« Sasquatch Summit, November 18-19, 2016 - TTG | Main | End of Vacation »

20 November 2016


Feed You can follow this conversation by subscribing to the comment feed for this post.


Larry Kart

OK, we can look at the data. OTOH I watched from Alexandria as she tried to sort out the trash heap that is the DC public schools system and I have a lot of sympathy for the struggle she made against entrenched political interests in the city council. pl

The Twisted Genius


Sounds like Pompeo cut quite a figure as an officer, sort of a human lister bag. He claims he graduated first in his West Point class.



One of the graduates of WP will sort this out but My memory is that they construct an order of merit in each class based on a whole person score. God knows what that may produce. pl

mike allen

Count me in as a big fan of General Mattis. Didn't he coin the phrase: "Powerpoint makes us stupid". That alone will make the squatters in the Pentagon miserable.

He will need congressional waiver since he left the service only three years ago.

I hope he gets some good trusted deputies to work acquisition, to keep from getting rolled by the corrupt congressmen that are taking the gelt from defense industry lobbyists.

Allen Thomson

> (or the fact that AES-256 is actually a 128 bit cipher masquerading as a 256 bit cipher)

Realizing that this question is OT, I plead interest in AES-256 to ask:

Does that mean that it's pointless to use more than 128 random bits as a key? Or does AES-256 also reduce all effective key lengths so that, e.g., 160 bits might only have the effect of 80? (I'm a cryptonaif, so this question may well not map into cryptoreality very well if at all.)

Outrage Beyond

Regarding that Washington Post story:


"An earthquake is buried in this story about NSA Director secretly meeting Trump"

See the tweet for highlighting re: another NSA breach, previously undisclosed.

The Twisted Genius

Outrage Beyond,

I saw that in the WaPo article. I bet there's more than that leaking out of the NSA and other agencies. There are too many copiers and printers in those agencies and the exit procedures are fairly lax. It's really based on self-discipline and the honor system.

Allen Thomson

> and the exit procedures are fairly lax

Not a new development. Back in Adm. Turner's tour as DCI people were found to be taking classified, sometimes highly so, stuff out to work on at home at night. So stern warnings were issued that THAT IS NOT OK and entry checks were instituted at HQ to make sure the practice didn't continue. But it did, people kept showing up in the morning with classified stuff in their briefcases (purses were exempt on the grounds of personal privacy), and eventually Adm. Turner issued an extremely vexed Headquarters Notice emphasizing the NOT OK idea. Then he moved on to another job and the entry checks stopped. It would be amusing to get that HN, as, IIRC, it wasn't actually classified, maybe FOUO. Maybe I'll try FOIAing it.

At no point during this, nor at any other time that I know of, were exit checks done. I do believe that NSA had exit checks of briefcases and such, which seems more logical if you're going to do door checks at all.

And, as long as we're on the topic, one could look into how well document handling and destruction were done, both of paper and microfiche.

Larry Kart

More on Rhee in DC:



THURSDAY, FEBRUARY 14, 2013 (Author of this post is Bob Somerby):


Michelle Rhee has published a book [“Radical”] about her career…. Atop page one of the [Washington Post] Outlook section, Jennifer Howard penned a 1600-word piece about the book…. According to Howard, Rhee is still advancing the idea that mediocrity can’t be allowed in the schools—a somewhat ironic battle cry, given the ... mediocrity which characterized Rhee’s work in DC.

But first, an amusing anecdote! Early in her piece, Howard presents this story from Rhee’s education-first childhood. Howard reads the story one way. We would read it another:

HOWARD (2/10/13): Before Rhee gets into all that, she revisits her first-generation childhood in Toledo as the daughter of strict Korean parents. Respect for teaching ran in the family; close relatives were educators in Korea, a country Rhee's father calls "education crazy."

The family emphasis on education sometimes went a little far. Rhee remembers when her little brother, Brian, came home with a lackluster grade. "My mother immediately grounded me," Rhee writes. Why? "It is your responsibility to make sure that he is doing what he needs to do."

Rhee tells the story to get at the imbalance of gender roles she grew up with, but it's tempting to see in that moment the beginnings of her insistence that schools and teachers be held accountable for how their students perform.
Rhee’s younger brother was having problems—so Rhee’s mother grounded Rhee!

