The State, by claiming to provide for the common defense and declaring a monopoly on justice, has a conflict of interest. Providing for the common defense would require it to disclose any vulnerabilities it discovers but it’s reliant on those vulnerabilities to obtain evidence to prosecute individuals accused of a crime.
Adding a new chapter to this ongoing saga is the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s (FBI) decision to fight a court order to reveal a vulnerability it used to uncover the identify of Tor users:
Last month, the FBI was ordered to reveal the full malware code used to hack visitors of a dark web child pornography site. The judge behind that decision, Robert J. Bryan, said it was a “fair question” to ask how exactly the FBI caught the defendant.
But the agency is pushing back. On Monday, lawyers for the Department of Justice filed a sealed motion asking the judge to reconsider, and also provided a public declaration from an FBI agent involved in the investigation.
In short, the FBI agent says that revealing the exploit used to bypass the protections offered by the Tor Browser is not necessary for the defense and their case. The defense, in previous filings, has said they want to determine whether the network investigative technique (NIT)—the FBI’s term for a hacking tool—carried out additional functions beyond those authorised in the warrant.
People around the world rely on tor to protect themselves from tyrannical regimes. Journalists living in countries such as Iran, China, and Thailand are only able to continue reporting on human rights violations because Tor protects their identities. Sellers and consumers of verboten drugs, neither of whom are causing involuntary harm to anybody, successfully used Tor hidden services to make their trade safer. Victims of domestic abuse rely on Tor to get access to help without being discovered by their abusers. By refusing to publish the vulnerability it used, the FBI is putting all of these individuals in danger.
On another point, I must also emphasize that that the FBI is claiming the defense doesn’t need to know this information, which speaks volumes to the egotistical nature of the agency. Who is the FBI to decide what the defense needs to know and doesn’t need to know? Being the prosecuting party should already disqualify the FBI’s opinion on the matter due to its obvious conflict of interest.