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Encryption Security

Interim Response from Philip Zimmermann 305

Posted by Roblimo
from the getting-out-of-hand dept.
The little No Regrets about PGP piece from Philip Zimmermann and the associated interview "call for questions" we ran on Sept. 24 seems to have stirred up quite a ruckus. Apparently online crypto has become such a hot button issue that it is impossible to hold a rational conversation on the topic right now. Because of this, instead of answering the interview questions, Philip sent us a brief statement. We'll try to interview him (and other crypto experts) later, after passions die down a bit.

Overreaction to Washington Post Article

It seems that my recent clarification of how I was represented in the 21 September Washington Post article has itself created a deluge of harsh criticism of the Washington Post and the reporter who wrote the article.

People seem to be assuming the Washington Post is part of some grand conspiracy to restrict the availability of strong cryptography. I would like to say that this is an overreaction and a misinterpretation on the part of these critics.

I believe this was an honest misunderstanding by the people at the Post, and I never meant to imply in my previous clarification that this was done on purpose or with any malicious intent. On the contrary, I believe the Post worked hard to be fair in the story and had the best of intentions when they ran it.

Further, I'd like to say that all the individual facts and quotes were reported correctly. But the Post connected the dots in a slightly different way to conclude that I was feeling guilty even though I was simply feeling grief and anger just like everyone else since the attacks occurred. Overall, I thought the article was fine except for that one line that says I was "overwhelmed with guilt."

My purpose for sending out my original clarification was not to criticize the Post but to assure everyone that I am still standing firm on my convictions that PGP and other strong encryption products should be available to the public, with no back doors.

Through the years of coverage the Post has given the issue of cryptography restrictions, I have never detected any bias at the Post to promote restrictions on crypto. In fact, if they have any bias at all, it seems to be in the other direction. They helped me when I needed to keep the Justice Department at bay in 1995. We will need them again in the coming weeks as we in the crypto community attempt to keep the freedoms we have, as legislators try to impose new restrictions on strong crypto.

I find this jihad of criticism of the Post to be inappropriate. I can easily tell from talking with the reporter that her intentions were good. It is grossly unfair to punish her with all this hate mail. It's embarrassing to me and damaging to her. If anyone in the world of journalism wants any further clarification from me on that reporter's competence or journalistic integrity, feel free to call me directly and I will explain it to you in more detail.

I am in London at a data security conference, without as much Internet access as I have at home, so I cannot keep writing about this matter for much longer. I hope this letter is enough to put this matter to rest.

Sincerely,
Philip Zimmermann

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Version: PGP 7.0.3

iQA/AwUBO7ILqcdGNjmy13leEQLryACfffYuStFXNTC0aWnJStMEAWsbQSgAn0ID d2bqoxnEbABk+1V/edlzC84A =uBHG
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Interim Response from Philip Zimmermann

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  • hmm. (Score:4, Insightful)

    by hypergreatthing (254983) on Thursday September 27, 2001 @07:02AM (#2357524)
    i think the whole idea of purposly misinterpeting the interview had to do with the line that went something along this -> "I asked her to repeat the interview back to me and i told her that i was not feeling guilty for making PGP ect., but when it got to print, the editors decided to change it around ...". If that's not purposly changing his words around, i dunno what is.
    • Re:hmm. (Score:5, Insightful)

      by nlvp (115149) on Thursday September 27, 2001 @07:24AM (#2357572)
      He also made it very clear that he thought the mistake was due to overwork, and the general tone of his article was not critical to the Washington Post, but rather trying to clear up a misunderstanding.

      Zimmerman comes across as constructive and considered precisely because he spends more time trying to clear up the facts rather than point the finger at everyone in sight, blame the establishment and cry conspiracy at the top of his voice. It's precisely because his contributions to discussions are so considered that he has reached a position where his opinions carry a lot of weight.

      Anyone who was expecting a similarly considered reaction from Slashdot (as a whole, not individuals), was obviously being a little optimistic. Most of the posts seemed to indicate that the most people got out of Zimmerman's letter was that the Washington Post had misrepresented him - they then went on their (somewhat predictable) anti-WP crusade as they perceived one of their heroes to have been slighted.

      Thank goodness the hero himself has the presence of mind to calm things down before they get out of hand. But I doubt the reaction did much to endear the Slashdot crowd to him. At least he knows where to go if he needs to rally some unconsidered fanatical support.

      Disclaimer: I am not making comments directed at any individual post, but at a theme that ran through a number of posts in the other thread, so don't take it personally.

    • by ishark (245915)
      I agree with you, but I think (fear?) that it doesn't come from some conspiration against crypto, but from the fact that often newspapers tend to "correct" reality a bit in order to make their articles sound more "strong". I've witnessed this happen a couple of times. After all, normal, flat life and feelings are a bit too "grey" to attract the public. A nice black/white strikes much more....

      • newspapers tend to "correct" reality a bit in order to make their articles sound more "strong".

        So, shouldn't media be required to publish a little disclaimer somewhere, "The events in these reports have been dramatized for theatrical purposes." I've long been wary of the media's attemps to blur the line between reality and fantasy, particularly in a democracy, and even more so during a crisis. Sure it makes big bucks for Hollywood to get people to suspend disbelief, but that's not appropriate for an organ that claims to be some journal of record.

