Look at Me

Look at me, my name is in the news!

Binney was joined by a panel that included Todd Pierce, a retired U.S. Army judge advocate general corps officer, cryptographer Christopher Burg and moderator Tony Styles to discuss the controversies surrounding the Patriot Act and NSA surveillance.

This is my fifteen minutes of “fame”, bear with me. It’s actually a good overview of the panel discussion I had the privilege of being on. If you haven’t and don’t want to watch the video this article gives the thumbnail summary. By the way, I’m not actually a cryptographer and am not sure how that title was attached to my name. Oh well.

Thou Shalt Not Discuss Manufacturing Firearms

The United States government has been trying fruitlessly to stifle the spread of any information it deems inappropriate for centuries (at least since the passage of the Alien and Sedition Acts). Back in the 1990s the government was trying to restrict the sharing of information about of strong cryptography, claiming such algorithms were munitions (I’m not making this up). Now the government is doubling down on its stupidity and trying to prevent the sharing of information related to manufacturing 3D printed firearms:

As readers of Reason know well, Cody Wilson is living proof the government has already been acting on the belief they have this power to prevent certain technical details about gun making from spreading to the Internet without their approval—in Wilson’s case, CAD files to for a 3D printed plastic handgun. And they’ve already been sued for it by Wilson.

Wilson this morning tells me that in making this regulatory move public, it’s almost like the people he’s suing are begging for an injunction to stop them. The proposed regulation is even signed by one of the same people Wilson is suing, C. Edward Peartree, director of the Office of Defense Trade Controls Policy. (One might argue that this is a person being sued in some sense backtracking to cover his own legal ass by stating that the seemingly objectionable actions he’s being sued over are settled lawful regulations, though I don’t know if a court would agree with that argument one way or the other.)

The State Department, Wilson says, could have gone to the next hearing on his case on July 6 “and say we are changing the rule, we will address [Wilson’s complaints about the 1st, 2nd, and 5th amendment issues with their censorious practice], moot the case.” Instead they are “completely explicit” with these new announced regs, “doubling down” on their supposed power to require government license for certain kinds of speech related to weapons usable for self-defense.

Wilson says his suit had to try to demonstrate that the government had such a policy for prior approval of speech. Now the government is “saying our policy is literally that there is such a requirement and always has been.” Wilson seems to think it might make it easier to get an injunction against the government’s threats to him to take down from his servers information related to the home-making of plastic guns via 3D printers. We’ll see.

Attempts to restrict the proliferation of information don’t worry me. The state can write as many laws as it wants but in the end people will always ignore restrictions on sharing information. Thanks to strong cryptographic tools, which the state tried but failed to control in the 1990s, it’s trivial for people to post and read information anonymously. And the task will only become more futile as the state tightens its grip. Arrests, charges, prosecutions, and imprisonments will encourage more and more people to utilize tools such as Tor to protect their anonymity. As more people use these tools the task of the state to identify and attack sharers of information will become more infeasible.

This battle has been waging since at least the invention of the printing press and will continue to wage until humanity rids itself of the yoke of statism. But it is a battle that the state can never win because it is only a handful of individuals going against the collected creativity of the masses.

If You Defend Eric Casebolt You Are an Idiot

I haven’t discussed the event in McKinney, Texas because, sadly, stories of police abuse are so frequent that it’s hard to say anything new about them. But idiots rising to defend badged abusers have managed to piss me off enough to write a post. For those of you who aren’t familiar with the situation this video will explain everything:

Thank the gods for people who record the police.

The officer who threw the girl to the ground and kept her pinned is Eric Casebolt. He recently resigned from the force in the hopes of dodging any consequences for actions. That hardly seems necessary though when so many neocons are willing to rise to his defense. Believe it or not there are a lot of people justifying what Casebolt did.

What could possibly justify an officer rushing into a crowd of non-threatening teenagers, run around like a rabid dog, and toss an obviously unarmed girl to the ground? That depends on which idiot is defending him. One of the most common justifications given is the number of teenagers present.

Apparently there is some number, one that none of these abuse apologists will provide, of people present where an officer can transition from a calm and collected professional into a psychotic abuser. It doesn’t matter that the teenagers in the video are obviously non-threatening. It doesn’t matter that the attire of most of the teenagers, especially the girl thrown to the ground, makes it almost entirely impossible for them to conceal a weapon. The simple fact that there are so many of them gives the officer justification to abuse that girl according to these boot lickers.

