Catch up on stories from the past week (and beyond) at the Slashdot story archive


Forgot your password?

Preserve Your Rights Online - Act Now 583

Imagine Slashdot closing its Your Rights Online section because you no longer have any rights online, and find many of your other rights severely curtailed, too. Saturday a small group of people, including U.S. Representative Lynn Rivers, from Michigan's 13th Congressional District, met in the University of Maryland Baltimore County [UMBC] library to discuss ways to maintain Americans' civil liberties despite major pressure to curtail them in the name of "fighting terrorism." The government does listen, you know, if you speak to the right people in the right way. So here's a guide, a HOWTO, if you will, that will teach you how to lobby effectively for your Constitutional rights.

Let's start with one simple and rather sad truth: You are going to be less free next week than you were last week.

We are already seeing what several newspapers have called "the biggest criminal investigation in history." Sure, a lot of this investigation's energy is being focused on Islamic countries, but it is also going on in Europe and, more than anywhere else, the United States itself. Landlords who have rented to young men with Arab-sounding names are being interrogated. Topless-bar patrons are being asked about conversations they allegedly heard, boasting about upcoming mass destruction.

And then there's email and the World Wide Web. Imagine a technically unhip Senator or Member of Congress who has read about Osama bin Laden allegedly using encrypted email and secret messages hidden in online porn to communicate with his followers and allies. Put the words "Osama bin Laden" in the same sentence as "pornography" and "the Internet," and you had better get out of the way of the avalanche of anti-online privacy laws coming your way -- or get crushed by them, even if people like bin Laden can switch to other means of communication at the drop of a hat.

Worse, disagreeing with the U.S. government right now may almost be viewed as treason in some quarters. "My Country, Right or Wrong" was a popular bumper sticker among the gunrack-and-confederate-flag pickup truck crowd in the late 60s, and this attitude, if not yet the bumper sticker itself, has been making a major comeback

But Dissent We Must
The problem with the "My Country, Right or Wrong" attitude is that it allows our government to go terribly wrong in many ways that may not be made right again for a long time, if ever. As Rep. Rivers pointed out Saturday, once laws are made that are supposed to help law enforcement in some way, they are almost never repealed because Members of Congress don't want to be seen as "soft on terrorism, soft on crime, soft on drugs."

Carry this a little farther. What about treason charges? At what point does it become illegal to speak out against a planned US government action that, on its face, is being taken to fight against the Terrorist Enemy, whoever he or she may be, even though that action may have very bad, long-term consequences for ordinary American citizens who want nothing more that to live their own lives quietly without being afraid of their own government?

Rep. Rivers said half the people in her district's gut reaction to the idea of legislation allowing government to read their email without getting a warrant first was along the lines of, "So what? I don't break any laws, so I have nothing to hide."

Long-time EPIC activist Kathleen Ellis told Rep. Rivers she believed questions about privacy should not be asked in the context of email. "Ask people if they should have the right to keep a secret and almost all of them will answer 'Of course,'" she said. Ellis also mentioned that cryptography is the email equivalent of an envelope on a letter sent by postal mail. "Unencrypted email is like a postcard," she said, "open for anyone to read. Ask people if they want all mail to be as open as a postcard and they're going to say no."

From that point on, the meeting focused on tactics. The question in the room wasn't, "Are privacy and freedom of speech good?" but "What can we do to protect our privacy and freedom of speech?"

Background on the Meeting Itself
The forum in which all this discussion took place was decidedly unofficial. It was an informal meeting thrown together hastily by local Linux user and ham radio afficianado Rob Carlson. Carlson sent a meeting notice to several email lists and posted it at 13 people showed up at Saturday's gathering, most of whom were Baltimore and Washington D.C. area privacy advocates and/or Linux users. I was there myself for that reason. Wired News reporter Declan McCullagh is another "local" who hangs in the same circles, which explained his presence.

Rep. Rivers was there because her husband, William Simpson, is a computer consultant involved with the Internet Engineering Task Force [IETF] who spotted Carlson's notice on one of the cryptography-oriented email lists he's on. He had driven Rivers' chief of staff, who needed to get back to Washington but was marooned in Michigan by the airlines shutdown, to D.C., and was taking his Congresswoman wife back to her district for a little rest and some scheduled meetings (Congress had adjourned until Friday, Sept. 21), and they noticed that UMBC was on their way. So there they were, not dressed in "mover and shaker" clothing but looking like anyone else taking a 1000+ mile car trip.

One doesn't usually think of a Member of Congress fitting in with a group of downdressed geeks, but this one sure did. We only knew what she did for a living because Carlson asked everyone in the little circle to identify themselves by name and job, and when it was her turn Rep. Rivers gave her name as "Lynn," then added "Rivers," and softly, sort of as an aside, mentioned that she was "in Congress." Her husband had already mentioned that they were "from Michigan," which was curious enough in itself for a meeting with a decidedly local orientation. But Linux folks are friendly, and Rep. Rivers was as welcome as anyone else even though she was from out of town -- and freely admitted she used Mac OS, not Linux, both at home and in her office.

When he organized the meeting, Carlson said, "I didn't know whether no one or 100 people would show up." 13 did. And revolutions have started with as few as 13 people, so why shouldn't a strong pro-Constitution lobbying movement? The next step is to get 13 more, and another 13, and so on. This means calling and emailing friends until there are 13X13X13X13.... people talking to their elected representatives about privacy issues in terms they can understand, that will help them change their minds.

How You Can Lobby Against Anti-Privacy Laws
Start with this line Rep. Rivers laid on us, which is not new but needs to be said over and over: "Democracy is not a spectator sport."

Those Americans who don't vote, no matter how they excuse this failure, have no right to criticize their government. And those who don't bother to tell their elected representatives what they want and don't want their government to do should not act shocked when the government passes laws they don't like. It gets sickening, going to hearing after hearing about proposed laws like UCITA, DMCA, and SSSCA and always seeing a whole bunch of industry lobbyists wearing expensive suits, but hardly ever anyone who could be classified as an "ordinary citizen."

You need to make some noise instead of letting "them" talk while you sit around and let "them" get their way. Pump up the volume. Take some of the time you spend posting on Slashdot and register to vote. Write email and snail mail letters, send faxes, and make phone calls to Congresspeople and Senators and other representatives, and tell other people (13X13X13X13.... voices, remember) to do the same. This, not just complaining, is what this whole representative government thing is all about.

Rep. Rivers says phone calls "...have a sense of personal contact to them," and this makes them the most effective grassroots lobbying tool. "Stick to one issue," she advises. "Don't come up with a laundry list."

Also send email and write letters, even though they probably won't have as much impact as calls. And don't forget the fax machine; reps who are too technically unhip to read email read faxes. The ACLU and NRA have both famously used fax as a means of rapid communication with legislators for many years.

Now comes the matter of what to say. A letter, call or email that starts with something like, "I has nevir voted for you I am not registered to vote but you got to lisen to me," will go nowhere, says Rivers, pointing out that many pro-Napster messages she got were along those lines -- and got ignored. Better, she says, is something that tells your representative you are a computer professional (or manager or student or business owner or whatever) whose business, occupation or future will be hurt by whatever legislation you are working against. In this case (this week), privacy and online crypto are under attack. Next week, who knows?