    • At mediadishonesty.com [mediadishonesty.com] there is a media dishonesty rating system. See the link standard dishonesty rating system [edwarddebono.com]. As a rating system it is insightful and tough. The author claims a score of 30 bad points is reasonable.

      In general i think most press dishonesty is in pursuit of the aim to be more interesting. That's the main selling value. Political agendas are much less important to press than most people think.

      Useful moderation system for Slashdot? Very valuable, yes. Question is how. Too heavy for full use.

    • I don't think it's as sinister a plot as the WP editors trying to get online encryption banned - it's probably just an innocent "lets prints a great human interest STORY and sell lots of papers" - as in the old saw, "Dog bites man is not news, but man bites dog is" - to publish a piece about PZ defending our rights to online privacy isn't news - he's been doing that for many years, but to paint an image of "Oh! Encryption author and advocate feels great guilt over career" - now that's an interesting STORY (albeit false as can be). In short, the WP editors should be working for the National Inquiror or writing for daytime TV. It's not a commie plot - just attract attention, boost circulation, sell advertising, facts be damned. You know the corporate mindset drill.

      The stories printed in this newspaper (or any media for that matter) are for entertainment purposes ONLY, and are not to be construed as a truthful representation of reality in any way.

      On second thought, a well informed public being essential for the success of a DEMOCRACY, maybe it IS a commie plot.

      • Re:hmm. (Score:4, Interesting)

        by leviramsey (248057) on Thursday September 27, 2001 @09:17AM (#2357911) Journal
        In short, the WP editors should be working for the National Inquiror [sic --LR]

        I remember reading in US News & World Report a few years ago that the National Enquirer actually has stricter standards regarding verification of sources and other fact checking than the NY Times/Washington Post.

        [Goes to USN&WR's site...]

        Here's a link where you can purchase [newsbank.com] [newsbank.com] the article in question for $2.

        Google has a cached [google.com] [google.com] version.

        As an aside, do you think US News might sue Google over things like this? I've always thought that their caching scheme might be of questionable legality (what with the DMCA and all).

    • Re:hmm. (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Merk (25521)

      That's why it pays to read what he actually said:

      1. "the article had no such statement or implication when she read it to me."
      2. "I can only speculate that her editors must have taken some inappropriate liberties in abbreviating my feelings to such an inaccurate soundbite."
      3. "It appears that this nuance of reasoning was lost on someone at the Washington Post. I imagine this may be caused by this newspaper's staff being stretched to their limits last week."
      4. "I have always enjoyed good relations with the press over the past decade, especially with the Washington Post. I'm sure they will get it right next time."

      If anyone is to blame for the change it's the editors, not the writer. And the editors are probably pretty stressed right now. I doubt they were being malicious.

      You may have heard of the principle "don't attribute to malice what can be explained by stupidity". Maybe that should be changed to include stress, exhaustion, and emotional turmoil.

  • A sane reaction (Score:2, Insightful)

    by smaughster (227985)
    I am very glad to read a sane reaction to something which could easily have become a huge anti- WPost flame. Now let's hope that this influences all the other people who are discussing encryption at the moment (read government), to get a somewhat more sensible discussion about privacy and encryption instead of a fear-driven hype against terrorism.
  • convenient (Score:3, Redundant)

    by gowen (141411) <gwowen@gmail.com> on Thursday September 27, 2001 @07:04AM (#2357529) Homepage Journal
    online crypto has become such a hot button issue that it is impossible to hold a rational conversation on the topic right now

    Wow, perfect fodder for slashdot then
  • Thank you (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Chris_Pugrud (16615) on Thursday September 27, 2001 @07:04AM (#2357530)
    It's good to see that many people have a sound head on their shoulders and are not engaging in over-reaching knee-jerk reactions.

    Find the time to write your congresscritter, but do it when you are not emotional. Tell them that security research is not cracking, that cracking is not terrorism (if you don't take the time to properly secure your systems, you need to take some liability!), tell them that crypto is free speech, it is the ability of people to have a private conversation! A conversation without big ears, between a limited group of people. Then let the letter sit overnight and read it in fresh light.

    If you really want them to listen, take the time to print out your letter, after you have sent it online, address some envelopes and send them hard copy!

    If you really wan to stir some feathers, then remind them of the declaration of independence - "But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security"

    Chris
    • A better approach (Score:4, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward on Thursday September 27, 2001 @07:55AM (#2357640)
      Although I completely agree with the the "free speech" approach to justifying crypto, I fear that at a time like this, it isn't convincing enough to many people ("So what about some crumbly paper that's 200+ years old - People are dying NOW!"). If that's all that's stopping a clampdown on crypto, you can kiss it goodbye. And worst case, once the "free speech" argument has had holes poked in it, there's no telling where else that precedent will be used.

