Skip to comments.Forced Exposure [A personal reaction to the surveillance state - Excellent]
Posted on 08/20/2013 9:38:05 AM PDT by No One Special
The owner of Lavabit tells us that he's stopped using email and if we knew what he knew, we'd stop too.
There is no way to do Groklaw without email. Therein lies the conundrum.
What to do?
Years ago, when I was first on my own, I arrived in New York City, and being naive about the ways of evil doers in big cities, I rented a cheap apartment on the top floor of a six-floor walkup, in the back of the building. That of course, as all seasoned New Yorkers could have told me, meant that a burglar could climb the fire escape or get to the roof by going to the top floor via the stairs inside and then through the door to the roof and climb down to the open window of my apartment.
That is exactly what happened. I wasn't there when it happened, so I wasn't hurt in any way physically. And I didn't then own much of any worth, so only a few things were taken. But everything had been pawed through and thrown about. I can't tell how deeply disturbing it is to know that someone, some stranger, has gone through and touched all your underwear, looked at all your photographs of your family, and taken some small piece of jewelry that's been in your family for generations.
If it's ever happened to you, you know I couldn't live there any more, not one night more. It turned out, by the way, according to my neighbors, that it was almost certainly the janitor's son, which stunned me at the time but didn't seem to surprise any of my more-seasoned neighbors. The police just told me not to expect to get anything back. I felt assaulted. The underwear was perfectly normal underwear. Nothing kinky or shameful, but it was the idea of them being touched by someone I didn't know or want touching them. I threw them away, unused ever again.
I feel like that now, knowing that persons I don't know can paw through all my thoughts and hopes and plans in my emails with you.
They tell us that if you send or receive an email from outside the US, it will be read. If it's encrypted, they keep it for five years, presumably in the hopes of tech advancing to be able to decrypt it against your will and without your knowledge. Groklaw has readers all over the world.
I'm not a political person, by choice, and I must say, researching the latest developments convinced me of one thing -- I am right to avoid it. There is a scripture that says, It doesn't belong to man even to direct his step. And it's true. I see now clearly that it's true. Humans are just human, and we don't know what to do in our own lives half the time, let alone how to govern other humans successfully. And it shows. What form of government hasn't been tried? None of them satisfy everyone. So I think we did that experiment. I don't expect great improvement.
I remember 9/11 vividly. I had a family member who was supposed to be in the World Trade Center that morning, and when I watched on live television the buildings go down with living beings inside, I didn't know that she had been late that day and so was safe. Does it matter, though, if you knew anyone specifically, as we watched fellow human beings hold hands and jump out of windows of skyscrapers to a certain death below or watched the buildings crumble into dust, knowing there were so many people just like us being turned into dust as well?
I cried for weeks, in a way I've never cried before, or since, and I'll go to my grave remembering it and feeling it. And part of my anguish was that there were people in the world willing to do that to other people, fellow human beings, people they didn't even know, civilians uninvolved in any war.
I sound quaint, I suppose. But I always tell you the truth, and that is what I was feeling. So imagine how I feel now, imagining as I must what kind of world we are living in if the governments of the world think total surveillance is an appropriate thing?
I know. It may not even be about that. But what if it is? Do we even know?
I don't know. What I do know is it's not possible to be fully human if you are being surveilled 24/7.
Harvard's Berkman Center had an online class on cybersecurity and internet privacy some years ago, and the resources of the class are still online. It was about how to enhance privacy in an online world, speaking of quaint, with titles of articles like, "Is Big Brother Listening?"
You'll find all the laws in the US related to privacy and surveillance there. Not that anyone seems to follow any laws that get in their way these days. Or if they find they need a law to make conduct lawful, they just write a new law or reinterpret an old one and keep on going. That's not the rule of law as I understood the term.
Anyway, one resource was excerpts from a book by Janna Malamud Smith,"Private Matters: In Defense of the Personal Life", and I encourage you to read it. I encourage the President and the NSA to read it too. I know. They aren't listening to me. Not that way, anyhow. But it's important, because the point of the book is that privacy is vital to being human, which is why one of the worst punishments there is is total surveillance:
One way of beginning to understand privacy is by looking at what happens to people in extreme situations where it is absent. Recalling his time in Auschwitz, Primo Levi observed that "solitude in a Camp is more precious and rare than bread." Solitude is one state of privacy, and even amidst the overwhelming death, starvation, and horror of the camps, Levi knew he missed it.... Levi spent much of his life finding words for his camp experience. How, he wonders aloud in Survival in Auschwitz, do you describe "the demolition of a man," an offense for which "our language lacks words."...I've quoted from that book before, back when the CNET reporters' emails were read by HP. We thought that was awful. And it was. HP ended up giving them money to try to make it up to them. Little did we know.
Ms. Smith continues:
Safe privacy is an important component of autonomy, freedom, and thus psychological well-being, in any society that values individuals. ... Summed up briefly, a statement of "how not to dehumanize people" might read: Don't terrorize or humiliate. Don't starve, freeze, exhaust. Don't demean or impose degrading submission. Don't force separation from loved ones. Don't make demands in an incomprehensible language. Don't refuse to listen closely. Don't destroy privacy. Terrorists of all sorts destroy privacy both by corrupting it into secrecy and by using hostile surveillance to undo its useful sanctuary.I hope that makes it clear why I can't continue.