So you're not a business owner? Know any? Know anyone who depends on privacy to transact their business? How about your doctor? Doesn't he or she want to keep patient records confidential? Ditto any lawyer you know. If a lawyer is serious about maintaining client trust, he or she certainly doesn't want the government snooping on email through Carnivore or a similar system with a less aggressive name. Other businesses have client information they want to private, along with trade secrets and other information they would rather not share with competitors. These are all points to bring up rationally, in an orderly debate format, when communicating with an elected rep, and they are ones you should ask others to bring up, too.

Stay calm, in other words. Assume your representative is sane and really wants to do what's right and what most people want, based on the input he or she gets. Your trick is to become part of that input, and right now the input you need to give must be strong and focused because Congress is caught up in post-attack hysteria and, like the rest of us, is saying, "We need to do something to help those poor victims and their families and make sure nothing this awful ever happens again."

The only problem here is that what Congress does is make laws, not post on Slashdot, and a law made in the same emotional heat as a flame post on Slashdot can't be moderated down to -1 after it is passed. Once that law is on the books, if you break it you can be arrested, tried, and fined or sent to jail. You've heard the saying, "If [guns/crypto/brains] are outlawed, only outlaws will have [guns/crypto/brains]." It's true, you know.

Right now, legitimate Americans are in danger of having many of their Constitutional freedoms revoked by a government that is doing its best, possibly in a misguided way, to protect its citizens. This is not about Disney's copyrights or the freedom to play DVDs on computers running Linux. The current debate is about much more basic issues than those, issues I will not repeat here because they have been written about so extensively elsewhere.

An Aside: How Congress Works
Rep. Rivers said it this way: "The House [of Representatives] is ruled by brute force."

Since she was talking to geeks who follow such things, she used the DMCA as an example. She told us that the "unanimous" vote that got DMCA through the House was not really unanimous at all; that the bill got through a committee dominated by a powerful chairman (which is how bills generally get to the floor for a vote) and that the Speaker called for a voice vote. "Most yelled 'Aye,'" Rivers said, and some yelled 'Nay.'"

The voices yelling "Aye" were the loudest, so DMCA passed by acclamation. Brute Force. People yelling at the top of their lungs. If 50 loud voices had yelled "Nay" instead of "Aye," perhaps we wouldn't have the DMCA as law today, and the EFF wouldn't be begging for money to get it overturned in the courts.

Now think about a Member of Congress who is hearing, right now, from all the "Kill-the-Arab-bastards-and-stamp-out-Internet-porn" crowd loudly and repeatedly by phone, fax, mail and email, but isn't hearing from you. Who is shouting the loudest? Which wheel is so squeaky that it is going to get the grease? So far, it's not the voices of reason and Constitutionality. They are getting drowned out. Heck, they are hardly there at all. At least Rep. Rivers isn't hearing them, and if she isn't hearing them -- with her ear attuned to Internet privacy matters and a totally Net-hip husband at her side -- you can bet the rest of Congress don't even know those voices (yours) exist.

Don't Delay! Do It Today!
Congress reconvenes Friday, September 21. The anti-privacy bills and anti-privacy amendments to various anti-terrorist bills are being written now, not someday. This means you must act immediately. If you put off those calls and emails to friends asking them to help support their right to communicate with each other in private, and to live without fear of police breaking down their doors or seizing their computer hard drives without warrants for even a few days, it is going to be too late. We are in the grip of national hysteria. A $40 billion appropriations bill to support the war on terrorism was passed a few days ago, with bipartisan support, almost without debate.

I'm going to admit that I am as ready to kick terrorist butt as anyone else, so I can't really blame Congress for being so gung-ho that it will pass all kinds of measures that will make America a less free country for decades to come in response to the current emergency. All I'm really asking Congress to do -- and asking you to join me in asking Congress to do, and to convince 13X13X13.... others to ask your Representative and your Senator to do -- is remember that the freedoms that make this country great must not be forgotten in our rush to avenge our fallen fellow Americans and our attempts to keep ourselves safe from future terrorist attacks.

Specifically (concentrate on one issue, remember), as a Net user I am concerned about watching our online privacy and freedoms evaporate if the government makes strong cryptography illegal or tries to have it controlled by agencies like the NSA, CIA, and FBI, or starts reading all of our private email without due cause and legitimate judicial warrants.

The deadline is Friday. That's when the legislative fur will start to fly. So let's get to work now!

This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

Preserve Your Rights Online - Act Now

Comments Filter:
  • Do a little research into the sacrifices that our grandparents and parents had to make during World War II to preserve your peace, freedom and liberty. Speech restrictions? How about food restrictions and travel restrictions. Note that after the war, civil liberties came back.

    How many more jet liners have to smash into skyscrapers before people think that there other priorities right now? Will it take a nuke hitting a city? I thought Colin Powell made an interesting statement this morning: (paraphrase): "The terrorists don't care how many people they kill. The only thing holding them back is the technology they have available." After this week, does anyone doubt this reasoning?

    To many people don't seem to be able to contemplate the fact that this is not an accident, it is not just an isolated incident, it is not just a single strike to "send a message". Unless we act, this WILL happen again, and next time it might be an even bigger scale.

    WE ARE AT WAR. I think this story is to spit on the graves of everyone who died this week.

    I wonder how long it would have taken Hitler to conquer the world if Slashdot editors were in charge.

    • by Anonymous Coward
      Do a little research into the sacrifices that our grandparents and parents had to make during World War II to preserve your peace, freedom and liberty. Speech restrictions? How about food restrictions and travel restrictions. Note that after the war, civil liberties came back.
      Show me the part of the Constitution that guarantees citizens the right to travel, or the denies the government the right to ration food. Like it or not, the First Amendment is a part of the Constitution, and the Constitution is the only contract that gives the government the right to govern us.
      How many more jet liners have to smash into skyscrapers before people think that there other priorities right now? Will it take a nuke hitting a city? I thought Colin Powell made an interesting statement this morning: (paraphrase): "The terrorists don't care how many people they kill. The only thing holding them back is the technology they have available." After this week, does anyone doubt this reasoning?
      What nobody realizes is the body count isn't everything. I guarantee that the terrorists are revelling just as much in the fact that they've shut down a whole nation as in how many people they've killed. They are terrorists, after all. If we let them scare us into suspending civil liberties, who's really won here?
      • "Show me the part of the Constitution that guarantees citizens the right to travel"

        How about the right to freedom of assembly? Yah, that's in there, and it means I have the right to travel to assemble with like-minded colleages to protest congress for a redress of grievances.
      • You should note that the constitution is not a list of the rights of the people, but of the rights of the government. This is clear if you read the 11th amendment.

        Article XI
        The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people.

        And if you look at the 12th amendment:

        Article XII
        The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.

        Maybe your state constitution gives your state the right to ration food and restrict speech, but I'm pretty sure mine doesn't.

    • First, know that I sympathize strongly for the victims of this tragedy and their families. However, I don't think that looking critically at what Congress may or may not do about it disrespects them. Rather, it seems the other way around. The United States is so great, so loved, because it was one of the first countries to truly value the rights of the individual. To go back on our own principles in the name of our principles seems worse than a contradiction. Of course action will be taken. It must. But if that action is irrational, and does more harm than good, then it does not respond to the tragedies. It furthers them. Proceed, but proceed with great caution.

