Verizon responds, and so do I

I just received a letter from Verizon’s VP and associate general counsel, William H. Johnson, to the acting head of the FCC Enforcement Bureau, Robert Ratcliffe, responding to my Nexus 7 complaint. I will respond below. First, Verizon’s stand:

In a letter to the Enforcement Bureau, Jeff Jarvis alleges that Verizon Wireless is violating its C Block obligations by declining to activate Mr. Jarvis’s Google Nexus 7 LTE tablet on its network. Verizon Wireless takes seriously its C Block obligations, and, as explained below, it is fully complying with them, including with respect to the device in question.

The Google Nexus 7 is a new tablet developed by Google. Google announced in July that this tablet will run on the Verizon Wireless network. The manufacturer of the Nexus 7 subsequently submitted the device for our certification process in August, and that process has proceeded apace. In fact, we expect final certification of the device will come shortly. Once the device is certified, we will work with Google to enable the device to be activated on our 4G LTE network within a matter of days.

Verizon Wireless’s certification process is fully consistent with the Commission’s C Block rules. Those rules require Verizon Wireless to allow customers to use their choice of devices, but they also recognize that this obligation only applies in the case of devices that comply with the provider’s published technical standards. See 47 C.F.R. § 27.16(b). The Commission recognized that providers may “use their own certification standards and processes to approve use of devices and applications on their networks so long as those standards are confined to reasonable network management,” and the Commission allowed providers flexibility in implementing these standards and processes.1 Verizon’s certification process for third-party devices like the Google Nexus 7 is a straightforward way to ensure that devices attached to the Verizon Wireless network do not harm the network or other users. Although Verizon Wireless uses one of the most rigorous testing protocols of any carrier, the process generally takes only between four and six weeks. Certification is done by third party labs approved by Verizon Wireless, and selected by the device manufacturer. Over the years, Verizon Wireless has certified hundreds of devices; information on the certification process is available to anyone at www.opennetwork.verizonwireless.com.

Verizon is committed to ensuring our customers have the best overall experience when any device becomes available on the nation’s most reliable network. Please let us know if you have any further questions on this matter.

In a letter I will shortly send to the FCC, I will ask: What is the definition of “open”? What is the definition of the Block C requirement that allows “customers to use the devices and applications of their choice”?

The industry definitions of openness and consumer choice across GSM carriers all around the world is quite clear: I take a device to Germany, say, buy a SIM, put it in the device, and if the frequencies of the antennae match, then it will work. Full stop. This works because there is an open standard that governs the process, not a closed “certification” process.

The Nexus 7 clearly has met these open standards. It has been approved by the FCC. It works on the networks of AT&T, T-Mobile, and GSM carriers around the world — any one of whom has much, much more experience with GSM than Verizon. As I and others have demonstrated, the Nexus 7 *does* work on Verizon’s network.

That is not the issue. The issue is that Verizon refuses to give me the immediate opportunity — using a device of my choice on an open network — to receive a SIM and add it to my shared data plan. As I noted in my complaint, Verizon agents used this as an opportunity to try to sell me Verizon tablets. That is a consumer issue.

That is in direct contravention of the spirit and letter both of the Block C requirements and the FCC consent decree of July 2012 against Verizon demanding openness and consumer choice on the network.

I continue to ask the FCC to bring clarity to this matter and to assure that Verizon will operate an open network on which the customers — not Verizon — have the power of choice.

Note well that the Nexus 7 is just the first of many devices sure to come to market from all over the world. That development is what was to be encouraged by the clause of the Block C requirements we are discussing. That cannot bear Verizon’s continued interference.

: LATER: I received a letter from Verizon responding to my FCC complaint and I responded in turn in the post above.

TelHell thus far

Notes on the Verizon fight, ongoing. The original post is below.

Here is my rant on This Week in Google:

The discussion continues. Here is the full show.

It took six days but a Verizon executive handling Verizon policy and external affairs, Libby Jacobson, finally responded to me there. But I won’t buy her company line.