There is now no shield from forced exposure. Nothing in that parenthetical thought list is terrorism-related, but no one can feel protected enough from forced exposure any more to say anything the least bit like that to anyone in an email, particularly from the US out or to the US in, but really anywhere. You don't expect a stranger to read your private communications to a friend. And once you know they can, what is there to say? Constricted and distracted. That's it exactly. That's how I feel.
So. There we are. The foundation of Groklaw is over. I can't do Groklaw without your input. I was never exaggerating about that when we won awards. It really was a collaborative effort, and there is now no private way, evidently, to collaborate.
I'm really sorry that it's so. I loved doing Groklaw, and I believe we really made a significant contribution. But even that turns out to be less than we thought, or less than I hoped for, anyway. My hope was always to show you that there is beauty and safety in the rule of law, that civilization actually depends on it. How quaint.
If you have to stay on the Internet, my research indicates that the short term safety from surveillance, to the degree that is even possible, is to use a service like Kolab for email, which is located in Switzerland, and hence is under different laws than the US, laws which attempt to afford more privacy to citizens. I have now gotten for myself an email there, p.jones at mykolab.com in case anyone wishes to contact me over something really important and feels squeamish about writing to an email address on a server in the US. But both emails still work. It's your choice.
My personal decision is to get off of the Internet to the degree it's possible. I'm just an ordinary person. But I really know, after all my research and some serious thinking things through, that I can't stay online personally without losing my humanness, now that I know that ensuring privacy online is impossible. I find myself unable to write. I've always been a private person. That's why I never wanted to be a celebrity and why I fought hard to maintain both my privacy and yours.
Oddly, if everyone did that, leap off the Internet, the world's economy would collapse, I suppose. I can't really hope for that. But for me, the Internet is over.
So this is the last Groklaw article. I won't turn on comments. Thank you for all you've done. I will never forget you and our work together. I hope you'll remember me too. I'm sorry I can't overcome these feelings, but I yam what I yam, and I tried, but I can't.
Thank you BTTT.
This is unbearably sad.
The dawning awareness, that we aren’t in Kansas any more Toto : |
This is a powerful reason to defund the NSA, prosecute the people who are letting it shit all over our liberties, and then impeach the President who is persecuting the one person who stood up to this tyranny.
You are essentially suggesting that the feds prosecute themselves for activities that it (the federal government) believes are legal and constitutional. Congress is going to wet itself trying to show the people how much it cares about privacy (but it only cares about its elite self), and there will as much "show" as Congress thinks is necessary to fool the public.
She already made herself a political target by mentioning scripture.
I continue to be amazed how a handfull of savages have frightened Americans into giving up everything to be “safe”
Never let a crisis go to waste.
A dirty nuke in a major city and we will all be running around naked, spreading our cheeks for inspection, and asking “May I have another, PLEASE...I’m Oh so scared.
If she's not willing to take a stand politically, she really has no grounds to complain.
Just encrypt your emails with PGP. How hard is that?
Earlier article here.
“You are essentially suggesting that the feds prosecute themselves for activities that it (the federal government) believes are legal and constitutional.”
No, I’m suggesting that our government no longer gives a damn about our Constitution and that it’s coming on time for the states to retake control of the Federal government and then try and execute those who have trampled on our rights so badly as to make King George III look like a libertarian.
“Just encrypt your emails with PGP. How hard is that?”
Do you really think PGP hasn’t been breached?
Well, you suggested defunding the NSA, that's not a state function, and impeaching the president, and that's not a state function either. Likewise, the prosecution (of those responsible) would be, I think, for federal constitutional violations, and that issue will ultimately land in a federal court.
My point was that the federal courts and Congress are skilled at lip service, and won't do anything to curtail the power and encroachment of the federal government. The federal government is all about (and I agree, it is unconstitutional) expansion of its own power.
When the states have stood up to the feds, for example Arizona on immigration, the feds won the battle - every . single . time.
I agree with you that a government, any government, is like a living being, a monster that wants to continually grow larger and more powerful at the expense of the governed. Checks and balances are supposed to stop government overreach, and when they don't there's no going back to what we've lost.
But at some point that big, bloated, over-reaching government has to collapse. When (not if) it does, things will become more local. Some areas will do okay, some not so much. I'm coming to think that the sooner the global and federal governments collapse, the better. At least now, there are still some people who have acquired survival skills. What's it going to be like in a few more generations, if there's no one left who knows how to survive?
How quaint. How precious.
What she (and you) obviously don't understand is that the "rule of law" has EVERYTHING to do with politics...because if you're being mugged, it does little good to wave a copy of the Constitution at the mugger.
We were given this Republic, and we've done a poor job of keeping it.
Normally I’d buy the ‘eventual collapse’ argument.
However, I propose that the recent oil and gas discoveries have taken our government off life support and extended the time until collapse almost indefinitely.
You think that public key cryptography has been broken? Why do you think that and what are you doing on the internet if you believe that to be true?