      Now that we have had but a tiny, awful taste of the hell that war is, how would a wholesale solution be even a solution? How would killing civilians with abandon, violating the sanctity of lives elsewhere, sanctify the lives lost Tuesday? I'm not saying that nothing should be done. Nor am I saying that we should put all rights on hold while we nuke Afghanistan. Both extremes are emotionally charged, and both are undesirable. The government, as it moves forward, must proceed with reason.
    • by panda ( 10044 ) on Sunday September 16, 2001 @03:23PM (#2306191) Homepage Journal
      Benjamin Franklin answered your post over 200 years ago:

      They that can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety.
    • by memfrob ( 157990 ) on Sunday September 16, 2001 @03:29PM (#2306208) Homepage

      I wonder how long it would have taken Hitler to conquer the world if Slashdot editors were in charge.

      Naturally the common people don't want war... but after all it is the leaders of a country who determine the policy, and it is always a simple matter to drag the people along, whether it is a democracy, or a fascist dictatorship, or a parliament, or a communist dictatorship.

      Voice or no voice, the people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. That is easy. All you have to do is tell them they are being attacked, and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger. It works the same in every country. -- Hermann Goering, Propaganda Minister for Adolf Hitler

    • WE ARE AT WAR. I think this story is to spit on the graves of everyone who died this week.

      Quite the contrary. If we start to sell out basic freedoms, on which this country was founded, that will be spitting on the graves of those who died.

      One of the first things that President Bush said after the attacks was that our resolve for freedom would not be shaken. And it must not be-- for if it is, the terrorists have won.

      We have to take a level-headed, rational approach to responding to last Tuesday. Rushing forward doing all sorts of ill-considered things-- be it restricting freedom of speech, or nuking random middle-eastern countries-- simply to be seen "doing something" would be a mistake. Any response must make sense: it must address the issue at hand, and we must carefully weight the sacrifices we make in exchange for making that response. To act foolishly or unwisely by way of trying to respond-- that is truly what would show disrespect for the dead.

      Specifically with regard to cryptography: back-door-less cryptography is already out there. Terrorists won't hesitate to use it just because it's illegal. Restricting cryptography only restricts law abiding citiziens, and does nothing to address the issue at hand. Hence, it would be rash and foolish to implement such laws in the name of "combating terrorism," since they would do no such thing.

      There is a difference between cutting back on freedom of speech, and having food rationing, and even having travel restrictions. Food is necessary for life; but if it is in limited supply, then we must do what we must do to preserve that supply. Freedom of Speech, on the other hand, is one of the philosophical building blocks of this country. Sell that out, and we've lost our soul.


  • ...we HAD rights online? What were you even thinking? Hell, check the YRO section to SEE that we've had little or no "rights" online. I just love seeing how the US govt tries to regulate something that it is only a small part of.
  • The quotes above reminded me of:

    "My country, right or wrong" is a thing that no patriot would think of saying, except in a desperate case. It is like saying "My mother, drunk or sober." --
    G.K. Chesterton, "The Defendant"

    On a more serious note, what makes people think a fundamentalist Islamic group would hide pictures in porn? Wouldn't that require them to go against most of their fundamental beliefs and actually look at nakedness and fornication?

    • On a more serious note, what makes people think a fundamentalist Islamic group would hide pictures in porn? Wouldn't that require them to go against most of their fundamental beliefs and actually look at nakedness and fornication?

      Oh, come on. They may claim to follow it, but those terrorists don't really have anything to do with Islam, any more than white supremists have anything to do with Christianity.

      I'm not terribly familiar with the tenets of Islam myself, but "thou shalt not kill" is one of the Ten Commandments, and those do appear in the Quaran. These people seemed to be willing to violate that one, to the tune of thousands of murders. I'm sure they'd be perfectly willing to violate much lesser religious restrictions all in the name of their "cause".


    • On a more serious note, what makes people think a fundamentalist Islamic group would hide pictures in porn? Wouldn't that require them to go against most of their fundamental beliefs and actually look at nakedness and fornication?

      Others have already addressed the bit about them having nothing to do with the religion of Mohammed. Instead, I'll point out that it's not necessary for them to actually look at it, even. Just download pictures from known sites with wget or lynx, use some stego program to hide the stuff (you don't have to look at the image there), and send it off. On the other side, just assume all the images you get have messages in them; if they do, you know they're porn, so you don't look.
  • At this point, I'm expecting an official declaration of war against afghanistan (and after Saddam's last speech, possibly Iraq too) any day now. Until that happens, we should rally for our rights. But as soon as we are officially at war, we have no rights whatsoever. That's the way war works. And considering the direct and immediate threat at hand, I would rather have my car searched at state borders than my car blown up at starbucks. As long as they don't outlaw encryption and free press, I'll keep my mouth shut. Feel free to argue, it's my opinion, not yours.
    • As long as they don't outlaw encryption and free press, I'll keep my mouth shut. Feel free to argue, it's my opinion, not yours.

      And what do you think will go first?

      Most americans, including our congressmen, will outlaw encryption much faster than they will institute laws requiring searches of cars at state borders. Most of the world simply doesn't understand why cyrptography is anything other than what "people with something to hide" use.

      I agree with the sense of your post: I don't object at all to increased airport security, or anything of that sort. However, I really am worried that fundamental freedoms, especially in the computational realm, are going to be severely curtailed because "we are at war" and because "this is a different kind of war."


  • by dougmc ( 70836 ) <> on Sunday September 16, 2001 @03:22PM (#2306188) Homepage
    Those Americans who don't vote, no matter how they excuse this failure, have no right to criticize their government.
    That statement sounds like unarguable truth, but it's really not. The First Amendment promises the right to free speech, and this speech includes the right to criticize your government. It doesn't say anything about having to vote first.

    Voting is a good idea, but I'm not aware of any elections in the next few weeks that will have any effects on all these new legislation being proposed. To fight this, we need to be far more proactive than merely voting.

    All in all, good article.

    • Personally I would prefer something along the lines of what Ralph Nader suggested in the 2000 election; a 'none of the above' choice on all ballots. It's almost idiotic that we can call this a democratic process when the president is elected by %17 of the eligible voters -- while %50 of them sit at home; either half of them don't care, or they've decided that lobbyists and six-figure 'donations' (see also: bribes) have really made their role almost non-existent. The idea of a 'none of the above' choice is simple; if more people vote 'none' than any other choice, no one wins, and the election restarts -- possibly with the candidates being re-chosen.
        • Those Americans who don't vote, no matter how they excuse this failure, have no right to criticize their government.
        That statement sounds like unarguable truth, but it's really not

      Don't be so... diplomatic. It's a steaming pile of crap.

      A representative democracy with a 4+ year term in the current state of economic and political change is a joke, a travesty. 90% of US incumbents retain their seats, 50% of both Senate and Congress are lawyers (separation of powers?), we have an hereditary political class, and the huge sums paid in bribes (sorry, "campaign contributions") to support the incumbents ensure that third parties or attempts at reforms can be snowed under by a media blitz. Even statements like this are written off as whacko subversion, when all I'm saying is: government of the people, by the people, and for the people.

      Supporting the current national political system in any way is treason. The government is not the nation. The political process is not the nation. The US government has never even been remotely representative of the people. Initially it was composed of white male slave owning landlords. Now it is a system of political dynasties and career politicians who are taught from birth that the aquisition and retention of power overrides everything else.

