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Friday, October 04, 2013

Tor

As you may have guessed, the NSA has been targeting the Tor anonymity network -- as has the FBI. The NSA, we are told, is going after terrorists, while the Bureau is going after pedos.

Terrorists and pedos. Terrorists and pedos. Keep repeating until hypnotized. The state would never spy on people for political reasons. No no no. This is all about terrorists and pedos.

Tor, if you don't know, is a means of surfing the web anonymously. The basic idea is that your data bounces from node to node around the world in anonymous packets before reaching the final destination. Using this system, you can visit web pages and send email without revealing yourself. (TOR = The Onion Router.)

Here's a pdf of an NSA document released by our old friend Ed Snowden. This document outlines the NSA's plans to defeat the Mighty Tor using tools and tactics with amusing names -- including MJOLNIR. (Tor and Mjolnir...get it?) The NSA also has an in-house app called EGOTISTICALGIRAFFE. I look forward to SOLIPSISTICMOOSE and EMOTIONALLYUNSTABLEOTTER.

To your left, you will see the NSA's idea of what a terrorist looks like when he's using Tor. You can tell he's a terrorist because he has a long beard. If you grow a beard you can be a terrorist too! But you'll also need a little domino mask and a shirt that tells the world you're an expendable Star Trek crewmember. 

As Marcy Wheeler notes, Clapper has recently admitted that all of these tools and tactics are being used for counterintelligence purposes. That's worrisome. Counterintelligence is traditionally the reason given for domestic spying.
Of course, once you include counterintelligence (and threats to property) as a valid excuse to keep encrypted communications indefinitely and even to compromise people’s computers (see slide 16), particularly in an environment where leaks of even unclassified information are treated as spying, then the distinction between “citizens” and “targets” crumbles.
The Snowden document makes clear that the spooks would very much like to decrypt all Tor-routed communications. This stated goal upends the NSA's oft-heard disclaimer that they are only going after foreign communications. After all, you can't know whether a party using Tor is a foreigner until you decrypt the data. There is simply no way to maintain those much-vaunted "minimization" practices while stripping away anonymity.

Paranoia. We are seeing a growing degree of otiose paranoia directed against Ed Snowden and Glenn Greenwald. See here. Also here. I suppose that such weirdness is inevitable in times like these.

Weirdest of all is this guy, who seems perpetually pissed off because Snowden (like a million other young smarty-pants types) fell for the Libertarian okie-doke. As readers know, I'm a full-bore enemy of Ayn and all her works. But I'm also an advocate of privacy, and I'm not going to let unrelated disagreements over economic theory stop me from applauding someone who risked everything to expose NSA abuses. Besides, I happen to know that the guy who wrote that crap about Snowden was also mistrustful of Philip Agee, who became a CIA whistleblower after his politics took a sharp turn to the left.

(I don't think we're going to see more Agees -- at least, not any time soon. The Zeitgeist has shifted since the '70s. Until it shifts again, newer whistleblowers will have other motives.)

After mulling over the possibility that Snowden might have a hidden agenda, I've decided that he's the real deal, Libertarian warts and all. He is what he is.

Whistleblowers and muckrakers already have it tough enough. If "alternative" writers and pundits keep pissing on those few insiders who dare to speak up about what's really going on, then pretty soon we won't have any more whistleblowers.

Added note. James Clapper has a blog called IC on the Record. (IC stands for Intelligence Community.) Marcy calls it "I Con the Record." Very appropos.
Comments:
The best part of this story, though, is that TOR was originally sponsored by the US Navy and currently (well, one assumes not this week) receives 80% of its funding from the US government, primarily the State Department. Why? Because TOR was seen as a way for freedom-loving people to communicate without fear of being intercepted or overheard by invasive, authoritarian governments.

Like ours.
 
Don't underestimate that solipsistic moose, Joe.

Former high-ranking Soviet official B. Badenov has stated that the USSR would still exist if not for "subversive activities of moose and squirrel." ^_^
 
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