      A better approach, it seems to me, is to point out the mind-boggling arrogance of the assumption that strong crypto can ONLY originate in the USA. Sure, we're clever, but it's not like there aren't any clever people anywhere else in the world! Outlawing crypto HERE will NOT prevent the bad guys from using it THERE!
      • by jkorty (86242)
        Let's punch another hole. Let's say the US gov passes a law banning crypto for her own citizens. That gives other countries the green flag to pass a related law. Eventually 50%, say, of all nations have banned crypto. That gives them the strength to band together an implement trade santions against those nations that have been reluctant to ban crypto. Soon, all nations have banned crypto. Therefore, getting crypto banned in a single country, especially such a powerful and influential one as the USA, is an important first step to getting it banned everywhere.
        • Re:A better approach (Score:3, Informative)

          by markmoss (301064)
          So are you going to go withdraw all the copies of old journals with the formula for public-key encryption from the libraries? Or maybe license mathematicians so nobody is out there that understands how to turn those formulae into code? And nuke Russia, since their gov't is too weak to ensure their many excellent mathematicians obey such a law.
        • France tried it. (Score:5, Insightful)

          by Aceticon (140883) on Thursday September 27, 2001 @10:57AM (#2358497)
          They banned all use of cryptography, except for properly registered institutions, which had to provide their keys to the French government.
          (This was done with the intention of allowing eavesdroping of all comunications in France by the French authorities)

          Since then they totally reversed their positions, up to the point of actually promoting the use of Open Source products because they can be checked for the existence of backdoors.

          Why?

          1. Foreign companies started avoiding doing business in France (they rather have their head-quarters or european head-quarters where they can protect their trade secrets)
          2. The French government sudenly discovered that the US Information Services were using electronic interception technologies (Echelon) to intercept business comunications of French companies. Any relevant business information so discovered was then provided to American companies thus giving them competitive advantage over French companies

          Or puting things in a different way:

          Any nation that adopts a ban on cryptography runs the risk of placing their own companies at a competitive disadvantage to companies in other countries (the US is not the only country doing electronic surveilance) and scaring off foreign companies. Even the mandatory use of back doors in cryptography products has the same risk (eventualy somebody will discover the key that opens the back door, and from there onwards it's the same as if the comunications are unencrypted).

          Plus, even if the US adopted laws against the use of cryptograpy or mandating back doors in cryptography products, i doubt very much that the French government would adopt it (specially after having sufered the efects of such a decision in the past). If in such situation the US tried a Trade Embargo against France, it would have to do so against the whole of the EC. You DON'T do a Trade Embargo against the second largest world market (it would be as idiotic as a Trade Embargo against the US)

      • You make valid points.

        There was this old lady who was interviewed by the hole in Pentagon who said that she would right now give up all her liberties to catch the people who did this. Well, if I was the reporter, I would turn that against her, start screaming at her:

        "OK, I'm really from the FBI, and we have strong evidence you have sheltered terrorists! So you say you have not?! Prove it! No, I'm not going to reveal the evidence we have, that would jeopardize the investigation. That goes for the court too, the evidence must be kept secret. You want to face your prosecutors? Forget it, they can't be revealed! Admit you have housed terrorists, admit it! You won't? Hell, we can't use torture, but our new allies can, and you bet they have a lot of experience with it. We'll just turn you over, and they'll make you admit it, you bet, and our new laws makes sure we can accept that as evidence in court."

        By that time, the old lady should be crying. And she should, because this is really, really scary. If you lower the standards for courts, then you open up to prosecutions, witch-hunts, that are very, very bad, and you'll get a lot of false convictions.

        Even easier: "We have evidence you are an illegal immigrant!! You've lived your whole life here? Don't make me laugh! Prove it? Yeah, sure an identity card proves nothing, they're easily forged. You know what we do with illegal immigrants: Indefinite detention."

        The problem here is that those who have nothing to hide, they have no less reason to be worried, because any lowered standards means that if you're just unfortunate to look like somebody who committed a crime, have been using the same computer as somebody who committed a crime, you'll be as deep shit as anybody.

        This is a really strong reason why also those with nothing to hide should oppose legislation that takes away essential liberty.

        In the particular case of encryption, it makes society stronger, more likely to withstand attacks. When you are attacked, crypto should be used more extensively, and greater efforts should be made to make sure there are no holes, not the other way around.

    • Re:Thank you (Score:4, Interesting)

      by flatrock (79357) on Thursday September 27, 2001 @08:13AM (#2357696)
      Tell them that security research is not cracking, that cracking is not terrorism

      I agree that security research is not cracking.
      Cracking is not terrorism in most cases, but if you crack some critical systems, it can get people killed. And though it doesn't rise to near the level of terrorism where people are killed, crackers who cost lots of innocent people a lot of time and money just to make their point or for the fun of it are still scum.

      if you don't take the time to properly secure your systems, you need to take some liability!

      People who don't secure their systems should take some responsibility for their lack of action. I think liability is the wrong word, because to me it infers that they deserve to be hacked. They don't. They have a responsibility because their lack of security can allow their system to be used against others. Trusting people that don't lock up their valuables don't deserve to be robbed. People that choose not to arm themselves don't deserve to be attacked. Defence against many forms of attack, including cracking may very well be a good idea, but lack of it does not imply guilt on part of the victim.

      I strongly support free speech. I think that crypto laws requiring back doors, or making crypto insecure for the common person are wrong, and would be ineffective in their goals.