      The only acceptable solution is to remove the policital class, and have constant referenda at local, state and national level on all issues. Retain the beaurocracy, but as the instrument of the people, not of the political class.

      It's perfectly achievable. No policitian in her right mind is going to put herself out of a career by admitting it, but it can be done. Heck, it could be done with a fraction of the $37 bllion annual budget of the NSA, which we've just seen is a criminal waste of money. So why isn't it done?

  • Astounding (Score:5, Insightful)

    by matty ( 3385 ) on Sunday September 16, 2001 @03:26PM (#2306200) Homepage
    I am astounded at the number of people so far who seem perfectly willing to give up their free speech rights and to allow the government to read all their personal correspondence in the name of fighting terrorism.

    A simple question: should it be ok for the government to open any letter in the US Mail without court order? My guess is that you wouldn't want that. So why should they be able to read our email? It's simple: they shouldn't.

    One of the things that makes this country great is our freedom from government interference in our daily lives. One of the terrorists' primary goals is to make us less free. Giving up our free speech and privacy helps them attain that goal.

    And no, this article isn't spitting on anyone's graves. How can telling folks to get involved in government and to call or write your representative and tell them what you think be a bad thing? If you're willing to give up your privacy, then contact your rep. and tell them! I'm not willing to give up any of my rights, no matter how terrible this tragedy is, and I do intend to contact my local rep.'s.

    Also, someone above said that the people who died don't care about personal privacy. I strongly disagree. I'm sure if there were some way to contact them and ask, "Should we give up our rights to fight terrorism?", very few would say yes.

    Look, with a court order, the government can read mail, tap phone lines and confiscate computer equipment. We don't need any more laws giving the government more power over our daily lives.

    Don't let the horror of this tragedy blind you. We must maintain our freedoms. Is this article a bit paranoid and perhaps over-reacting a bit to these possibilities? Maybe, but there is nothing wrong with being vigilant against the intrusions of an over-zealous government, and there is certainly nothing wrong with getting involved, deciding what you really want from government, and telling them.
    • Mod this guy up.

      I seriously can't believe the sheep-like attitude from so many people around here.

      The government has been tending towards more control for a long time. This is going to accelerate the process, and when the war is over -- in 6 months, or 6 years -- we'll be left with tattered civil rights if we don't take steps now to protect them.

      Read the Constitution. It's the damn source code for our government.
    • Re:Astounding (Score:2, Interesting)

      This isn't a First Amendment issue. Just because the government might be listening in shouldn't prevent you from speaking freely.
    • Re:Astounding (Score:4, Insightful)

      by zpengo ( 99887 ) on Monday September 17, 2001 @03:00AM (#2308158) Homepage
      I posted this comment before, but I was modded as a troll so I'll try again.

      The United States government has so far shown a great deal of restraint, considering the situation. Whenever issues such as airport security, surveillance, search warrants, etc., have come up on the countless interviews with government officials lately, in almost each instance they have willingly brought up the delicate balance between protecting the nation's sense of security and protecting their sense of privacy.

      The United States hasn't jumped the gun, and we should be careful not to either. So far all I've seen on sites like Slashdot is rambling about how the tyrannical U.S. government is trying to strip us of our rights. It's good that we're being vigilant (that's one of the requirements of a good citizenry), but we must take care not to make quick judgements based on preconceived notions.

      It is absolutely logical that the United States would be looking into increased security measures. We are going to war (which should be so clear by this point that I hope I don't need to justify that statement), and it is necessary for our own well being that some kind of security measures be put in place.

      I'm suprised at how well the government has been handling this, and I hope that, somewhere among all our vigilance and criticism, we can secretly give them a hand for actually taking pretty good care of our personal freedoms.

  • "Unencrypted email is like a postcard," she said, "open for anyone to read. Ask people if they want all mail to be as open as a postcard and they're going to say no."

    Now ask people if they want there to be laws against government officials looking at the address information on a letter or postcard, or reading the postcard with a warrant. Most will say no.

    Ask people if they want there to be laws making the use of envelopes illegal. Once again, you'll likely get an answer of no.

    Carnivore isn't a problem. Banning all encryption is.

  • Cryptography rights are the Second Amendment issue of the Internet. If you're going to write your congresscritter, that's a good point to make... tho perhaps not with Democrats. National Review [] has come down firmly on the side of being careful to maintain civil liberties, and folks like Bob Barr and Dick Armey (majority leader) in the House are well-known privacy nuts, so I'm not overly worried; the quote (yesterday?) by the House minority leader (Gephardt) was disconcerting, hopefully he'll listen to reps like Rivers (whose district is a stone's throw from mine).
    • Rep. Rivers is a Democrat, and mentioned that privacy support in Congress has little to do with political party affiliation. She mentioned that she and Barr are big allies on this issue, although they disagree on many others.

      - Robin
    • Cryptography rights are the Second Amendment issue of the Internet. If you're going to write your congresscritter, that's a good point to make...

      Another point to make is that it simply will not work. You can argue about trading liberty for security, but in this case, you are trading liberty for insecurity.

      Congress is talking about putting back doors into cryptography schemes. There is a good Second Amendment argument against this, but some congressmen just don't care about it. So show how it will fail.

      First off, we must remember that we are dealing with truly elite terrorists here, not the 31337 ones we have been used to. The attack we just sustained was a work of twisted, despicable genius. Such people will break this law without a thought. If they can't get somebody to sell them crypto without a backdoor, they'll just get it off a .sig file from old USENET postings (strong crypto has been written in four lines of Perl). This won't stop them. It will stop law-abiding citizens.

      If there is a back door, this means that the government has a key that would break a given encryption scheme. That's way too many eggs in one basket.

      Do you know what that key would fetch on the black market? Do you know what people would do to get it?

      Like people in any walk of life, there are law enforcement agents and police officers with crime in their hearts. And one dirty cop with access to a key could make millions selling it.

      Even if not, remember a few years ago, distributed crypto key cracking []. Someone would encrypt a message using a crypto scheme, and hold a contest to see who could crack it first (thus, this was a "white hat" exercise). So people came up with programs that everybody could run on their computers, so that they had thousands of computers trying bazillions of keys until they got something that worked.

      If the Fed required back doors, and I was a cybercriminal that wanted to crack it (perhaps to steal credit card data from online transactions...), I would build a distributed cracker, and marry it to a virus or worm. Infect millions of machines and have them busily cracking the Master Key for me.

      Let me suggest that we also brainstorm here for useful laws that Congress could pass. I think that when an event like this occurs, there is tremendous political pressure to do something. Passing laws that won't help the situation, may even hurt the situation, but look like they help will be popular with voters. And if a lone voice turns and says "I won't vote for this because it won't work," they're not likely to get re-elected.

  • And how do you - or they - presume to restrict the rights of those who are located outside the borders of the USA?

    By arresting and prosecuting them if they dare to travel to the USA... oh, wait...

    Seriously, perhaps people in power need to consider that they can't control everything and instead seek to resolve issues rather than stomp on them...

  • Wake up, people (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Analog ( 564 ) on Sunday September 16, 2001 @03:31PM (#2306216)
    My wife heard on the radio yesterday that in a poll 70% of those surveyed said they were willing to give up some of their freedoms to prevent something like Tuesday's attacks from happening again.

