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Congress Members and Staffers Blocked From Accessing Website for ‘Hackers on Planet Earth’ (#HopeX) Conference

Congress members and their staffers are blocked from accessing the website for the annual Hackers on Planet Earth (HOPE) conference, according to a screen shot Firedoglake obtained.

A staffer in Congress tried to access the website on July 28, more than a week after the tenth annual conference was held, and got a screen indicating the site had been categorized as a prohibited website.

The screen that appeared informed users, “The website you attempted to visit contains content inappropriate for business use.” It included the label “hacking,” suggesting that has something to do with the decision to block access to the website. A House of Representatives logo appeared in the upper left corner, which indicated this was blocked by the network on which the government computers are connected.

Emmanuel Goldstein, editor of 2600 magazine and the lead organizer of the HOPE conference, reacted, “If anything symbolizes the problem with Congress, it’s this.”

“They have an opportunity to open themselves up to informed perspectives on issues affecting us all and instead they simply close the door and prevent any such education from taking place,” he declared. “I would love to know what in particular offends them on the hope.net site that they feel it necessary to prevent this member – and possibly all members – of Congress from potentially seeing it.”

Pentagon Papers whistleblower Daniel Ellsberg, who was part of a historic conversation with National Security Agency whistleblower Edward Snowden at the conference, said, “Who is the ‘they’ who have blocked congressional computers? Sounds like China.”

“So congress persons and staff are to be denied the right to see what everyone else in the world can view?” Ellsberg asked. “They’ve already accepted the principle that CIA can censor what they put out,” particularly the Senate intelligence committee’s report on torture. “Now they’re controlling what their staff and members can learn. Not only protest but some civil disobedience seems to be in order there.”

The screen does not suggest that the website is blocked because it will contain discussion of information that has been disclosed without proper authorization and remains classified. However, much of this year’s conference did involve a number of presentations that dealt with freedom of information and whistleblowing, which would have included conversation on information the government still insists is classified even though that information is accessible to the public.

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Jane Hamsher

Jane Hamsher

Jane is the founder of Firedoglake.com. Her work has also appeared on the Huffington Post, Alternet and The American Prospect. She’s the author of the best selling book Killer Instinct and has produced such films Natural Born Killers and Permanent Midnight. She lives in Washington DC.
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