A lot of abuse defenders have been making a point of the teenagers failing to cooperate with the officers. Failing to cooperate in this case must mean failing to kowtow immediately because none of the teenagers appear to be engaging the officers. Standing idly by as a psychotic nutball runs around screaming threats of violence is not failing to cooperate; it’s actually an exceptionally polite way to deal with the situation. Those teenagers had every right to tackle that officer to the ground as soon as he began assaulting that girl.

“Totality of the situation” is a phrase being favored by these boot lickers. What particular aspects of this situation when combined justify this situation? Who knows. I honestly suspect “totality of the situation” is code for “too many black youths being present” because I can’t see any justification for the violent displayed by the officer in that video.

Simply put, everybody who has been defending Casebolt is an idiot. They are the reason for this country has become a tyrannical police state. Coldbolt should be arrested and tried for assault just as anybody else not wearing a badge would have been in that situation. He should compensate the girl he assaulted an amount agreed upon by a jury because she is the victim and deserves redress. Unless the law applies to everybody equally and wrongs are expected to be righted as much as possible a society cannot consider itself free.

It Wasn’t Enough to Just Silence Ross Ulbricht

The railroading of Ross Ulbricht, whose only crime was to host a website that made buying and selling illicit drugs safer, was sentenced to life in prison so he would serve as an example to anybody else thinking of doing the same. But silencing Ulbricht wasn’t enough. Now the state is moving to silence people who believed the charges and sentence were absurd:

The United States Department of Justice is using federal grand jury subpoenas to identify anonymous commenters engaged in typical internet bluster and hyperbole in connection with the Silk Road prosecution. DOJ is targeting Reason.com, a leading libertarian website whose clever writing is eclipsed only by the blowhard stupidity of its commenting peanut gallery.

Why is the government using its vast power to identify these obnoxious asshats, and not the other tens of thousands who plague the internet?

Because these twerps mouthed off about a judge.

Freedom of speech only exists so long as you don’t say something that the state disagrees with. Mind you, some of the commenters said some shitty things. Some may even consider them threats if not for the fact they were posted online, which is the capital of impotent rage. In fact we know the state doesn’t usually care about threatening language as can be seen by it’s completely lack of action against the Gamer Gate community. But when such speech is directed at a holy robed one the rules change and names must be obtained!

This is why, more than ever, tools for preserving anonymity are necessary. If you’re going to comment about one of the state’s misdeeds it would be wise to do so through Tor. Failing to do so could result in you facing charges for posting offensive comments.

The Libertarian “Fantasy”

Gods bless Mother Jones. Between Slate and itself there are enough criticisms about libertarianism based on entirely fabricated claims to fill an encyclopedia. Take the latest shot fired by Mother Jones aimed at the predominance of men in libertarianism:

Jeet Heer investigates a burning question today: why are most libertarians men? He offers several plausible explanations, but I think he misses the real one, perhaps because it’s pretty unflattering to libertarians.

So here’s the quick answer: Hardcore libertarianism is a fantasy. It’s a fantasy where the strongest and most self-reliant folks end up at the top of the heap, and a fair number of men share the fantasy that they are these folks. They believe they’ve been held back by rules and regulations designed to help the weak, and in a libertarian culture their talents would be obvious and they’d naturally rise to positions of power and influence.

The reason this is such a laughable criticism is because it’s being made by a statist publication. Advocates of statism suffer the biggest fantasy of all. Not only do they believe a handful of people who know best must be given ultimate power over the ignorant (their word) masses but they believe that their advocacy of statism qualifies them to hold one of those positions of power.

Libertarianism is the belief that nobody is qualified to hold power over another. It is the antithesis of power fantasies. Statism teaches that a handful of people know what’s best for everybody else and that the best society can be achieved by giving those people a truncheon with which to smash anybody who disobeys in the face. On the opposite side of the spectrum is libertarianism, which teaches that the best society can be achieved by individuals peacefully cooperating with one another. Under libertarianism there is no heap on which the “strongest and most self-reliant” can sit. Libertarianism doesn’t get suckered into the claim that the “rules and regulations” are designed to help the weak. Instead libertarianism recognizes that individuals given ultimate power will use that power for personal gain.

Even advocates of statism admit that the, according to them, shitty world we live in today is actually the product of their own philosophy. Critics of libertarianism often submit the fact that there isn’t a pure libertarian society as proof that it’s unworkable. But they fail to recognized that such a claim also admits that all of today’s social ills; including the overwhelming power held by corporations, unaccountable police, and the preference of military invasion of mutually beneficial trade; are the products of statism. I’m always amused by the simultaneous claim that libertarian doesn’t exist and it’s at fault for the world’s social ills but I digress. Statists are correct in their admission because these social ills require positions of power to manifest. They require a heap on which the “strongest and most self-reliant” can sit. And that heap only exists in a society with coercive hierarchy, i.e. a state.