    I heard that as "70% of Americans are willing to let terrorists tell us how to run our country". It's all well and good to talk about how the government is doing what's best for us, and that giving up some "minor" freedoms (clue: there is no such thing) is worth it to prevent this sort of thing; I'm sure it makes the people who say it feel better. It's also hopelessly naive.

    Few, if any, of the airport restrictions put in place in the last week would have had any effect on this attack. None of them would have prevented it. There is already a movement afoot in Congress to outlaw crypto which doesn't have a back door installed for government use. Are you really so naive as to believe that backdoor won't be used improperly, or be compromised by people outside the government? And if you are that naive, you can't possibly be so naive as to believe that the people who carried out Tuesday's attacks are somehow incapable of writing (or having written) their own crypto software which contains no such back doors.

    The fact is that there are people all over America who are unscrupulously using these events to further their own agendas, whether it be gas station owners hiking prices through the roof or Falwell and Robertson spouting their hatred. Some of these people are in Congress, and they will take advantage of your complacency and ignorance. It's always been true, but especially so now; be very, very careful what you ask for, because you will get it.

  • All the American groups who are anti-government (those who are portrayed as hiding in the mountains, stockpiling weapons, etc) - have they spoken up? I'd be interested to know what their thoughts are in all this. Are they as pissed off as the rest of us? Obviously, strangers came knocking on our back door. Are they temporarily allied with the government now?

  • by Myself ( 57572 ) on Sunday September 16, 2001 @03:34PM (#2306234) Journal
    It's been said many times that legislators don't read their email, and when they do, they largely ignore it. This isn't always the case...

    A few weeks ago (probably closer to a month, I don't remember) I dashed off a note to US Rep. Sander M. Levin, 12th District, Michigan. My note concerned Dmitry Sklyarov, and his imprisonment for presenting some research which should've been protected speech. I ranted as intelligently as I could about the DMCA and how it hurt all of us. I clicked the Submit button and promptly forgot all about it.

    A few days ago, I went through my snailmail inbox. I don't do this very often, so I have no idea how long Rep. Levin's letter had been sitting there. In any case, the letter indicates a clear understanding of the Sklyarov case and at least a few of the issues surrounding it. The letter ends "I will continue to follow this case closely. Thank you again for contacting me on this matter. Sincerely, [signature and closing] SML:ch"

    Neat. My understanding of the SML:ch part would seem to suggest that while someone else typed it, this letter was at least personally dictated or composed in part by Rep. Levin himself. Form letter? Possibly. But the existence of such a form letter would indicate the demand for one, which means he must be hearing about this issue a lot.

    WRITE YOUR REPRESENTATIVES! They DO listen. They even understand sometimes, and it's your job to help them. My task this evening, after the daylight fades and cleaning my car becomes moot, is to fill Rep. Levin in on some of the subtler details of Sklyarov's case, and point out exactly why we all need to oppose Carnivore. Making it clear why such opposition is justified, even in times of crisis, will be the tough part. Wish me luck, then try your own hand at it. Please?

    Voter, Concerned Citizen
    12th District, Michigan.
    • He wasn't locked up for presenting the information, he was locked up for selling it to people.

      The day a skript kidding charges $10 for his leet crack to Windows 2005 is the day I tell the government to lock his ass up.
      • He wasn't locked up for presenting the information, he was locked up for selling it to people.

        The day a skript kidding charges $10 for his leet crack to Windows 2005 is the day I tell the government to lock his ass up.

        YOU SCARE ME. You think the script kiddie should be locked up for selling software? That's not even a vaild comparison, because Sklyarov's software had legitimate uses for legitimate eBook owners. But even in the case of the script kiddie, I say lock up the person who uses it to crack somebody else's computer, not the person who sold the software.

        What you are calling for is equivalent to requiring that all employes of Ford, GM, and every other auto maker be locked up because they sold the cars which drunk drivers used to commit manslaughter.


        • Give me a break. Don't throw ridiculously flawed analogies at me, slashbot. If you want to play that game, locking up a script kiddie for selling a crack is the same as locking up a person selling a device which could be used for no other purpose than breaking the law. Fucking idiot, a car can be used for countless legitimate purposes, it's not created exclusively as a weapon for killing people while intoxicated.

          In the physical world, there are few, if any, objects which can only be used illegitimately. (sp) The things which are nearly only usable illegitimately are illegal to sell. For example, automatic weapons. Sure, there are legitimate purposes for these things, but they are so stark the minority that they are basically invisible to the law.

          In the digital world, we find something unique, though. A crack for Windows 2005 is something which can only be used illegitimately, and hence should be illegal to sell. There is no legal reason for you to crack a piece of software. If you've lost the ability to use the software despite the fact that you purchased it, contact the software distributor. If you want to argue this point, then that's where we differ on opinion, but I will not budge from my position. There's nothing wrong with actually creating the crack, but distribution and especially sale of it should be illegal.

          Dmitry's software had the potential to be used legally, though a very slim one, and hence is questionable as being a cause for locking him up. If, however, his software could be used for no other purpose then breaking the law, then he should have been locked up.
          • There's nothing wrong with actually creating the crack, but distribution and especially sale of it should be illegal.

            Then explain to me why it shouldn't be illegal for somebody to publish instructions for building a bomb. Yet the Supreme Court has held that up as allowed under the first amendment. It is the use of those instructions which is the illegal act. The same goes with computer code: the script kiddie's crack is instructions for how to perform an illegal act. Therefore, as odious as it may be, it should be protected under the first amendment. The illegal act is using those instructions.

            Freedom of speech means that other people have the freedom to say things that we think they should't say. But we have to allow that, so that they will allow us to say the things that they don't like.

            And, of course, I have the freedom to ask (but not require) you to self censor: next time think twice before using such profane terms to refer to somebody who has the gall to disagree with you. Your position seems to be that those who disagree are "slashbots", that anybody who thinks for themselves would naturally agree with you. I submit that if you really believe what you seem to believe, you don't understand what thinking for one's self really is.


            • Then explain to me why it shouldn't be illegal for somebody to publish instructions for building a bomb.

              I will do so.

              To "execute" the plans to build a bomb, you must bring it upon yourself the laborious process of doing so. To execute the "plans" of a software crack, all that is required is the depressing of your finger twice in rapid succession. If were are arguing on principle, they are the same thing, but if we are arguing on practicality and reality then they are a world apart, and I hope you would not be foolish enough to think otherwise. Instructions for a bomb do not allow you to go to your local store and buy a magical machine in which you can insert the instructions on one end (without reading them) and get a bomb out the other in virtually zero time or effort. A crack, however, does allow this. The magical machine being, obviously, a computer. Instructions for a bomb are giving you the means to an end, whereas the "instructions" for a crack are nearly (but of course, technically not) giving you the end in itself. Instructions for a bomb is not the same thing as a bomb, but the instructions for a crack is in fact "a crack." When software is distributed, it is not distributed as "instructions for a word processor" .. it is a "word processor" in and of itself. Herein lies the difference: the speed and ease at which instructions are executed by a third party, ie, the computer, make the instructions be nearly the same thing as the end which they are intended to accomplish.