For our money, Howard misses the way this story connects to Rhee’s time in DC. For our money, this peculiar conduct by Rhee’s mother is very much like Rhee’s approach to her work in DC. Here’s why:

As best we know, Rhee never introduced new approaches to instruction when she found the DC schools in extremely bad shape. Instead, she simply threatened the teachers. She insisted that they fix the mess!

There’s nothing wrong with putting pressure on teachers. There’s nothing wrong with firing slackers—quite the contrary.

But in our view, Rhee was highly mediocre in the realm of instructional practice…. Rhee’s mother pushed the onus onto Rhee—then Rhee did the same with the teachers!

That strikes us as mediocre performance….Rhee brought a ton of energy to DC—but how much else? Early on, Howard describes the obstacles Rhee confronted. We’d like to record our reaction:

HOWARD: I'll leave it to others to argue whether Rhee did the right thing here in Washington. But even the fiercest Rhee-haters among my friends and neighbors agreed with her that DCPS needed help. Some schools, especially in the richer parts of town, enjoyed good test scores and high graduation rates. Elsewhere, in my Southeast neighborhood and in other wards, students trailed far behind their peers nationally in math and reading. Many kids didn't stay in school at all.

"The dropout rate was above 50 percent," Rhee writes. "The achievement gap was a canyon." Teachers weren't sure they'd have the textbooks and other materials they needed. School buildings suffered from a lack of maintenance and repairs. The system was a mess—"a whole different level of bad," Rhee calls it.

We don’t doubt that this picture is basically accurate. DC’s test scores certainly suggest that the system was in very bad shape—that Rhee was faced with a genuine mess when she entered the system.

But as we read that passage, our own experience from teaching in Baltimore led us to focus on one statement: “Teachers weren't sure they'd have the textbooks and other materials they needed.” Our reaction?

If DC’s kids were as far behind as test scores seemed to suggest, it’s very hard for teachers to get appropriate textbooks and other materials.

It’s hard to get textbooks the students can read—textbooks whose instructional programming meet the students where they are. This very much isn’t the fault of the teachers. If such materials aren’t available, it’s the ultimate responsibility of the superintendent!

We never got the slightest sense that Rhee had any sense of that. But then, we taught for a dozen years in Baltimore’s schools. Rhee fled for Harvard after three, trailing bogus tales about her own ... genius behind her.

This brings us to the most striking part of Howard’s piece—the way it buries the bodies…. it isn’t until the final paragraph that this little birdie peeps:

HOWARD: Rhee started something the city is still playing out. Kaya Henderson , Rhee's deputy, succeeded her as chancellor under the current mayor, Vincent Gray. Henderson has a quieter style than Rhee did. Although debates still rage over individual schools, charter alternatives, test scores and the occasional cheating scandal, fewer feathers seem ruffled these days. But the new chancellor seems just as willing as the old one to close schools and hold accountable a system that for too long let too many Washington students and their parents down.

“And the occasional cheating scandal!” Incredibly, that represents Howard’s full discussion of the cheating scandal which afflicted Rhee in DC—an echo of the manifest bullshit she constantly spread about her own teaching career.

When Rhee arrived in DC, she was still spouting highly improbable claims about the amazing test scores attained by her students in Baltimore. Rhee understood standardized testing so poorly that she didn’t seem to realize that her grandiose claims were essentially absurd on their face.

It soon became clear that her claims were false—although anyone with an ounce of sense would always have assumed that. Not Rhee—and not the Washington Post! Having told ridiculous tales about those brilliant Baltimore scores, Rhee was soon dogged by ridiculous scores in DC.

As it turned out, those DC scores were bogus too! Howard buries this massive mediocrity deep inside her last paragraph.

That said, Rhee has tidied her game. When she arrived in DC, she was making highly specific claims about the test scores her Baltimore kids had attained….
In her new book, Rhee has finally enacted a bit of reform. This is the way she now describes her vast success in Baltimore:
RHEE (page 53): By the end of my time at Harlem Park [Elementary School], my kids who had been with me for the second and third grades were soaring. I would have put them up against kids from any private school in Baltimore...These were children who had life stories couldn’t even imagine. Despite all that they came to school every day. They’d come early, and stay late. They came on the weekends. They worked hard. They fought through all the noise and the people telling them, “Don’t do what that Chinese lady is telling you to—come out and play instead.” They’d do their two hours of homework. And they went from being at the bottom to being at the top academically.
Rhee has learned one lesson. She no longer makes specific claims about the test scores her students achieved. For decades, she made specific claims which were absurd on their face. In this way, she rode to the top on the backs of those kids who had those hard “life stories.”