      As part of supporting free speech, I am strongly against malicious cracking. Worms, viruses, trojans and the like do a lot to harm innocent people who just want to get online but don't have a lot of technical knowledge. The internet is a great tool for free speech, and it shouldn't be kept from them just because they don't know how to properly secure their home computer from malicious attacks of others. If the govenment ends up passing harsh legislation which inhibits our freedom to protect such people, it is the crackers who deserve the lion's share of the blame, not the people who got cracked.

      I understand that in order to improve security, security needs to be tested. I also understand that in order to get vulnerabilities fixed, that security issues need to be made public. The way they are made public could often be handled better though.

      If you really wan to stir some feathers, then remind them of the declaration of independence - "But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security"

      You may stir up some feathers with this, but I doubt you'll help your cause. I agree that as a last resort, revolt is actually a responsibility of an american citizen. But only as a last resort, and only for the good of the country.

      I realize that I made some comparison between terrorism and cracking in this post, and I want to state that I don't want to trivialize the problem of terrorism with this. Terrorisn is crime that far outshadows cracking. Malicious cracking is more of a petty terrorism in which lives aren't lost.
      • You may stir up some feathers with this, but I doubt you'll help your cause. I agree that as a last resort, revolt is actually a responsibility of an american citizen. But only as a last resort, and only for the good of the country.
        You sound as if we are not anywhere close to that extreme. I submit, kind sir (or madam), that, in light of the War on Drugs[sic], the war on the white male that has come of grotesque mutations on the battle for equality on the part of our melanin-enhanced bretheren, and the shameless indoctrination of our children in government institutions as an outgrowth of these and other events (like the failure of Americans to remember how to defend themselves), that we are in fact very close to the point of taking up arms to defend our freedom.

        Why this is I'll leave as an exercise to the reader.

        • I submit, kind sir (or madam), that, in light of the War on Drugs[sic], the war on the white male that has come of grotesque mutations on the battle for equality on the part of our melanin-enhanced bretheren

          A agree that the "War on Drugs" has been far from effective making our country a better place to live. I also agree that predijuice and bigotry still exhists and is a major problem that our country faces. I'm just not sure how a violent revolt will help this problem. There are many ways to fight injustice. Violence should be a last resort, and only if it's use can make things better in the end. I am however a white male, so maybe this hasn't effected my directly enough for me to have a well formed opinion on it.

          and the shameless indoctrination of our children in government institutions as an outgrowth of these and other events (like the failure of Americans to remember how to defend themselves), that we are in fact very close to the point of taking up arms to defend our freedom.

          I very much respect and support the right to bear arms. Police often can only react to violent crimes rather than prevent them. People should have the right to protect themselves. I believe the fight to protect these rights is still a political one rather than a violent one.
          • I believe the fight to protect these rights is still a political one rather than a violent one.
            For now. And I hope it remains so. But as so many pundits more well-spoken (and well-paid) than I have pointed out, now is the time, when the world is in chaos, to be more vigilant than ever... and to be willing and prepared to defend ourselves from all enemies of freedom, both foriegn and domestic.

            Well-known political cartoonist Pat Oliphant said it in picture [yahoo.com] very well; for the graphics-impaired, Uncle Sam is wielding a long sword, and there's this little kid waving an American flag and wearing a t-shirt that says "Civil Liberties." Uncle Sam says, "Watch out for the backswing, kid." I think if that little kid went over and kicked Uncle Sam hard in the shins, he might just pay attention. How we do that... well, I've got a few ideas, but I admit I'm not very good at ideas. Any suggestions are welcome. ('course, we could go give him a big wet sloppy kiss, too... again, how we do that, I ain't figured out yet.)

            Americans are pissed off, angry, hurting, and in some cases scared shitless, and they're not thinking straight. If we can't find the appropriate bucket of cold water...

            --
            Those who say we can't simultaneously prepare for war and work for peace are doomed to be caught with their pants down. -- me

      • If you really wan to stir some feathers, then remind them of the declaration of independence - "But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security"
        You may stir up some feathers with this, but I doubt you'll help your cause. I agree that as a last resort, revolt is actually a responsibility of an american citizen. But only as a last resort, and only for the good of the country.

        Besides which, the time for this has passed. If we were going to have any real chance to revolt, it was quite a while ago. Now we're going to have to work from within the two-party system for a while before a revolt can be successful. If they'll call in the national guard to stop a mere riot, think of what they'll do in the case of a significant percentage of the american public revolting?

        And please, no jokes about a significant percentage of the american public already being revolting. We all know it's true, and we've found ways to live with it. Like redneck jokes.

    • Re:Thank you (Score:2, Insightful)

      by mrdogi (82975)
      I'd like to add another dimension to this arguement. I've been wondering something, and I haven't heard/seen it mentioned elsewhere. Assume that the US government passes laws to require backdoors. Do they honestly expect some terrorist, who already has some encryption software, be it GPL or otherwise, to suddenly decide that he needs to be inline with law, and get some new software with a backdoor? In other words, how will this help. Those who are 'law abiding' would get the newer software, but the lawbreakers won't. Seems rather pointless to me.