One can argue why there are more men than women in libertarianism, which is something it shares with other social and political philosophies, but claiming it’s because it fulfills power fantasies of men isn’t a valid argument.

The Only Solution for Marriage Equality

The problem with suffering under a state for the entirety of your life is that you become conditioned to seeing everything as a political solution. Take the issue of same-sex marriage. Same-sex marriage has been a political hot button issue in recent years. One side, the sane one, wants same-sex couples to enjoy the same privileges and heterosexual couples while the other side, the insane one that believes legislating morality is good policy, oppose the idea. The first side wants to legalize same-sex marriage whereas the other side wants to keep it illegal. Too few, due to conditioning instilled by a life under statism, ask the import question, why is the state involved in marriage at all?

Marriage, after all, is nothing more than voluntary association. Two or more people, sometimes under religious rules and sometimes not, decide they want to enter an agreement that typically involves sharing property and power of attorney. It seems that Alabama is the first state where this question was genuinely considered and it resulted in the abolition of marriage licenses:

Why are there marriage “licenses” – a permission slip granted or denied by the state – rather than just contracts like any other? Why does government stand in the position to veto the choices of two people who want to commit to each other?

These are questions that the Alabama Senate considered in May this year. The result was the passage of Senate Bill 377, supported by 22 senators and opposed by only 3. Under this legislation, licenses would no longer exist for marriage. Marriage would become a plain contract filed with the Probate offices.

In effect, this would restore the traditional role of law in marriage as it has existed in most times and places, before the racially motivated and eugenically inspired idea of “marriage licenses” came along in the early part of the 20th century.

Being a political solution I wouldn’t be surprised if something was inserted to fuck certain classes of people over (say polygamous groups) but it’s certainly a more sane solution than deciding whether certain forms of marriage should be legal or illegal.

Religious aspects of marriage, when applicable, should remain exclusively in the hands of the religious. The contractual aspects of marriage should remain in the hands of the individuals entering the arrangement and their representatives (and, if things fall apart, their chosen party to resolve the dispute). The idea that the state, which is the most immoral institution in the world, should be allowed to grant or refuse permission is ludicrous. How, exactly, is an organization build on theft, kidnapping, assault, and murder a good moral judge for deciding whether or not individuals can voluntarily enter a contractual arrangement? I’m glad everybody isn’t trapped in the legalize or prohibit mentality.

Clearing Your Browser History? That’s a Felony!

“Obey the letter of the law,” is a phrase shouted by the touch on crime crowd. They believe all laws, not matter how asinine, should be obeyed exactly as written and if you fail to do so you deserve everything that comes to you. It’s an attitude that requires a complete lack of critical thinking ability, especially today when so many laws are so ridiculous that it’s impossible to actually comply with them. Furthermore the volumes of legalese that rule our lives are so large that it’s impossible to know every law. For example, did you know that it’s a felony to clear your browser history under certain circumstances? I bet you didn’t. But it is:

Khairullozhon Matanov is a 24-year-old former cab driver from Quincy, Massachusetts. The night of the Boston Marathon bombings, he ate dinner with Tamerlan and Dhzokhar Tsarnaev at a kebob restaurant in Somerville. Four days later Matanov saw photographs of his friends listed as suspects in the bombings on the CNN and FBI websites. Later that day he went to the local police. He told them that he knew the Tsarnaev brothers and that they’d had dinner together that week, but he lied about whose idea it was to have dinner, lied about when exactly he had looked at the Tsarnaevs’ photos on the Internet, lied about whether Tamerlan lived with his wife and daughter, and lied about when he and Tamerlan had last prayed together. Matanov likely lied to distance himself from the brothers or to cover up his own jihadist sympathies—or maybe he was just confused.

Then Matanov went home and cleared his Internet browser history.

Matanov continued to live in Quincy for over a year after the bombings. During this time the FBI tracked him with a drone-like surveillance plane that made loops around Quincy, disturbing residents. The feds finally arrested and indicted him in May 2014. They never alleged that Matanov was involved in the bombings or that he knew about them beforehand, but they charged him with four counts of obstruction of justice. There were three counts for making false statements based on the aforementioned lies and—remarkably—one count for destroying “any record, document or tangible object” with intent to obstruct a federal investigation. This last charge was for deleting videos on his computer that may have demonstrated his own terrorist sympathies and for clearing his browser history.

