The Firepower of Facebook

Internet freedom was back on Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s agenda yesterday, as she argued that the “freedom to connect” is as basic a right as free speech. She gave a talk at George Washington University and warned that revolts like those in Tunisia and Egypt could spread if societies don’t open up a bit: “We believe that governments who have erected barriers to internet freedom -- whether they're technical filters or censorship regimes or attacks on those who exercise their rights to expression and assembly online -- will eventually find themselves boxed in.” China, which bans both Twitter and Facebook, was at the top of Clinton’s criticism queue (along with Syria, Vietnam, Cuba and Iran). Washington is of course doing its part, Clinton noted, providing grants to people who try to beat “Internet repression.” As the secretary of state put it, “The United States continues to help people in oppressive internet environments get around filters, stay one step ahead of the censors, the hackers, and the thugs who beat them up or imprison them for what they say online.”

The Washington Post and the London Times have both reported that General David Petraeus, the head of forces in Afghanistan, will leave his post by the end of the year. Trying to put a lid on the whispering, DOD Press Secretary Geoff Morrell said reports of Petraeus’s departure have been greatly exaggerated: “Despite some sensational speculation by one of the London papers, I can assure you General Petraeus is not quitting as ISAF commander, but nor does he plan to stay in Afghanistan forever.” Clearly, he’s going to leave at some undecided time in the future, but that won’t happen soon according to Morrell.

The new White House spokesman Jay Carney is scheduled to give his first press conference in a couple of hours. He was upstaged yesterday by President Obama, who decided to address the media directly, doing “a little downfield blocking” for the newbie. “I figured that I'd give Jay one more taste of freedom before we lock him in a room with all of you,” Obama joked. For the last two years, Carney was Vice President Joe Biden’s communications director (and was at Time before that).

Meanwhile, the situation post-Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner’s trip to Brazil isn’t as rosy as first implied. The country’s finance minister, Guido Mantega, spoke out today about rumors that Brazil and the United States are working together to put pressure on China to appreciate its currency. Mantega said the countries were doing no such thing and added that Beijing isn’t the only culprit—Washington is keeping its currency weak as well.