      Joe
      Sorry, can't think of a good sig right now
  • Thank you (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday September 27, 2001 @07:10AM (#2357547)
    I am an avid PGP user under three diffrent Operating Systems. To me there is no better product on the market. I have used it both for personal use and for professional use. I personally can see where a group of people could easily use this product for malitious intent. However, it has saved me quite a bit of heartache as a system administrator in the past and strong encryption in general has made the life of the security minded professional a little bit easier to deal with. I will stand behind not only PGP, but every kind of strong encription that is available on the open market and consider it to be a serious invasion of my privacy to not be able to use it.

    I have read the article in the post and agree that it is a well written article with the exception of how Phil feels. Rather the reported was doing it intentionally or not is up for grabs but because of Phil's integrity, I am willing to accept that this was probably just as he has said, the editor changed a few things before it hit the presses. No that is not fair and if he did not say it then there should be a retraction. But I have worked with reporters who have screwed up and retractions are not as easy to get as the story itself.

    Phil, keep up the fight and dont give up on your morals. I couldnt agree more that strong encryption is a right of every person on this earth. I couldnt agree more that it will be used for ill-intent. But it does so much more good than bad.
    • I switched to gpg.. (Score:3, Interesting)

      by MikeFM (12491)
      I usda use pgp a lot but then it got confussing enough with who owned what and what the licenses were and everything that when gpg came out I gladly switched. I have to wonder how the US expects to remove old copies of pgp, gpg, and similar programs from the Net outside the US not to mention things like books and the knowledge in peoples heads. I think blaming people or trying to put the encryption genie back into the bottle is a bit misguided. We should let these emotions pass before we start passing a lot of laws. Lets not do anything we'll regret later. Lets punish terrorist and not programmers/pilots/etc for whats happened.
  • Conundrum (Score:5, Insightful)

    by well_jung (462688) on Thursday September 27, 2001 @07:10AM (#2357548) Homepage
    Tis very unfortunate that so many of us are so secluded from the greater society that we help run that we can't stop ourselves from from partaking in venemous "activism". Phil put it nicely when he referred to it as a Jihad. For too many of us, our passions and self-confidence get in the way of being responsible members of a larger community.

    • For too many of us, our passions and self-confidence get in the way of being responsible members of a larger community.

      Oh, come on, what is this self-flagellation? We generally do have both self-confidence and passion, and both of those are good assets. And many people in technology try to live responsibly and try to help their neighbors.

      Yes, we aren't necessarily "responsible members of a larger community", in the sense of playing the usual political games. But very few people are in a position to do so. If you want to become politically active yourself, you need lots of time, money, and photogenicity. Or, you may have even more money to pay others to do that for you.

      The press is in for a large amount of deserved criticism: I see very few articles on technical and scientific subjects that don't contain either serious, substantial omissions or outright blunders. Publications like the NYT, the Post, and the WSJ have a lot of very self-absorbed, self-righteous journalists that use the prestige of their publications to push whatever agenda they may have . These journalists are hobnobbing with the rich and powerful, and are themselves in an income bracket, that they pretty much have lost touch with reality.

      Zimmerman has to be nice to the Post. But, really, substantially misrepresenting his position is serious stuff. Isn't accuracy the first thing we should expect from a reputable paper?

      I think the NYT, Post, and WSJ are useful not for their content, which is objectively of low quality and standards, and rather biased, but only for the influence they seem to have on US society. It's worth reading an article in those papers when it is widely cited; otherwise, it's best to ignore them. Get your news elsewhere--with the Internet you can.

      • I don't disagree with you. And you didn't disagree with me. I did not imply that self-confidence was a bad thing. Just that sometimes we get a little too full of ourselves and treat our victims (deservedly or not) like the scum of the Earth.

        I'm not advocating everyone here getting out and being active in their communities. What I'm advocating is behaving in a reasonable manner, particularly when representing Linux, or Free Software, or Crypto, or whatever. I suspect much of the email that the Post recieved WRT the misrepresentation inculded a lot of "fuck you"'s and and other vulgarities that serve no positive ends. It's ineffective at best, detrimental at worst.

        It's certainly different than the criticism you rightfully suggest they are due.

  • I don't want to be harsh, but this:


    "I find this jihad of criticism of the Post to be inappropriate. I
    can easily tell from talking with the reporter that her intentions
    were good. It is grossly unfair to punish her with all this hate
    mail."


    Smells like slashdot crowd usual reactions to similar matters.


    Can't we expect a little more from this crowd?


    Can't we have a dialog without having the word "hate" mentionned?


    go ahead and mod me as flambait...

  • by Organic_Info (208739) on Thursday September 27, 2001 @07:16AM (#2357562)
    Another illustration of mob mentality - reaction without thinking.

    If people continue to react impulsively with arguments based on second, third (nth) hand information - what sort of precedence for electronic communication, are we the technologically minded setting?

    We are always told as children to listen to both sides of the argument before reacting - hmmm look where we have arrived in adulthood react to someone else's comment about an argument.