              The choice between, given a crack, weither to use it or not is not the eqivalent of, given plans for a bomb, weither to build and detonate it. It is the equivalent of, given a bomb, weither to pull the trigger to set it off. Perhaps on the most fundamental level, a level understood by CS majors, a crack is a list of instructions for a computer. However, a crack is hardly a "list of instructions" to the user, only to the computer is it such.

              Yet another flawed analogy thrown in the fray by yourself, a common fallicy by a lot of people on this site. That's why I called you a slashbot, and I stand by it, since you are throwing cliche slashdot analogies for making your point, not arguing the point itself. My use of profanity was founded in the fact that you declared that you were scared of me, which sickens me and is actually much more a derogatory statement than "fucking idiot."

              Hackers need to stop talking about computer code as a means to an end or an end in itself when either is more convenient for their personal agendas. The wonders of technology has made it so that millions of instructions of computer code can be executed quickly and hence they become an end in themselves, as far as I'm concerned, and should be treated as such. If more people would come to grips with reality (ie: computers are meant to make instructions invisible and give you the ends as fast as possible) then there would be less mundane arguments about things which have nothing to do with the issue at hand.

              The Windows source code on a CD is a world of difference from the Windows source code printed out on reams of paper. The Windows code on a CD, due to modern technology and automation, might as well be "Microsoft Windows," in the eyes of the law, while the source code on paper is "The Source Code to Microsoft Windows."

              The point of arguing about DeCSS is not a matter of free speech; it's a matter of how fucked up is it that I can't watch DVDs where ever I please. Someone wearing the source code on a T-shirt is an idiot in my eyes, and doesn't understand that the source code on their T-shirt has little to no relevance to the highly-automated digital non-human-readable instructions that a computer executes instantaneously to break the (fucked up) law.

              _I_ submit that you try to squeeze out something to refute my statements without a silly analogy that falls like a house of cards. I also submit that you stop making yourself feel better by saying I don't think for myself. These words are a product of my own thoughts, and are far against many of the things you'd read elsewhere, so I hope I've refuted your little theory about my ability to think for myself.
          • There is no legal reason for you to crack a piece of software

            If the software is being used to deny you your fair use rights, I think it is legally and morally justifiable to sell another piece of software that restores those rights. Wouldn't you agree? If not, then the logical conclusion is that software makers have been given the legally enforceable power to dictate what your legal rights are, simply by encoding technical limitations to your rights into their software.

        • Skylarov's software had a legitimate use in Russia, where Adobe's crippling the product is illegal. In America, however, it is OK for Adobe to put restrictions on their product (the DMCA is encouragement for this kind of behavior) and it's Skylarov's software that is illegal. I don't think it's ethically right, but what's a legitimate use in Russia is not a legitimate use in the US.
    • WOW. That's amazing... not only did he read your email himself, but replied to it!

      My experience with a certain senator from my state was not so pleasant.

      I e-mailed Senator McCain a rather long letter [] explaining why the proposed SSSCA [] was a really bad thing.

      Unfortunately, the only response I got was an e-mail back a few days later explaining that Senator McCain is too busy to ever read his e-mail, and if i'm really serious about contacting him, I should visit his local office and talk to his peons.

      Rediculous, no?

  • Sheep says I. (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Crixus ( 97721 ) on Sunday September 16, 2001 @03:39PM (#2306247)
    Those Americans who don't vote, no matter how they excuse this failure, have no right to criticize their government.

    Bull, my right to free speech is not regulated by whether or not I voted. Now or ever.

    The right not to have to do something is just as important as the right to do it.

    Having said that, I can't believe the number of people I've seen that are willing to GIVE their rights away, for the LIE that they will be safer by doing so.

    Two or three days ago I sent a letter and en email to both senators and my congressman asking them to tell Americans the TRUTH. And that is that nothing short of 24th century Star Trek type technology can save us from this sort of thing.

    They passed an "anti-terrorism" bill after Oklahoma City and THAT didn't stop it, what makes you think a few more draconian words written on paper will stop it now?

    We live in (perhaps) the country with the most freedom in the world, and we have thousands of miles of water and land border. There simply aren't enough cops, or military to police every inch of them to keep the bad guys out.

    Our war on drugs has failed miserably, and this attempt will too, BECAUSE we are free.

    Perhaps all of you are willing to give your rights away, but I'm going down kicking and screaming.


  • If we really want to win this war, we should cease diverting energies and debasing the justness of government with the "war on drugs." Declare a total truce and amnesty, or at least offer amnesty to anyone jailed for drugs who will volunteer for the armed forces. This would unify our society where currently we divide it, free us where we currently limit liberty and right of individuals to pursue their own mentalities (a goal the Taliban also pursues).

    It would also remove the financial basis that supports certain terrorist groups backed by the illegal suppliers of drugs who flourish in the absense of legal alternatives, and gain the support of peasant populations currently in thrall to those terrorists.

    More freedom, not less, is the key to uprooting fundamentalist evils both at broad and at home. In a truly free and open world, their seeds will wither. Meanwhile, by uniting in greater freedom, rather than contracting into less - which leaves many of our own people outside that constricted circle - we can be assured that we do not just advance one despotism against another as we free the Afghanis from the Nazi-like rule of the Taliban. If we will buy their hashish, they will not be driven by desparation to send their assassins, and both their and our freedoms will be recovered.
  • Petitions are, IMHO, is the second best way to go about influencing congress. What we really need is a concentrated mechanism to gather thousands of signatures on a single, short, and well articulated position paper. Perferably the signatures being "real" and not digitial. This way, when a congress person has a chance to read 10 letters... the petition will be at the top of their stack, beacuse it has so many hundred signatures.

    Thus, I humbly suggest that someone with some time/skill/influence author such a letter ... short and sweet. Then some electronic way to "sign up" and "sort" the signatures by voting district and then send this snail-mail to the congress person's staff for sorting (clearly marking on the front of the envelope the issuse and # of signaturess *in their district* )

    A well-organized and thoughtul petition is far more effective than a few single letters... certainly a few thousand letters are better; however, most people are too lazy to write their own letter -- while they will take time to fill in information for a petition.

    • What about a mix between the two: A digital signature affixed via mouse movement? You could surely write a java applet to "sign" the petition and take these images and sort them out.. it would make it a lot more official looking and legitimate.

      I might work on it, anyone who wants to help, let me know @ Someone needs to write the actual petition, but I could provide the tech end of the signing and scripts, etc. With permission, our pipe at Exodus for half-empty could be used temporarily with permission from the person hosting me.

  • Currently, when a wire tap is issued, it pertains to a particualr phone - all conversations (suspect or not) are recorded, on that phone. A proposal, issued by the Vice President, would be to make wire tap's issued on a per-person basis. This proposal, in theory, is a boost to pesonal liberties, and to security.
  • FYI, after a bit of searching, I found through the House Committee on Science Members List [] that Rep. Rivers is a Democrat (interestingly, I can't find her party affiliation mentioned anywhere on her own page).

    This is not flaimbait -- I was just wondering what party she was affiliated with as I read through the article, and I thought others might want to know as well.

    I can't think of any particular reason why the DMCA would have more support from any particular party, and since it was a verbal vote, I don't suppose we can find out. Hollywood may traditionally pay big bucks to Democrats, but Republicans are usually the ones associated with big businesses. Seems like the whole system is shot. Anyone care to venture a guess on whether any one group is favorable for tech issues, or if it's really just an individual issue?