The discussion around my posts on Google+ has been fascinating — vitriol against Verizon and a surprising level of customer support for T-Mobile and its service and data plans.

Here is where the saga began. Note how calm I am: I’m assuming this is just a bureaucratic screwup, not a willful act to violate the terms of the Block C spectrum auction and a consent decree against Verizon. I don’t hear anything over the weekend — understandable — so I wait until Monday to ask again.

I got confirmation that the device does work on Verizon’s network — it just *won’t* connect it. So I wrote the post below and crossposted it on Google+ with much conversation there.

Here is reaction to my FCC complaint against Verizon, which I filed with the Enforcement Bureau. Here was Verizon refusing to connect my unlocked device and trying to sell me one of their locked devices instead. I think that’s a violation of consumer law and I think I’ll go to the Federal Trade Commission on that.

I also posted a version of the tale on Huffington Post, where there is more conversation.

Related: Here is a Guardian story reporting that phone companies did not put up a fight when handing our data over to the NSA. Whose side are they on? And here’s a Verizon executive slamming Google and other technology companies for “grandstanding” when they defend our rights against the NSA and its spying. Again, whose side are they on?

I still have not heard from Google on this matter. I’m disappointed but I will keep trying.

I’ll keep the reports coming.

: AND: Here is the post Verizon erased (along with a few years’ worth) in which it promised to follow the open network requirements of the Block C auction (thanks to a Buzzmachine commenter for finding it).

: UPDATES: Continuing to update this post to keep a record of coverage.

* Josh Stearns at Free Press writes a wonderful post looking at Verizon’s larger venalities.

Verizon is working hard to undermine openness not just on wireless devices but across the Internet. In court last week, Verizon argued that it should be allowed to edit the Internet — blocking sites if it wants, or making them pay more to reach Verizon customers.

It’s all part of Verizon’s campaign to undermine the FCC’s authority to protect consumers online. This is like Exxon saying the Environmental Protection Agency lacks the authority to stop polluters from destroying the environment.

Jeff Jarvis has filed his complaint about Verizon’s blocking. It’s now up to the FCC to stop Verizon’s latest assault on open networks.

* Ars Technica also gives the matter good coverage. I disagree with their conclusion that Verizon will beat the regulators by approving the device soon. That does not wipe away their crime, which was delay and bogus certification.

* Consumerist points out that Verizon doesn’t know the difference between “can’t” and “won’t.

Verizon, caught red-handed

nexus7slide2
Verizon has now on multiple occasions refused to connect my Google Nexus 7 LTE tablet, though the device was publicized widely as working on Verizon and though I know from other users that it will work on its network. On Twitter, its support spokesman said in response to my repeated inquiries over four days:

Verizon is thus clearly violating FCC regulations governing its acquisition of the spectrum that enables its LTE service, which require it to open to *all* devices. To quote from the regulations (my emphasis):

(b) Use of devices and applications. Licensees offering service on spectrum subject to this section shall not deny, limit, or restrict the ability of their customers to use the devices and applications of their choice on the licensee’s C Block network, except:
(1) Insofar as such use would not be compliant with published technical standards reasonably necessary for the management or protection of the licensee’s network, or
(2) As required to comply with statute or applicable government regulation.

Verizon also violates its promise not to violate that requirement. On May 7, 2008, Ars Technica quotes Verizon VP Jim Gerace saying on the company’s public policy blog:

“Verizon Wireless—and all the other participants in the recent 700 MHz spectrum auction—understood the FCC’s rules for using that spectrum in advance of the auction. Of course we’ll abide by those rules.”

I attempted to read the rest of Gerace’s blog post but Verizon has erased years of its posts there and the Wayback Machine does not have a cache from that date.

This promise came in response to a tough letter from Google at the time demanding that Verizon abide by the rule. Said Google: “The Commission must ensure that Verizon understands that this license obligation means what it says: Any Apps, Any Devices.”