    Like the saying goes "Never underestimate the stupidity of people in large numbers"

    • by Eloquence (144160) on Thursday September 27, 2001 @08:22AM (#2357717) Homepage
      The original article [washingtonpost.com] begins with:

      The tears have come in the kitchen, the car and the shower, too. Like many Americans, Phil Zimmermann, a stocky, 47-year-old computer programmer, has been crying every day since last week's terrorist attacks. He has been overwhelmed with feelings of guilt.

      Phil is right that "overwhelmed with feelings of guilt" is the critical passage, however, it becomes even more manipulative because of the context in which it is placed. It suggests that Phil's grief was not caused by the attacks themselves, but by his belief that he was somehow responsible for the death of ~7000 people. What Phil is doing now seems more to me like a "Clarify that I don't regret doing it, while not pissing off the WP" strategy (in order to avoid hurting his business). But the truth is, the WP article was extremely manipulative (whether because of sensationalism or malicious intent is irrelevant), and Slashdot was right in pointing that out.

      Now, I don't know what kind of letters people have written, and I'm sure some of them were immature, but certainly harsh criticism was and remains warranted. The only thing that is worth emphasizing is that Ariana Eunjung Cha, the author of the piece, likely did not have any bad intentions -- it was the WP editors that made the critical change. As a journalist, I have often experienced that articles by me were manipulated in a way to fundamentally change their meaning, or downplay the importance of certain issues, without giving me any notice of it (in one case of an article dealing with child porn hysteria [humanist.de], the whole article was watered down). So the WP deserves much criticism for doing that -- perhaps just a little more focused on the real problem (editors taking liberties to manipulate the essential message of an article) than it likely was.

    • The same thing happened to Bill Maher of "Politically Incorrect" fame.


      He made a statement that was an indirect slam against the Clinton Administration, but some right-wing shock jocks took it as an attack on the US military and Bush. Maher and his advertisers have been hammered with hate mail from the "Free Republic" types and Limbots ever since.


      What Maher basically said was that it would be "cowardly" of us to lob cruise missiles at terrorist camps from 2000 miles away, like we did in 1998. He was calling the decision makers (i.e. Clinton) cowards, not the military.


      But right-wing nuts reacted to the second-hand information they got from fellow wing-nuts like Mike Gallagher and went ballistic.


      Very much the same way that slashdotters went ballistic on the WP.


      Bill Maher has always been very pro-military on PI, but because he is impartial and sometimes takes the leftward position on some issues (drug war, death penalty), the conservatives in this country saw it as an opportunity for an attack. Never mind that he was implicitly criticizing their arch-enemy Clinton...he is sometimes liberal, so he must be taken off the air.

  • by q-soe (466472) on Thursday September 27, 2001 @07:31AM (#2357589) Homepage
    I think the thing to take away from any of this stuff is that technology no matter what it is and why it exists can be misused and that in itself is no reason to stop it.

    The fact that some of the terrorists might have used PGP is not in itself surprising - they were planning an operation where secrecy is vital and thus they used a secure system - they could have as easily created some code known only to them so the method they used is somewhat irelevant.

    The same goes for the planes, they were designed to transport people but they have lots of fuel and become a flying bomb in the wrong hands.

    So do we ban planes and crypto software ?

    Lets all take a step back from this and look at it in the cold light of day for a minute. Over reaction now will result in long term effects - the US govt has been against strong crypto for many many years - the block on exporting 129k encryption are a case in point - claiming that it might help people commit crimes and hide information, but these are ideas and codes and someone will get them.

    So do we ban it ? Why ? isnt it simply arrogance for the US to think that no one else in the world can develop this stuff ? and theres always the secret code devised only for you.

    The argument that they might have been able to find out about it is also bullshit, you could disguise this stuff in language so effecitevly you would never get close, so that invalidates that argument.

    The fact is the government in the US and in other countries wants to control free access to information and prevent people from hiding it away - the attempts to stop crypto are aimed at their populations - to prevent people from hiding money and assetts, from opposing the government etc

    The sacry thing is that as i see the patrotism grow in the US i see a government cracking down on elemental freedoms and toughening laws - computer crime, crypto, etc Whats next freedom of assembly, freedom of speech.

    We all need to keep an eye and a ear on the world otherwise what we miss may cost is more than we can ever guess.
  • ... that kind of hatemail anyways. Who do they think they are winning over?

    I think this was the right thing to do. Since people can't learn to control themselves. Maybe this will wake someone up.

    He stated perfectly clearly in the old article that he liked the Post, and he thought it was a honest mistake. What more do you want?

    Even if matters were otherwise, you are destroying for yourself by stooping down to the American election campaign level - ie mud pies.
  • by _Sprocket_ (42527) on Thursday September 27, 2001 @07:49AM (#2357627)
    I can only imagine what the Washington Post and their reporter had waiting for them in their collective Inbox. And from what I've seen online (and not just Slashdot), I'm sure Phil is completely correct in saying that it was undeserved. I feel bad that Phil should have to feel ashamed over the incident.


    But...


    The Washington Post DOES deserve critism. Phil is very polite to assure that there were good intentions and that facts were presented properly. Unfortunately, good intentions aren't always enough and the facts reported were not entirely correct.


