We’re All Terrorists Now

In many governmental circles I’m considered a terrorist sympathizer. Why? It’s not because I’ve sold arms to terrorists or provided them logistical support. It’s because I teach people how to use secure communication tools, which can get you arrested in certain parts of the world:

Samata Ullah, 33, was charged with six terrorism offences after being arrested in a street in Cardiff on September 22 by officers from Scotland Yard’s counter-terrorism squad.

The charge sheet includes one count of preparation of terrorism “by researching an encryption programme, developing an encrypted version of his blog site, and publishing the instructions around the use of [the] programme on his blog site.”

Ullah is also accused of knowingly providing “instruction or training in the use of encryption programmes” in relation to “the commission or preparation of acts of terrorism or for assisting the commission or preparation by others of such acts.”

He has additionally been charged with being in possession of a “Universal Serial Bus (USB) cufflink that had an operating system loaded on to it for a purpose connected with the commission, preparation, or instigation of terrorism.”

This is the nightmare Orwell alluded to in Animal Farm and Nineteen Eighty-Four. The State has become so controlling that merely providing an encrypted version of your blog, which I am currently doing since my blog is served exclusively over HTTPS, can be considered noteworthy enough to mention on a list of charges. The same goes for USB cufflinks. We are at a point that even mundane activities can be labeled criminal offenses if the State decides thrust the word terrorism upon you.

I have no doubts that this will come to the United States. The United Kingdom seems to be where new tyrannies are birthday and the United States seems to be where tyrannies go to grow up. And anybody who watched the hearings surrounding Farook’s iPhone, which the Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI) wanted to force Apple to break into, knows that the United States government is already at war with cryptography. If it passes a law mandating all domestic encryption include a government accessible back door I’ll be a criminal for teaching people how to use secure foreign encryption.

2 thoughts on “We’re All Terrorists Now”

  1. Some of the comments at arstechnica claim that he’s only being charged for using encryption to further a crime, not simply for using encryption, but like you, I see a slippery slope toward making encryption per se a crime. And sheesh, what next? “Man charged with consuming food in furtherance of a crime”? There are WAY too many laws on the books, one of the reasons prosecutors can string together dozens of charges carrying 8,000 years of prison, then frighten people into pleading guilty to something they’re innocent of. If this guy was in fact credibly plotting to commit an act of terrorism, charge him for that. Leave off the “use of a pencil to facilitate terrorism” charge and the rest of the dross.

    1. The whole idea that being charged with a mundane activity because it “furthers a crime” is so vague that it is no different than charging somebody for the activity itself. Especially when you consider the fact that the average working professional commits three felonies a day. Simply typing at a computer could be seen as furthering the commission of a crime if the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act is coming into play.

      Claiming that the charges are for using encryption to further a crime is no different in any meaningful sense than saying the charges are for using encryption.

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