentially public domain? Other creative works which are products of the Government are automatically public domain in terms of copyright, so is the right to use an idea as well? Or if you want to use one, do you have to go to the NSD and ask for permission / licensing? And if the latter, what do they charge, and who gets the money?

I suspect, judging just by the problems and obvious conflicts-of-interest that you'd get if licensing was required, that they are free to use, in which case having the NSA patent something is much like having one of the Linux associations trademark something; they're never going to actually profit from it, but it potentially prevents someone else from doing so unfairly. And I suspect it also looks really good on the NSA's researchers' resumes and improves morale.

Re:Inventions for Bond Jr. (1)

Ironsides (739422) | more than 8 years ago | (#13894329)

I wonder if this means that the patented idea is essentially public domain? Other creative works which are products of the Government are automatically public domain in terms of copyright, so is the right to use an idea as well? Or if you want to use one, do you have to go to the NSD and ask for permission / licensing? And if the latter, what do they charge, and who gets the money?

The patents are NOT public domain. They are licensed out to companies. The money is then (i'm pretty sure) put into the general fund of the federal government.

Re:Inventions for Bond Jr. (2, Interesting)

realbadjuju (870896) | more than 8 years ago | (#13894429)

Process of preventing visual access to a semiconductor device by applying an opaque ceramic coating to integrated circuit devices," No. 5,258,334

Oh, the delicious irony. The patent "Scanning confocal electron microscope, No. 6,548,810" is assigned to Nestor Zaluzec and Argonne National Lab.

It was developed specifically as an easy [easier than super high energy xrays, the kind you need a linear accelerator for. Note IANAP, I am not a physicist.] way to look at the structure of a circuit without destroying it.

There's nothing that guarantees that someone else, or another branch of the government, won't come up with something that renders an NSA patent moot.

If you think that is paranoid, read this... (5, Interesting)

mikael (484) | more than 8 years ago | (#13894052)

The war on pigeon doo-doo [scotsman.com]

Two and a half months after a Freedom of Information request was filed, a 376 document was produced, but with 149 pages completedly blacked out and 102 pages partially blacked out.

Re:If you think that is paranoid, read this... (3, Insightful)

moviepig.com (745183) | more than 8 years ago | (#13894275)

...149 pages completedly blacked out...

Don't worry, this is self-limiting. After enough of its material becomes non-disseminable, the NSA's ability to innovate will quickly dry up...

How about patenting overseas first? (2, Interesting)

schwit1 (797399) | more than 8 years ago | (#13894064)

If you think your patent will get narfled by the US government what stops you from patenting it overseas first so the cats out of the bag?

Re:How about patenting overseas first? (1)

Daniel Dvorkin (106857) | more than 8 years ago | (#13894106)

If you think your patent will get narfled by the US government what stops you from patenting it overseas first so the cats out of the bag?

Well, if you live in the US (especially if you work for the NSA) the answer is this: you won't be enjoying any of the profits from those overseas patents while you're sitting in Leavenworth.

duh (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#13894488)

If they think you did it on purpose they will charge you with treason and lock you up for a long time.

Over use of classification, nothing new (1)

ChePibe (882378) | more than 8 years ago | (#13894109)

There's nothing new about government agencies over using their rights to classify documents, it's done all the time. From a brief stint I had working with the government, I experienced this first hand.

While it's not necessarily a bad thing - the "just in case" factor is certainly important - it affects government efficiency a great deal at times and leads to conspiracy theories growing.

I suppose (3, Funny)

coredump-0x00001 (922856) | more than 8 years ago | (#13894112)

George W. Bush is secretly patented for breakthroughs in stupidity and frequent mispronunciation of the word nuclear.

Re:I suppose (1)

HardCase (14757) | more than 8 years ago | (#13894156)

George W. Bush is secretly patented for breakthroughs in stupidity and frequent mispronunciation of the word nuclear.

Actually, the patent was disallowed because of previous art from Dwight D. Eisenhower, John F. Kennedy, LBJ, Gerald Ford and Bill Clinton [wikipedia.org] .

-h-

Re:I suppose (1)

ne0n (884282) | more than 8 years ago | (#13894474)

Yeah. BUT the peanut butter sandwiches eaten by the fumblemouthed twit have been patented already. Man is what man eats. Therefore, George W., himself, has been patented. Right?

I wonder what wonderful foods the NSA has patented which the Pentagon doesn't want you all to know about. Frogs' legs? Apple pie? The mind boggles.

So, all secrets are bad then? (2, Insightful)

rindeee (530084) | more than 8 years ago | (#13894117)

I don't get the tone of this headline, that if the Fed has a secret, it must be a bad thing. How would you propose the Gov't protect the country in the absence of secrecy. Full disclosure? A grand idea that has never worked (of course in a sense secrecy hasn't worked either, as all societies in the past have fallen). The fact of the matter is that secrets are not only normal, they are a requirement for survival. We all practice a level of secrecy even in our lives; at work, in relationships, etc. and we use them to protect ourselves (psychologically and emotionally mostly I'd presume). Companies exercise extreme measures to protect trade secrets. Pitchers and catchers use "secret" codes to communicate so as not to divulge their plans to the batter. The NSA is not a den of evildoers. They're a good bunch of folks, no different than you and I save for the fact that they're willing to work for a lot less money because they feel it's for the greater good. I'd venture to guess that greater than 50% of NSA employees are /.'ers, albeit not the most vocal of the bunch. ;) The military/intel communities have abused power at times, but that is not the norm. Blah blah blah...I'll shut up now, I'm boring even my self.