And no wonder, for Google anticipated precisely this situation when it entered the spectrum auction Verizon won and insisted then on open access as an FCC condition of the sale: Google ended up marketing an unlocked device made to run on Verizon’s LTE network and now Verizon refuses to honor its promise to abide by the rules of its auction to do so.

On Twitter and Google+, many have asked why I bother, why I don’t just install the T-Mobile SIM and month’s free access that came with the Nexus 7 LTE. A few reasons: First, I am stuck with a shared-data plan on Verizon thanks to my locked (how could you, Google?!) Chromebook Pixel with LTE and my family’s Verizon iPads. Second, adding the Nexus 7 to my shared-data plan will cost me only $10 more a month, less than I’ll play if I support it solo on another carrier’s network. Third, this is a matter of principle. I will bring my Dell Hell experience to bear and fight for what is right.

Some also caution that on the Verizon network, my Nexus 7 will connect only if LTE is available; it will not be able to fail down to slower speeds as it could on other networks. True; that is how my Chromebook Pixel works and I am willing to live with the limitation for the price.

It has also been pointed out to me across social media that one can take a Verizon SIM from another LTE device, put it in the Nexus 7, and it will work. Only problems are, I don’t have such a SIM and if I did I’d need to use it in that other device. But this does prove — as others have done it — that the Nexus 7 *does* work on Verizon’s network.

So this is not a matter of anything Verizon cannot do. This is a matter of what Verizon will not do. And that is what makes this a violation of FCC regulations and Verizon’s assurances.

I have frequently asked Verizon for its help on Twitter and Google+ and in its store and via phone to Verizon Wireless via a representative in that store; you see the net of that above: a smart-assed refusal to take my money. I tried many avenues before writing this post.

I have twice asked Verizon Wireless’ director of PR for devices, Albert Aydin (@VZWalbert) for a company statement on why it refuses to connect the Nexus 7 and I have heard nothing. I do so as a journalist and also as a member of the public (I take the title “public relations” literally). I will email this post to him once more asking for the company’s statement.

I will also ask Google PR for its stand regarding Verizon’s violation of its assurances to the FCC and Google. Back in 2008, Verizon said: “As we work to put the spectrum we won to good use, if Google or anybody else has evidence that we aren’t playing by the rules, there are legitimate and expedited ways to address that.” Yes, like blogs, Twitter, Google+, Facebook, This Week in Google, Reddit, and angry customers everywhere.

: LATER: Verizon digs its hole deeper, with the @VZWSupport Twitter account sending me this:

To which I replied: “Cannot” is a lie. “Will not” is truthful — and the violation of the FCC regulations.

: LATER: Here is the *proof* that Verizon’s network *can* connect to the Nexus 7 but that Verizon *refuses* to do so, *violating* the FCC regulations. I took the SIM out of my Chromebook Pixel, put it in the Nexus 7 LTE, and it worked — note the “VERIZON WIRELESS” at the bottom of the screen and the bars at the top.

nexus7capture

: LATER: Android Central got this from Verizon: “This is not yet a device that is Verizon 4G LTE certified. We’ll let folks know when its certified.”

Hmmm. This device was announced two months ago. They are just getting around to thinking about this now? Or they are succumbing to pressure and the requirements of the FCC’s regulations? I report, you decide.

Funny thing is, Verizon apparently responded to CNET and Android Central but not to me. All they tell me is that they won’t/can’t do it.

: THE NEXT DAY: Torod B. Neptune, VP of Corporate Communications for Verizon Wireless, just sent me this email: “I apologize for the delay in getting back to you. The Nexus 7 is not yet a Verizon 4G LTE certified device. As background, below is the link to information on our certification process, which you’ll find under the ‘Get Your Device Certified’ tab: www.opennetwork.verizonwireless.com.” [The link doesn’t work; take out the www and it will]

I’m asking questions elsewhere to interpret this. The device already works on Verizon’s network. The issue is that Verizon won’t give me a sim and add it to my account. Again we come to the “can” vs. “will” conundrum. More later.