  • by Hizonner ( 38491 ) on Sunday September 16, 2001 @03:55PM (#2306301)
    You know, if I hear one more fuckwit mouth crap along the lines of
    Those Americans who don't vote, no matter how they excuse this failure, have no right to criticize their government.
    I am going to bloody scream.

    Folks, liberty is an intrinsic human right. It is not something the government grants you; it is something that you already have, and the purpose of having a government, at least in the US, is supposed to be to guarantee that nobody takes it away from you. Liberty is not something you should have to register for. It is not something that you should have to go out and vote for. It is not contingent on any demonstration of civic virtue.

    Now, it's true that you can't trust the government to do its duty, and that it's therefore wise to do things like voting and writing letters to your representatives and calling them on the phone and all that. I do that stuff myself.

    However, if I burn down your house and you're too shocked to say anything, or too afraid of me to say anything, or even too busy dealing with something more important (and, yes, there could be something more important) to say anything, nobody is going to tell you you have no right to complain. They may tell you you were foolish for not stopping me, but they're not going to tell you you weren't wronged.

    This "vote or don't complain" crap is just plain buck passing.

    It gets sickening, going to hearing after hearing about proposed laws like UCITA, DMCA, and SSSCA and always seeing a whole bunch of industry lobbyists wearing expensive suits, but hardly ever anyone who could be classified as an "ordinary citizen."
    Maybe, just maybe, that's because the lobbyists get paid to spend their entire lives on this crap, whereas the "ordinary citizens" have other concerns? Maybe, just maybe, there's a problem with a system that requires people to spend half their lives sitting in hearings fighting back idiocy (which idiocy will be repeatedly reproposed until it passes), rather than rejecting that idiocy automatically and out of hand? Maybe, just maybe, legislators, who are elected to consider legislation, should get off their asses and do that, find out what the implications are, maybe actively find out what their constituents' informed opinion would be, maybe refuse to vote on things they haven't personally studied, rather than just favoring whatever special interest makes the most noise, or whatever position gives the best sound bites? Maybe we could stop measuring the performance of a legislature by the number of stupid laws it manages to inflict on the populace?
    • It's another case of "put up or shut up". You're right, of course - our freedoms are intrinsic rights of human beings, not gifts from Uncle Sam. But can't you see how frustrating it is to hear some guy bitch about a given issue, and how much he hates a law, and then learn he's too lazy to even vote - to even do anything about it? It pisses me off royally.

    • Re:Sigh... (Score:3, Insightful)

      by reimero ( 194707 )
      As a voter, you get the opportunity to speak your mind once every two years regarding federal matters. Sure, if you don't vote, you have the constitutional right to complain about it. However, if you do not vote, you have forfeited your most important voice. You see, we don't have time to be lobbiests and we don't have time to review every piece of legislation. That's why we take the time every 2 years to elect a member of the House of Representatives, every 4 years for a president and every 6 years for a Senator. By voting, you are saying that you either stand behind your representative or you are saying you really have issues with the job he's doing.

      I don't condemn people who don't vote, but if you are eligible and don't take the time to let your voice be heard when it counts, I have no sympathy for you. If you care enough to gripe, you should care enough to vote. Please note that I fully understand there are times it's impossible to vote and I sympathize with that. It's when you simply don't care enough to vote and then turn around and whine that I have little tolerance for.
  • by LionKimbro ( 200000 ) on Sunday September 16, 2001 @03:57PM (#2306310) Homepage

    Anyone notice that we are expected more and more to conform to popular viewpoints? Usually, disagreement is permissable, but now, if you disagree, you're called a terrorist.

    Look for internment camps. Like during WW2, they'll say, "We're doing this to protect them from our society."

    Think the Constitution & the Courts are going to save us? Tell that to the sons and daughters of Japanese-Americans that were interned. The 14th Amendment was blatently ignored.

    Think your rights are going to come right back? Yah right! When our rights did come back, it was only through the intense efforts of the 60's, and even then they didn't all come back. The 50's parents had a stick up their ass because they had just given up their rights and bent them selves into conformity during WW2. Did you know it's illegal to be a communist in Washington state? It's considered subversion, and still forbidden by law..!

    Why do we have to go to war? To save ourselves from Terrorists?!?

    What, after World War 3, the world will be safe from terroritsts forever? Nobody will ever think of being a Terrorist? What a crock of Shit!

    You can't stop people from being Terrorists. There's nothing you can do about it. The world is an unsafe people.

    So 5,000 people died and you want to do something about it. Want to do something about it? Drive safely! 40,000 people die every year through traffic accidents.

    Want to save lives? Look where you're going. 10,000 people die every year because they fell down.

    This country's nuts. I'm going to be called a "terrorist sympathiser" because I think the USA is full of Shit right now. I'm not going to fight for your war against terrorists (oops, there went hundreds of thousands of innocent people's lives- well, it's a "necessary" tradeoff to keep the world "safe").

  • I was looking to form a small group of people to create an online petition to block the banning of strong cryptography. I am not good at drafting these things up, and I feel it's importatnt that the issue and stance not just be in the petition, but also the reasoning why (such as, importantly, that banning crypto will not stop terrorists from using it, AT ALL.)

    I have permission to host it on my server at half-empty, giving us access to a connection at Exodus which would hopefully handle the load.

    Additionally, I am going to start working on a Java applet which will allow people to sign the petition via mouse (along with their printed name and voting district) in order to make it more official.

    I will take the responsibility of printing the petition out and sending it to the necessary parties.

    You may contact me at if you are interested in helping draft up the wording for the petition. Thanks.

  • I think Congress should do a formal declaration of War, just like in WWII. This will make it clear that there is a different set of rules in place temporarily and that these new rules will no longer apply once the war ends.

    If you don't formally declare, then you wind up eroding peacetime liberties, which won't be restored when war is over.
    • For this reason: Who, exactly, are we at war with? Afganistan? Bin Laden? Terrorists in general? Are we going to want to just pack it in after Bin Laden and the Taliban are dead? No, I didn't think so. Our government, rightly or wrongly, wants to eradicate the terrorist threat - but that's hard to put in a declaration of war.
  • Write them today, a short letter is fine, preferably hand written. Links to their addresses can be found at the bottom of the slashdot article.

    And if you're really clever, maybe you'll give your congressperson a snappy bit of speech to use on the floor...
  • This calls for more thorough investigation...can somebody please post some links to these sites?

    Though if truth be told, our elected representatives are probably simply trying to head off the censure they will receive if they are caught surfing porn:
    "I'm not not surfing porn...I'm looking for...looking for terror messages! Yeah, that's it...!
  • by AntiFreeze ( 31247 ) <.moc.liamg. .ta. .24ezeerfitna.> on Sunday September 16, 2001 @05:28PM (#2306619) Homepage Journal
    I can barely get through to my friends and family in New York. Getting through to my member of the House is almost impossible. Same goes with getting through to Schumer or Clinton.

    New York (and New Jersey, D.C., etc.) congressmen are probably bogged down with an incredible amount of correspondence concerning the incidents, and to me it seems like there is a high chance that a message about preserving your rights in America will get lost within the massive bulk of other correspondences.

    Contacting my members of Congress -- getting them to read or hear my thoughts -- is next to impossible to do by Friday the 21st. They're too understandably busy right now. This does not mean I will not write them: I will.