Complete nonsense. (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#13894118)

The NSA is part of the Defense Department. This is nothing more than the agency protecting its own patents from disclosure, while still locking up the intellectual property rights. New Scientist completely misinterpreted the stats.

IFWM is that you? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#13894189)

The NSA is absolutely NOT part of the DOD. They are totally seperate entities.

NSA is part of the DoD (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#13894604)

The NSA is, and always has been, part of the Defense Department. It's not a secret. Next time, google before you post.

http://www.intelligence.gov/1-members.shtml [intelligence.gov]

"Three major intelligence agencies in the Department of Defense (DoD) - the National Security Agency (NSA), the National Reconnaissance Office (NRO), and the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency (NGA) - absorb the larger part of the national intelligence budget. NSA is responsible for signals intelligence and has collection sites throughout the world."

Classic conflict of interest (2, Interesting)

Guppy06 (410832) | more than 8 years ago | (#13894133)

Along with their more famously sneaky missions, part of what the NSA is tasked to do is help ensure the crypto/cybersecurity of the people of the United States. The DoD is probably trying to block the NSA because of fears of what the NSA may release to aid the United States would also aid our enemies, since it's supposed to be their job to marginalize and/or eliminate those enemies.

Personally, I think the Department of Defense should remember why the word "defense" is in their name to begin with, and not just some sort of Orwellian "Minipax" ploy. The priority here should be defending the United States, not necessarily attacking our enemies. The best defense may be a good offense, but it isn't the only defense.

Re:Classic conflict of interest (1)

thrillseeker (518224) | more than 8 years ago | (#13894244)

I think the Department of Defense should remember why the word "defense" is in their name to begin with

Some consider it the beginning of political correctness when the name was changed from the "War Department".

Re:Classic conflict of interest (1)

Guppy06 (410832) | more than 8 years ago | (#13894534)

Political correctness, or a handwave away from the fact that what they were doing stopped having anything to do with Congressionally-declared wars?

Why is the government applying for patents anyway? (2, Insightful)

cgenman (325138) | more than 8 years ago | (#13894148)

That's the part that doesn't make any sense. It's paid for by taxpayer dollars (which includes the better-behaved of companies out there), so why would the NSA try to patent them? As a source of funding? As leverage in cross-licensing agreements?

Why does the government do this?

Re:Why is the government applying for patents anyw (1)

Ironsides (739422) | more than 8 years ago | (#13894435)

That's the part that doesn't make any sense. It's paid for by taxpayer dollars (which includes the better-behaved of companies out there), so why would the NSA try to patent them? As a source of funding? As leverage in cross-licensing agreements? Why does the government do this?

To recoup money from it's investment. The feds spend millions and in some cases billions developing technology. Why should businesses get that research for free? They license out the patents and put the money back into the general fund. That way, they have more money to do more reasearch and pay for other things. Unfortunately, I can't find offhand how much is collected yearly this way.

ooo (1)

clragon (923326) | more than 8 years ago | (#13894191)

does that mean my X-Wing is going to be ready soon?

happy hour (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#13894235)

Taco pulls it out
Big boner meets Micheal's mouth
Cum spews all over

No More Secret than Times Past (0, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#13894243)

From the article: 'the fact that the Pentagon is classifying things that the NSA believes should be public is an indication of how much secrecy has crept into government over the past few years.

Well, probably no more secrecy than Churchill's declaration that anyone caught revealing that England had a German Enigma machine would put to death.

Gov't agencies can patent things? (4, Insightful)

YouHaveSnail (202852) | more than 8 years ago | (#13894303)

For me, the big surprise here is that the NSA, an agency of the federal government, can apply for a patent in the first place. How does that work, exactly, when the NSA actually gets a patent? Since it's funded by tax dollars, can anyone use the invention? Do we need to apply for a license to use the invention? Is there a licensing fee? If so, where does that money go? Government agencies are neither people nor corporations, so do they have some sort of legal status that allows them to own things like patents? Could the FDA or the NIH start patenting drugs? Could the House of Representatives patent some novel method of voting and prevent the Senate from using it?

Perhaps they're trying to patent ideas in order to make them public and prevent anyone else from obtaining a patent on the same idea, and we're all free to use the idea. But then why not just publish the idea and make sure that the USPTO is aware of it?

Patenting is an exchange (4, Interesting)

vonkohorn (688787) | more than 8 years ago | (#13894312)

Patenting is an exchange: the government gives you exclusive rights to control the innovation for a period of time in exchange for your making it public. The idea of classifying any patent breaks the system. That's why there are both patents and trade secrets. Public access is such an integral part of the patent system that we should all take very seriously any attempt to allow any patents or patent applications to be classified.

It is not a sign of 'increased secrecy' (0)

mi (197448) | more than 8 years ago | (#13894394)

It is a sign of increased importance of communications, particularly -- encrypted communications.

Raw firepower is still important, but importance of communications is growing very fast.

Our modern enemies care deeply, where and when the infidels' convoy will be passing or which people can be kidnapped and when. We'd like to be able to intercept their communications, and we don't want them to be able encrypt it so well, that we can't...

Fed Patents? (1)

Faux_Pseudo (141152) | more than 8 years ago | (#13894494)

I am a touch confused here. I was under the impression that State and Fedral bodies could not file patents? Did something change or am I missing something.

If I told... (1)

GrayFox777 (908337) | more than 8 years ago | (#13894547)

If I told you, I'd have to kill you.
Load More Comments
Slashdot Login

Need an Account?

Forgot your password?