: LATER: I have just filed this complaint with the Enforcement Bureau of the Federal Communications Commission:

I am a Verizon Wireless customer registering a complaint regarding Verizon’s refusal to connect my Verizon 7 LTE tablet via its C Block LTE spectrum, in violation of:

* 47 CFR 27.16 – Network access requirements for Block C, paragraph (b), reading in part: “Licensees offering service on spectrum subject to this section shall not deny, limit, or restrict the ability of their customers to use the devices and applications of their choices on the licensee’s C Block network…”

* Also the FCC’s July 2012 consent decree with Verizon underlining the requirement for open access to the C Block network. Chairman Genachowski said at the time, “[C]ompliance with FCC obligations is not optional. The open device and application obligations were core conditions when Verizon purchased the C-block spectrum.”

Google announced its Nexus 7 LTE tablet earlier this year and promoted the fact that the device would operate on the LTE services of T-Mobile, AT&T, and Verizon Wireless. On that promise, I bought a Nexus 7 LTE from Google — waiting weeks for it to be offered in addition to wifi-only devices. I received it last Friday.

On Saturday, September 15, I went to the Verizon Wireless store on Route 206 in Bridgewater, NJ, and attempted to add the device to my shared data plan. I was told that it could not be added because Verizon had not yet added the IMEI numbers to its system. The clerk called Verizon himself and could not solve the problem at the time. I’d had a similar problem when I attempted to activate my Google Chromebook Pixel with LTE service sometime before and that was solved eventually by adding the SKU to the company’s system. So I thought this would be solved with help and I reached out to Verizon support on Twitter and Google+.

On Monday, September 17, I received this message in response from the official Verizon Wireless support Twitter account (my emphasis): “@jeffjarvis I’m excited you got your Nexus 7 but not all LTE tablets are created equal. It’s not part of our line up & can’t be activated^JH.” Later that day, I received another tweet from that account reading (my emphasis): “@jeffjarvis We apologize for any inconvenience; however, it can not be activated. Go to http://vzw.com/products to view compatible tablets^LA.”

There Verizon is refusing to connect my tablet though it has been approved by the FCC and is compliant with standards such that it is also being offered and being activated on AT&T’s and T-Mobile’s LTE networks. Further, Verizon is instead attempting to require that I buy a tablet from them. This is a clear violation of the letter and intent of the openness requirement on Block C.

I later tested Verizon’s claim that the device could not be connected. I took the SIM from my Chromebook Pixel, placed it in the Nexus 7 LTE table, and it connected to the Verizon network just fine. So the issue is not that the device cannot be connected but that Verizon will not connect it.

Thus it is clear that Verizon is violating the terms of the Block C spectrum auction and of its consent decree with the Enforcement Bureau of the Commission.

I will also note that on May 7, 2008, the technology news service Ars Technica quoted Verizon Wireless vice president and spokesman Jim Gerace saying, in response to a Google complaint regarding Verizon’s compliance with Block C requirements: “Verizon Wireless — and all the other participants in the recent 700 MHz spectrum auction — understood the FCC’s rules for using that spectrum in advance of the auction. Of course we’ll abide by those rules.”

But Verizon Wireless is not doing so. I contacted public relations executives at Verizon Wireless via Twitter and email and on the third attempt received communication directing me to its certification process. Yet in a November 27, 2007 press release the company said that “Any device that meets the minimum technical standard will be activated on the network.” Clearly, the device meets the standards for it has been approved by the FCC; it works on T-Mobile’s and AT&T’s networks; and it demonstrated that it works on Verizon’s network.

This is a matter of Verizon subverting the Commission’s rules related to the requirement of openness on Block C. It is also a matter of consumer fraud.

I ask that you forward this complaint to the appropriate authorities at the Commission and I ask that you inform me of the progress of your investigation.

Testing for TWiG

Just testing. Pay no nevermind.

This is an example of a Google+ post embedded in a blog post. It didn’t work for me at first but it does now; takes a while to load.

I’m sorry, Google, for doubting you.