Matanov faced the possibility of decades in prison—twenty years for the records-destruction charge alone.

Federal prosecutors charged Matanov for destroying records under the Sarbanes-Oxley Act, a law enacted by Congress in the wake of the Enron scandal. The law was, in part, intended to prohibit corporations under federal investigation from shredding incriminating documents. But since Sarbanes-Oxley was passed in 2002 federal prosecutors have applied the law to a wider range of activities. A police officer in Colorado who falsified a report to cover up a brutality case was convicted under the act, as was a woman in Illinois who destroyed her boyfriend’s child pornography.

Prosecutors are able to apply the law broadly because they do not have to show that the person deleting evidence knew there was an investigation underway. In other words, a person could theoretically be charged under Sarbanes-Oxley for deleting her dealer’s number from her phone even if she were unaware that the feds were getting a search warrant to find her marijuana. The application of the law to digital data has been particularly far-reaching because this type of information is so easy to delete. Deleting digital data can inadvertently occur in normal computer use, and often does.

Matanov is the victim of a practice that is far too common in the United States. Wanting to nail him to the wall the state applied every law it could to increase the number of charges. It’s the legal version of throwing everything at the wall and seeing what sticks. With the massive library of laws available to a prosecutor it’s impossible for any individual to avoid being charged with something. In this case one of the charges was applied simply because he cleared his browser history.

What’s most worrisome about this case is that no sane person would consider clearing their browser history a felony unless, perhaps, they knew they were being investigated. But even that final case is irrelevant here because Sarbanes-Oxley doesn’t leave any exception for an individual being entirely unaware that they’re being investigated.

When laws are so numerous that nobody can know them all and so ridiculous that no sane person can comprehend them then the trial system ceases to be fair as it advantages the prosecution to an insurmountable degree.

If You’re Not Paying for the Service You’re the Product

There ain’t no such thing as a free lunch (TANSTAAFL) is a phrase made famous by Heinlein’s The Moon is a Harsh Mistress. In the book the people who inhabit the moon periodically say “TANSTAAFL,” as a reminder that nothing comes for free. The Internet has become the biggest embodiment of this fact. Most Internet services are “free.” Gmail, Facebook, and Twitter are just a handful of examples of services that cost users nothing and are therefore advertised as free. Anybody who understands the concept behind TANSTAAFL knows that these services aren’t free. In fact if you’re not paying for a service then there’s a very good chance that you’re the product. Normally this means your personal information is sold to advertisers but sometimes an Internet company takes things to the next level. Hola, a virtual private networks (VPN) provider that offered its service for “free”, is an example of this:

Hola is easy-to-use browser plugin available in the Google Chrome Store with currently more than 6 Million downloads. But, unfortunately, Hola could be used by hackers to maliciously attack websites, potentially putting its users at risk of being involved in illegal or abusive activities.

Hola uses a peer-to-peer system to route users’ traffic. So, if you are in Denmark and wants to watch a show from America, you might be routed through America-based user’s Internet connections.

However, Hola is not leaving a chance to make money out of a free service. It has been selling access to users’ bandwidth for profit to a third-party service called Luminati, which then re-sells the connections, Hola founder Ofer Vilenski confirmed.

I would never trust a free service provider that required me to install special client software because of the threat of shit like this. Facebook and Twitter are limited in the damage they can do by the fact that their service doesn’t rely on local software (unless you use their apps on your mobile device). Neither service can, for example, sell your bandwidth. Hola, which relied on a Chrome plugin, could because it had software resident on its users’ systems. If somebody is offering a “free” service but requires the installation of special software just remember TANSTAAFL. Since it’s free you’re the product and with resident software on your system the service provider can offer its real customers a lot more than a mere web page can.

Full Video of the Panel Discussion with William Binney, Todd Pierce, and Myself

I said I’d post video of the panel discussion once it was available. Robin Hensel was good enough to upload the video to YouTube very quickly. There are two videos. Here’s part one:

Here’s part two:

Now if you’ll excuse me I have an e-mail server to beat with a wrench. Do you want some valuable life advice? Ubuntu Server is not a good base to build an e-mail server on. The repository still has Dovecot 2.2.9 even though the latest version is 2.2.18. I also had a hell of a time getting it to actually disable SSLv3 (I disabled it in the config file, restarted the service, and found that I could still connect via SSLv3 with openssl s_client -connect).