GIVE ME LIBERTY OR GIVE ME DEATH.
What happened to that powerful understanding?
Everyone should be free to have private lives and communication. Not just the elite.
We couldn’t keep it, Ben.
I’m envious of the kids who don’t KNOW about the wonderful human experiment in liberty the Founders started. I grew up believing it with all my heart and soul. So I am the one sad now.
Then it’s getting on time for a revolution. That or we just sit back and become good little slaves.
“You think that public key cryptography has been broken?”
Call me paranoid, but I suspect that PGP is a maskirovka that was created by the NSA in the first place. What better way to lull people into complacency about their communications than to provide them with an encryption protocol that was designed by the NSA?
It’s no different than the free Outlook email plugin called “Incredimail” that turned out to be spyware created by the Israeli Mossad.
Why hack people’s computers when you can just give them a Trojan Horse that they’ll willingly use?
Encryptions are suspect to me for the simple reason that I’m getting it for free or at an affordable price and then the NSA has billions of dollars in resources at their disposal to break them...or like I said, make them.
One-time cipher pads are the only way to go if anyone wants secure communications. They’re hard to use but they’re unbreakable all the same so long as you only use them once and then only for short messages.
PKE solves the problem of the one time pad, how do you distribute the keys securely? If Groklaw is concerned that the NSA is reading their email, then they can post a public key which anyone can use to encrypt a symmetric key of their choosing and encrypt the email with the symmetric key. They use their private key to decrypt the symmetric key and then use it to decrypt the email. There are lots of programs that implement this protocol, you can even compile it yourself if you want more security. The sender and receiver don't have to use the same programs.
Most people don't bother, but this would solve Pamela's problem if she really wants to.
Surveillance of law-abiding American citizens by Big Brother is unlawful. However, Big Brother has shown a penchant for not following the law as long as the dictator is in office.
On the other hand, if one does not email anything that is suspicious then one need not worry about email.
That doesn't do much to cloak the sender and receiver's ID or other metadata.
She dances right past her right decision, so she claims, not to be "a political person."
She may get past that, down the line, but who has time to listen to someone excusing irresponsibility.
If you will not become involved in politics, be assured politics will become involved with you.
That doesn't do much to cloak the sender and receiver's ID or other metadata.
Well if that concerns you, you could set up your own private mail server on your own domain or even at just an ip address. If someone wanted to send you an anonymous (encrypted) message they could use a public internet hotspot and connect to your email server directly. Your traffic can still be sniffed and/or archived, but if it is encrypted there is no way to tie it to anyone.
I'm dubious about this excuse as to why Groklaw is closing. It certainly is their right to close, but this sows unnecessary fear, uncertainty and doubt. There is some speculation on Slashdot that Groklaw received a National Security letter of their own, but that doesn't seem likely. They aren't offering secure communications like Lavabit or Hushmail, so there isn't a reason for tap on their comms. It seems contrived.
“Its no different than the free Outlook email plugin called Incredimail that turned out to be spyware created by the Israeli Mossad.”
I am with you so often here on FR, but I just wasted 30 minutes going thru pages of google links (talk about spying...) trying to find a verifiable source for your allegation, and all I found were similar comments by sand-nazis and the paulistinians who lick the *ss of the sand-nazis.
“One-time cipher pads are the only way to go if anyone wants secure communications. Theyre hard to use but theyre unbreakable all the same so long as you only use them once and then only for short messages.”
Which, imho, leaves out anything but “meet me tonight at the bonfire, and be sure and bring your bong!”
Please correct me if you have better intel.
During the Cuban Missile Crisis I remember planes going overhead every few minutes. Our SAC guys were trying to keep as much in the air as possible so if we were hit by nukes they would already be in the air and ready to hit the USSR.
Scary times - but not so scary the government attacked the privacy of citizens. People back then had a sense of prospective... and an awareness fear was something to stand up to - not a crisis that shouldn't be wasted. Our leaders didn't act like hysterical women...
Hysteria would come years later when a few dozen Islamist ran planes (ours - they didn't have the money to buy planes) into buildings. We were attacked - not by a country or an army - not even by planes with nuclear bombs... just a few dozen lowlifes. And for this - for these lowlifes - we gave up our privacy? Our freedoms? It's nuts. Paranoid and stupid.
Read it again, twice, with empathy. Her feelings may not be yours but they are valid.
Actually one would want to use an IP address that belongs to someone else, preferably on a cleanly compromised system, if one's goal was to prevent identification from the To: path, in the same way the sender would want to use a public access point with no way to ID the user.
Obviously other IP and user cloaking schemes could be used as well, but all of that pretty much eliminates the idea of a blog or newsroom with a "tip line".
All excessive surveillance does is encourage the development of alternative communication paths which are harder to gather intelligence from, which ultimately reduces the ability to gather necessary intelligence.
Was then Secretary of the Treasury Timmy Geithner the original author of the IRS harassment policy towards the TEA Party?
Wow. Powerful...both the article and Ms Jones’ amazingly effective writing style.
She writes from the heart about things of the heart, always the most worthwhile sort of writing.