A sullied date

wtc911

This 9/11, not the first, is the one when I feel most hopeless about our nation. 

On that day a dozen years ago — after washing the debris of the day off me — I held hope that the tragedy would unite Americans to stand against tyranny and for democracy and freedom.

Today I see a nation that is not upholding the principles of freedom but is instead still using 9/11 as an excuse to threaten speech and assembly, to isolate ourselves from the world, and to build closed fortresses rather than the open square.

That’s not to say I didn’t find 9/11 leading me down wrong paths. I supported the Iraq war, not because Saddam Hussein had a thing to do with the attack on us, of course, but because I bought the rationale that we should stand up for his oppressed people and free them for democracy — and the promise that we could succeed. I was wrong.

But as we debate Syria now, I am troubled that we are not willing to place a red line at tyranny or to decide where that line is. I’m not saying we should attack Syria — I have learned that lesson. But I do wish we would first discuss what our obligation is to these people and then discuss means. Instead, I hear a debate only about degrees of isolation.

I am disgusted at every revelation from Edward Snowden, Glenn Greenwald, and the Guardian about the massive violation of essential rights committed by the NSA. I worry greatly about the chill this puts on speech, on assembly, and on the advancement of technology. I don’t blame the spies. Cats must kill, spies must spy. I blame our leaders for not doing their single most important job: protecting freedom.

This morning, I went back to the World Trade Center. I used to go there faithfully on this date. Today, I decided to visit at the last minute. Now that the 9/11 Memorial is complete, every activity of the day is being held there, closed behind wire and walls. I could barely hear the bagpipes in the air.

That the 9/11 Memorial and today’s remembrances are held in a fortress is emblematic of the wrong path we have taken these 12 years: not toward openness but toward isolation, not toward generosity but toward defense, not toward principles but toward expediency. We should be closer to freedom. We are farther away.

But I must search for hope in the day. I want to find hope in the bravery of a few whistleblowers and journalists who are fighting for our right to know what our government is doing to us and the world. I want to find hope in the fact that we are not blindly entering another war and are at least debating it first. I want to find hope in going to the World Trade Center and seeing the hole in our soul finally filled in. I want to.

The war on secrecy

Here is a post I wrote for the Guardian:

It has been said that privacy is dead. Not so. It’s secrecy that is dying. Openness will kill it.

American and British spies undermined the secrecy and security of everyone using the internet with their efforts to foil encryption. Then Edward Snowden foiled them by revealing what is perhaps (though we’ll never know) their greatest secret.

When I worried on Twitter that we could not trust encryption now, technologist Lauren Weinstein responded with assurances that it would be difficult to hide back doors in commonly used PGP encryption — because it is open source.

Openness is the more powerful weapon. Openness is the principle that guides Guardian journalism. Openness is all that can restore trust in government and technology companies. And openness — in standards, governance, and ethics — must be the basis of technologists’ efforts to take back the the net.

Secrecy is under dire threat but don’t confuse that with privacy. “All human beings have three lives: public, private, and secret,” Gabriel Garcí­a Márquez tells his biographer. “Secrecy is what is known, but not to everyone. Privacy is what allows us to keep what we know to ourselves,” Jill Lepore explains in The New Yorker. “Privacy is consensual where secrecy is not,” write Carol Warren and Barbara Laslett in the Journal of Social Issues. Think of it this way: Privacy is what we keep to ourselves. Secrecy is what is kept from us. Privacy is a right claimed by citizens. Secrecy is a privilege claimed by government.

It’s often said that the internet is a threat to privacy, but on the whole I argue it is not much more of a threat than a gossipy friend or a nosy neighbor, a slip of the tongue or of the email “send” button. Privacy is certainly put at risk when we can no longer trust that our communication, even encrypted, are safe from government’s spying eyes. But privacy has many protectors. And we all have one sure vault for privacy: our own thoughts. Even if the government were capable of mind-reading, ProPublica argues in an essay explaining its reason to join the Snowden story, the fact of it “would have to be known.”