    So my question is this: what else can I do? Since contacting my representatives will not do as much as if I were a registered voter in Michigan, what other organizations or people should I try and contact? Is the EFF collecting donations to lobby for exactly this cause? Is someone else?

    I've got a hectic week (my office is five blocks north of the Trade Center) and tons to deal with. Who can I talk to that will be able to listen, if only for a minute?

  • This is going out to my Congressman in tomorrow's mail. The same thing with minor variations is also going to each of my State's Senators.

    (Note: On paper it is formatted properly.)
    * * *

    Rep. ,

    On Thursday, Sept. 13, 2001 the Honorable Senator Judd Gregg (R- New Hampshire) made a speed on the floor of the Senate calling for global prohibition on encryption products without backdoors for government surveillance.
    I am writing to express my vehement disagreement with this sentiment, and to urge you, as my duly elected Representative, to vote against any such bill that is presented to the House of Representatives.
    The National Counterintelligence Center ( coordinates the US Government's effort to identify and counter foreign intelligence threats to US national and economic security. They are staffed from counterintelligence (CI) and security professionals from the FBI, CIA, DIA, NSA, the Office of Secretary of Defense, the military services, and the Departments of State and Energy. In addition to annual reports presented to Congress, they also publish special reports about economic and industrial espionage and provide American businesses with materials to help them secure their valuable trade secrets.
    These reports detail the billions of dollars lost to American businesses and individuals each year due to economic and industrial espionage committed by foreign and domestic competitors. Many foreign governments are active in assisting their domestic businesses in economic espionage against U.S. interests. Specifically listed are China, Japan, France, Russia, Israel, Korea and others.
    Please notice that many of the countries listed are counted as U.S. allies.
    Strong encryption plays a crucial role in protecting vital U.S. assets in an ever more networked world. The use of strong encryption by terrorists and other undesirables is inevitable. Outlawing it will not provide any further measure of security, as they are criminals and by definition, will not comply with the law.
    In his zeal to act in the best interests of the American people, Sen. Gregg ignored the impossibility of enforcing a global ban on strong encryption. I doubt that in a clear moment he would honestly say that such a ban could be enforced in Libya, Iran, Sudan, Iraq, Afghanistan, Lebanon, Algeria, Bulgaria, China, North Korea and the dozens of other nations I did not list.
    In closing, I again urge you to intelligently consider the dangers of restricting American liberties through knee-jerk, feel-good legislation.
    As Benjamin Franklin said more than 200 years ago: "Those who are willing to trade freedom for security deserve neither freedom nor security."
  • "My country right or wrong" is going to get a VERY severe test here real soon. I really believe we are going to use a nuke before this is all over to show everybody thet they mess with the USA on our own soil at their peril. Check out this from today's "talking heads" on TV (from

    Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld this morning refused to rule out the use of nuclear weapons in America's coming battle with terrorists.

    Appearing on ABC's THIS WEEK, Rumsfeld was asked if a possible tactical nuclear strike would be used.

    "Can we rule out the use of nuclear weapons?" questioned ABC's Sam Donaldson.

    RUMSFELD: You know, that subject--we have an amazing accomplishment that's been achieved on the part of human beings. We've had this unbelievably powerful weapon, nuclear weapons, since what 55 years now plus, and it's not been fired in anger since 1945. That's an amazing accomplishment. I think it reflects a sensitivity on the part of successive presidents that they ought to find as many other ways to deal with problems as is possible.

    DONALDSON: I'll have to think about your answer. I don't think the answer was no.

    RUMSFELD: The answer was that that we ought to be very proud of the record of humanity that we have not used those weapons for 55 years. And we have to find as many ways possible to deal with this serious problem of terrorism.

    And if, Sam, you think of the loss of human life on Tuesday and then put in your head the reality that a number of countries today have other so-called asymmetrical threat capabilities--ballistic missiles, cruise missiles, chemical weapons, biological weapons, cyber warfare--these are the kinds of things that are used in this era the 21st century. And a germ warfare attack anywhere in the world would bring about losses of lives not in the thousands but in the millions.
  • by pangloss ( 25315 ) on Sunday September 16, 2001 @06:12PM (#2306798) Journal
    To paraphrase the original article:
    The question isn't, "Is privacy good?" but "What can we do to protect our privacy?"

    The problem I found when I started to think about presenting an intelligent argument to friends, let alone to elected representatives, was that in order to make a strong argument in favor of protecting our privacy, especially wrt strong encryption, was that I couldn't simply take as given, "privacy is good" when the opposing arguments may in fact agree with that position, yet simply add the ostensibly reasonable condition that we need to balance the need for a "reasonable" assurance of privacy against the need for ______ (e.g. public safety, etc.).

    The case for (and gaining public support for) protecting our privacy would be much simpler if the other side of the argument was pushing for an all-out Orwellian state with Thought Police and the like. That's not the case. The arguments in favor of limiting strong encryption and expanding government monitoring of communications are made in the context of protecting innocent people, by limiting the ability of criminal activity to escape detection. A sympathetic listener might foreseeably see the reasonableness of the argument.

    I believe we need to have realistic examples that people can relate to to understand why we need to protect our privacy. For example, I don't find Ellis' analogy of encrypted email to enclosing letters in an envelope compelling. If we're settling for PEEP (Paper Envelope Equivalent Privacy) ;) we're going to have a difficult time making a persuasive argument for protecting a level of encryption that requires the entire computing resources of the planet over the expected lifetime of the universe to circumvent. The other examples, such as patient record privacy or business secrets seem less compelling if the argument is that only certain government agencies would have access to the mandatory keys (and perhaps further protection along the lines of such intercepted/decrypted information could only be used if authorized by a warrant, etc.). Before I started writing this post, I took a (very) quick survey around some of the privacy rights web sites--I didn't feel like I found compelling arguments or examples as why "privacy is good". There's much more along the lines of current proposed legislation, surveys about how people feel about privacy, guidelines for e-commerce related privacy policies, etc. As I was trying to say earlier, taking "privacy as good" to be self-evident isn't as helpful in an argument that pits it against other equally "self-evident" principles (e.g. "protecting the lives of innocent people is good", "exposing criminal behavior that endangers others is good", etc.). The most "compelling" arguments I found on the various privacy related web sites were historical quotes, e.g.:
    "The right to be left alone -- the most comprehensive of rights, and the right most valued by a free people."
    - Justice Louis Brandeis, Olmstead v. U.S. (1928)
    "Those who are willing to trade freedom for security deserve neither freedom nor security."
    -Benjamin Franklin
    Great for 10-second spots, a little lacking otherwise.

    The other tack may be to demonstrate that the proposed curtailings of our civil liberties doesn't in fact curtail the resources available to (mildly) sophisticated criminals. (Incidentally, I think such arguments need to address the objection that while limiting the general public's legal access to strong encryption may not hinder a criminal's access to such encryption, it would raise a red flag when strong encryption is detected in passing traffic).

    I understand that one point of the original editorial could be taken as a call to simply be loud and try to match the other, not terribly well-reasoned side of the debate--basically, just get your viewpoint heard. But we ought to be able to back it up with rational argument if the need arises. So, maybe we could get a list/discussion here going about sound arguments for why privacy is good, even against other, "self-evident goods".

It is not for me to attempt to fathom the inscrutable workings of Providence. -- The Earl of Birkenhead