    The issue at hand is the reported guilt that Phil felt. By his own account, he had gone to great lengths to ensure that mistake was not made. And yet the mistake was made and Phil's apparent guilt was reported as fact. Why? Because someone at The Post drew their own incorrect conclusion.


    I'm all for reporters putting elements togeather to ferret out the truth of a story. Its part of what makes a good investigative reporter. However, in this case someone put 2 and 2 togeather, got 5... and went ahead with it without any fact checking. Surely Phil wouldn't have been THAT hard to contact for a followup (be it in person, voice, or email).


    The Washington Post is a professional, world-class organization. Their reporters are professionals with a great deal of power to direct the attention and impressions of issues held by average citizens. Some of which happen to be in our law enforcement agencies, Congress, and other positions of power and policy. Because of this, the Post and its reporters should be held to a high standard.


    The Washington Post failed to meet this standard. They should feel ashamed and are entirely worthy of harsh critism.


    Even if they're not deserving of hate mail.

  • FBIrony (Score:5, Insightful)

    by philipsblows (180703) on Thursday September 27, 2001 @07:53AM (#2357631) Homepage

    After all of this explosion about crypto and backdoors and limiting the civil liberties of Americans and anyone else we can cause trouble for, it is somewhat ironic (and more than a little tragic) to find that a tremendous amount of information has been gathered through understanding relationships and actions of the perpetrators. This according to the butthead press corps in the US.

    This has been pointed out elsewhere, possibly by a congressperson even, but what would our law enforcement agencies do with the tremendous amount of information they are asking to have access to, when they can't properly connect the dots that they already have in plain text right in front of them?

    When something like 20 foreign nationals from the same general region of the world get truck driver licenses and apply for hazardous materials hauling permits all within a couple of months of each other, somebody in some FBI office somewhere should ask some questions. There was nothing encrypted in that transaction, and they are only now putting that together.

    Besides all of this, bin Laden doesn't even use technology to communicate anymore, having resorted to no-tech messangers to avoid CIA/NSA listening posts. At least that's what our news media is telling us...

  • "Jihad" (Score:4, Interesting)

    by sireenmalik (309584) on Thursday September 27, 2001 @07:58AM (#2357648) Homepage Journal
    Mr Zimmermann:

    I hold you in high regard for your principals and the contributions you have made to the freedom of speech. But I dont think you undersand the word correctly like most other people. I will urge you to watch the CNN's little docu on Islam. As mentioned, in the entire KORAN there are 5-6 references to the word....and mostly the mention is about the battle one fights with oneself!

    Uneducated Moslems have been misled by this word. They have been betrayed by people with evil motives. One way the educated community can make a contribution to the cause of anti-terrorism is to really understand both sides of the story. Rather, three sides of the story: yours, mine and the real-hard-truth.
    • Re:"Jihad" (Score:2, Insightful)

      by philipsblows (180703)

      For better or worse, Mr. Zimmermann's comments were in American English, where jihad has come to imply a struggle with more fanatical implications. Our dictionaries are based on common usage and common misusage...

      Entry number 2 from its definition at dictionary.com [dictionary.com]:
      A crusade or struggle: "The war against smoking is turning into a jihad against people who smoke" (Fortune).

      I would suggest, though, that PZ use something like enduring squabble in place of that other word.

      • I find it accurate that dictionary.com defines "jihad" as "crusade". Even if their theoretical definitions could be acceptable, their implementations meant death to masses of people.

        Yet when Bush calls a "crusade" against terrorism, not everybody think of fanatical mass murder. Muslims do, though.

        So I would recommend care when using these words under the current circumstances.
  • by Coot (87864) on Thursday September 27, 2001 @08:00AM (#2357657) Homepage
    What’s the point of posting the PGP signature if you don't also post the text exactly as signed, including the “begin signed” and “end signed” delimiters. The signature is unverifiable without the precise text that was signed.

    No point. Except to look cool.
  • by mrthoughtful (466814) on Thursday September 27, 2001 @08:08AM (#2357683) Journal
    Nice to hear from you PZ.
    So how does a government restrict access to a back door?

    -----BEGIN PGP SIGNATURE-----
    Version: PGP 8.0.0

    iQA/
    NSA-OPS:ThEBacKDoORPaSsWorDIS:LETMEIN:bAjmy13len CX XWnJPSJSIDEQLryACfBk+1V/edllzC84A =uBHG
    -----END PGP SIGNATURE-----
  • by Pinball Wizard (161942) on Thursday September 27, 2001 @08:16AM (#2357702) Homepage Journal
    The only way cryptography has ever been defeated historically has been to develop a technology that can beat it. For example, the first modern computer was built to defeat the enigma in WWII. If the govt. wants to do this, the proper course is to develop quantum computing. This of course will be very expensive to do, but if the government wants to break current crypto, its the only way. Of course, it would have to be developed in the labs and not leaked to the public.


    Put backdoors on current cryptography programs, and you will ensure that only the criminals have real crypto. For more information, see The Code Book [amazon.com].

  • Slashdot and Crypto (Score:5, Informative)

    by ichimunki (194887) on Thursday September 27, 2001 @08:19AM (#2357714)
    Dear Phil,

    Do you think you could give the Slashdot crew a quick lesson in using crypto? From the way they've posted the last two missives from you, it's obvious they don't actually use PGP or GnuPG and have no clue how to transfer information in such a way that the digital signature remains valid.