The agglomeration of data that makes us fear for our privacy is also what makes it possible for one doubting soul, one weak link — one Manning or Snowden — to learn secrets. The speed of data that makes us fret over the the devaluation of facts is also what makes it possible for journalists’ facts to spread before government can stop them. The essence of the Snowden story, then, isn’t government’s threat to privacy so much as government’s loss of secrecy.

Oh, it will take a great deal for government to learn that lesson. Its first response is to try to match a loss of secrecy with greater secrecy, with a war on the agents of openness: whistleblowers and journalists and news organizations. President Obama had the opportunity to meet Snowden’s revelations — redacted responsibly by the Guardian — with embarrassment, apology, and a vow to make good on his promise of transparency. He failed.

But the agents of openness will continue to wage their war on secrecy.

In a powerful charge to fellow engineers, security expert Bruce Schneier urged them to fix the net that “some of us have helped to subvert.” Individuals must make a moral choice, whether they will side with secrecy or openness.

So must their companies. Google and Microsoft are suing government to be released from their secret restrictions but there is still more they can say. I would like Google to explain what British agents could mean when they talk of “new access opportunities being developed” at the company. Google’s response — “we have no evidence of any such thing ever occurring” — would be more reassuring if it were more specific.

This latest story demonstrates that the Guardian — now in league with The New York Times and ProPublica as well as publications in Germany and Brazil — will continue to report openly in spite of government acts of intimidation.

I am disappointed that more news organizations, especially in London, are not helping support the work of openness by adding reporting of their own and editorializing against government overreach. I am also saddened that my American colleagues in news industry organizations as well as journalism education groups are not protesting loudly.

But even without them, what this story teaches is that it takes only one technologist, one reporter, one news organization to defeat secrecy. At the length openness will out.

Andy Murray Auto Awesome

When Guardian US editor Janine Gibson and my CUNY colleague John Smock talked in front of me about using animated GIFs in the service of news, I recoiled in horror and begged them not to.

I was wrong.

Playing with Google+ Auto Awesomeness — which takes contiguous photos and turns them into a dancing GIFs – while shooting at the US Open this week made me realize what new could be conveyed with a moving picture, à la Harry Potter’s blatt, the Daily Prophet, rather than a mere, print still picture.

Take, for example, this shot (these shots?) of Murray as he won against Leonardo Mayer. Imagine it better framed. Still, there’s something wonderful about the action around him at the moment of victory and the reveal that is Murray’s victory growl.

And there’s this image(s) of his serve earlier in the match. Better shot, it could be instructive: imagine showing a golf swing this way or a great catch in baseball or a play in a football game.

Now I know you may ask: Why not just include a video snippet? Well, that requires a player and the act of playing. And video brings with it so much baggage: sound and production orthodoxy. Video, of course has its place. But so do moving images like these.

Imagine, too, moving pictures showing the disaster of the Japanese tsunami rolling in. Imagine iconic images the past. I know some will accuse me of heresy, but I wonder what it would add to see John-John Kennedy’s hand raise in salute or the soldiers at Iwo Jima raising their flag with a moment’s animation. Imagine how these images as time-lapse could show progression: the growth of a crowd, the shrinking of an ice cap, the aging of a President.

And see what fun it can be just with a neon sign.

What are you thinking, Mr. President?

I wrote this for the Guardian, where the discussion is quite lively, approaching 1,500 comments. I’m posting it here a few days later for the purposes of my own archive.

What are you thinking, Mr. President?

Is this really the legacy you want for yourself: the chief executive who trampled rights, destroyed privacy, heightened secrecy, ruined trust, and worst of all did not defend but instead detoured around so many of the fundamental principles on which this country is founded?

And I voted for you. I’ll confess you were a second choice. I supported Hillary Clinton first. I said at the time that your rhetoric about change was empty and that I feared you would be another Jimmy Carter: aggressively ineffectual.

Never did I imagine that you would instead become another Richard Nixon: imperial, secretive, vindictive, untrustworthy, inexplicable.