By now, the data are gone! Rhee no longer uses numbers when she makes her grandiose claims. That said, there is still no evidence that Rhee achieved the type of success she describes. Given the overall test scores at Harlem Park during those years, it’s hard to see how Rhee’s claim that her students “soared” could be possible.

We admire the energy Rhee brought to DC. We admire the way she spoke up for deserving urban kids. In fairness, she never could have gotten far without the massive gullibility of our modern “elites.”

But Rhee was always mediocre.


Col: The Warrior Monk (Mattis) is a very interesting character.


The details of how your key is being generated/stored and who your opponent is matter a great deal. If your opponent is a non-state actor then the differences between AES-128 and AES-256 probably are not significant ... AES-128 should be good enough. If your opponent is the NSA, then other the other factors probably still matter more ... but if you are doing everything else optimally then AES-256 will only give you marginally more security than AES-128. That said, for most applications you might as well use the larger key size since modern computers are so fast the extra cost in computation is negligible.

But if you can, you would be better off using a Rijndael cipher with a block size and key size of 256 bits instead of AES-256.

I know it is confusing. This is what happens when the people who are tasked with helping you keep your communications secure are also tasked with listening in on your communications.

robt willmann

From what little I know about the structure at the NSA, my understanding is that the job, at least originally, was to gather signals and electronic information, to break the codes and ciphers of other countries and foreigners, and to create solid codes for use by the U.S. military and government. This is why the NSA employed a large number of mathematicians. They may also have been working on the detection of radar and targeting systems, and jamming technologies, although the Air Force may have been largely or solely working on those issues.

It seems as if breaking codes and encryption goes hand and hand with gathering signals and other electronic information, especially since the NSA has its own analysts to evaluate information that they gather. I understood from an old-timer that they used to design a lot of their hardware in-house.

I guess that if the government wanted to use hackers to try to break into the computer systems of foreigners, that could be a separate department of a different agency or perhaps of the DoD itself.

But to address the problem of computer security, I would think that the people who are supposed to be at the forefront of code and cipher detection and breaking would be the ones to have a lot to say about the defensive systems to use, and that would be the NSA.

The first solution for computer security is to not use computers at all unless they would seem to be "absolutely necessary". The second step is to not connect them to the outside world, as the genius people (sarcasm alert) at the Office of Personnel Management apparently did. The shifting of control of electrical grids to computer control is not only 100% stupid, it is very dangerous.


Having been in the business of defending our networks, I'd say the defense function should be separated from the conduct of offensive operations. Otherwise this important function is likely to get lost. It is a highly technical function which requires engineers undistracted by operational concerns.

robt willmann

A couple of computer security issues on Chinese associated smartphones with the Android operating system, and on the iCloud feature on Apple phones--




Mark Logan


I suspect he will hesitate before accepting SoD. Trump has been a shameless liar during his campaign and his personal views of honor will make joining Trump's team a struggle for him. Mattis may feel he's dealt with more than his share of major fusterclucks as well.

My gut says regardless of all the above he might accept heading the VA though. Just a hunch.


IMO POTUS Trump isn't doing himself any favors having NEOCON Gaffney on his transition team. Hope Gaffney isn't absorbed into the administration after the inauguration.

The NEOCONs will drag POTUS Trump's administration down into their swamp if he isn't careful. He would do well if he can keep his administration NEOCON free or at the least keep the NEOCONs on the very outer rim.


Here's one more reason why the Clandestine Services (aka CIA) needs to be re-tooled into HUMINT Collection -- ONLY! Anything else besides HUMINT Collection is VERBOTEN!


I'm trying to recall 'who' was the DCI when this crap was going on?


It is a very good idea to put each separate function of the NSA into its own agency. Cyber spying and security are at odds with one another, and that usually means that one or the other will dominate the agency's communications with congress and the public, if not undermine the actual functions of the organisation itself.

Congress at least deserves to hear a government agency explain the real need for communication networks to have strong, non-underminable encryption standards available, with no ifs, ands or buts about back-doors.

The comments to this entry are closed.

My Photo

August 2020

Sun Mon Tue Wed Thu Fri Sat
2 3 4 5 6 7 8
9 10 11 12 13 14 15
16 17 18 19 20 21 22
23 24 25 26 27 28 29
30 31          
Blog powered by Typepad