I do care about security. I survived the attack on the World Trade Center and I believe 9/11 was allowed to occur through a failure of intelligence. I thank TSA agents for searching me: applause for security theater. I defend government’s necessary secrets. By the way, I also defend Obamacare. I should be an easy ally. But your exercise of power appalls me. When I wrote about your credibility deficit in the Guardian, I was shocked that among the commenters at that great international voice of liberalism, next to no one defended you. Even on our side of the political divide, I am far from alone in urgently wondering what you are doing.

As a journalist, I am frightened by your vengeful attacks on whistleblowers — Manning, Assange, Snowden, and the rest — and the impact in turn on journalism and its tasks of keeping a watchful eye on you and helping to assure an informed citizenry.

As a citizen, I am disgusted by the systematic evasion of oversight you have supported through the FISA courts; by the use of ports as lawless zones where your agents can harass anyone; by your failure on your promise to close Guantanamo, and this list could go on.

As an American often abroad, I am embarrassed by the damage you have caused to our reputation and to others’ trust in us. I find myself apologizing for what you are doing to citizens of other nations, dismissing the idea that they have rights to privacy because they are “foreign.”

As an internet user, I am most fearful of the impact of your wanton destruction of privacy and the resulting collapse of trust in the net and what that will do to the freedom we have enjoyed in it as well as the business and jobs that are being built atop it.

And as a Democrat, I worry that you are losing us the next election, handing an issue to the Republicans that should have been ours: protecting the rights of citizens against the overreach of the security state.

Surely you can see this. But you keep doubling down, becoming only more dogged in your defense of secrecy and your guardians of it. I don’t understand.

The only way I could possibly grant you the benefit of doubt is to think that there is some ominous fact about our security that only you and your circle know and can’t breath or the jig will be up. But I don’t believe that anymore than I believe a James Bond movie or an Oliver Stone conspiracy theory. You can’t argue that Armageddon is on the way and that al Qaeda is on the run at the same time.

No, I think it is this: Secrecy corrupts. Absolute secrecy corrupts absolutely. You have been seduced by the idea that your authority rests in your secrets and your power to hold them. Every attack on that power, every questioning of it only makes you draw in tighter, receding into your vault with the key you think your office grants you. You are descending into a dark hole of your own digging.

But you know better, don’t you? In a democracy, secrecy is not the foundation of authority; that is the basis of dictatorships. Principles and their defense is what underpins your office.

First among those principles is the defense of our freedom. Security is only a subset of that, for if we are not secure we are not free. Freedom demands the confidence that we are not under attack, yes, but also that we are not being surveilled without our knowledge and consent. The balance, which we are supposedly debating, must go to freedom.

Transparency is another principle you promised to uphold but have trammeled instead. The only way to assure trust in your actions is if they are overseen by open courts, by informed legislators, by an uninhibited press, and most importantly by an informed citizenry.

As political and media attention turn away from you, you have an opportunity to rise again to the level of principles, to prove that your rhetoric about change was not empty after all, to rebuild your already ill-fated legacy, to do what is expected of you and your office.

You could decide to operate on the principle that our privacy is protected in any medium — not just in our first-class letters but in our emails and chats and calls — unless under specific and due warrant.

You could decide to end what will be known as the Obama Collect it All doctrine and make the art of intelligence focus rather than reach.

You could decide to respect the efforts of whistleblowers as courageous practitioners of civil disobedience who are sacrificing much in their efforts to protect lives and democracy. If they are the Martin Luther Kings of our age, then call off Bull Connor‘s digital dogs and fire hoses, will you?

You could decide to impress us with the transparency you still can bring to government, so that the institution you run becomes open by default rather than by force, as it is now, under you.

You could decide to support a free press and stop efforts — here and, using your influence, with our friends in the UK — to restrain their work.

You could decide that whether they are visiting our land or talking with our citizens by email or phone, foreigners are not to be distrusted by default.

You could try to reverse the damage you have done to the internet and its potential by upholding its principles of openness and freedom.

You could. Will you?