    I mean, providing a link to the original text file seems to be too hard for them, so maybe you could walk them through the procedure for verifying a document and then ask them to try and do that on their own postings, to see what they are doing to those of us who verify signatures when we see them?

    I mean, what's the point of signing a message if no one can verify it? Not that I think Slashdot would lie, but for all we know they've been duped into posting something that isn't from the real Phil Zimmerman. Or maybe their stories are being tampered with-- it's happened to bigger fish recently (and Slashdot itself has been hacked before).

    Thanks!
    • Heh, I was going to ask if anyone had tried to verify the text, GPG barfs on it:

      gpg: Signature made Wed Sep 26 18:08:57 2001 BST using DSA key ID B2D7795E
      gpg: requesting key B2D7795E from wwwkeys.eu.pgp.net ...
      gpg: key B2D7795E: no valid user IDs
      gpg: Can't check signature: public key not found

      I'm guessing PGP7 and GPG don't work together completely.
      • Well, in your case you're missing the correct key, which can probably be gotten from www.philzimmerman.com or keys.pgp.com, rather than the default keyserver in GnuPG. But unless your signed message has a header and exactly matches the original signed message, you have no way to verify the signature. In this case we don't know where the message starts, whether it includes the hypertext markup or not, or how the whitespace looks in the original. This makes it hard for the verifying program to work with the message.
    • 1. The real Philip spells his last name "Zimmermann," not "Zimmerman."

      2. The real Philip has my home and cellular telephone numbers. I have his, too.

      3. He has a distinctive phone voice and set of verbal mannerisms that would be hard to duplicate.

      4. He phoned me and said "I am sending you an email right now" both times.

      - Robin

      • 1. Are you sure? Because you spelled it both ways in the posting.

        2. So you're tight. Excellent.

        3. I wouldn't know. Never met him or spoke to him on the phone.

        4. Are you saying you didn't check the signature?

        I'm sorry to be such a dink in my previous posting, but none of 1-4 helps those of us who are just readers of your fine web site, and seeing a signature have an compulsive need to verify it. Security is a process, right? Running checks once in a while is part of the process. :)
        • Yup, I agree. Without a means of verifying the signature, having it as part of the post is at best a waste of space. At worst, since the signature can't be checked, it implies it wasn't Philip Zimmermann who wrote that message.

          The whole point of a PGP signature is to verify that someone is who he/she claims to be. A posting with a PGP signature that can't be verified is meaningless. An unsigned post by somone calling himself "Robin" saying "I talked to him on the phone" is not proof of anything. (I'm not saying I doubt that the note is from Zimmermann or the post is from Robin, it's the principle of the thing).

  • by mikey_boy (125590) on Thursday September 27, 2001 @08:26AM (#2357731)
    According to this [guardian.co.uk] article from the UK's guardian, cryptography wasn't even used, so it's all bunch scaremongering crap anyway ...

    "FBI investigators had been able to locate hundreds of email communications, sent 30 to 45 days before the attack. Records had been obtained from internet service providers and from public libraries. The messages, in both English and Arabic, were sent within the US and internationally. They had been sent from personal computers or from public sites such as libraries. They used a variety of ISPs, including accounts on Hotmail.

    According to the FBI, the conspirators had not used encryption or concealment methods. Once found, the emails could be openly read."

  • by MongooseCN (139203) on Thursday September 27, 2001 @08:35AM (#2357757) Homepage
    Terrorists are not going to use encryption with backdoors when non-backdoor encryption is already available. The only people that are going to use it are the law abiding people, the same people who are not going to be terrorists.

    And besides, all of Osama's communications weren't through high-tech means [cnn.com] but also low-tech. When the someone figures out how to trace one of Osamas high tech communications, he will just switch to a low tech form.
    • We can track low-tech means of communication using existing anti-privacy laws and counter-espionage methods.

      But isn't it obvious that if you use uncrackable crypto you'll pick up a humint tail who will try to see if your shrouded commo could contain plans for another attack?

      Suspicions are easy to raise in an uneasy society. Ask any Muslim in America now if just going to church doesn't mark them for unjust reprisals, from dirty looks to murder.

      All the violence is moot, anyway. We deliberately set up a society and a government that allows you to change it from within, in a way that, if your revolution is successful, guarantees your changes will be accepted. But our enemy does not have such a system in place.

      It's not our freedom that needs to be ended. It's their tyranny.

      --Blair
  • Media and conspiracy (Score:5, Interesting)

    by joss (1346) on Thursday September 27, 2001 @08:36AM (#2357764) Homepage
    > People seem to be assuming the Washington Post is part of some grand conspiracy to restrict the availability of strong cryptography.

    No, it's not a conspiracy, but it is a symptom of a much deeper problem. The fact remains that the paper blatantly misrepresented Phil's opinions in order to further the current agenda of cracking down on civil liberties. This distortion is not a coincidence, but it's not deliberate either. In fact, it's scarier than that. People who are sufficiently indoctrinated hear what they want to.

    We don't need any controlling evil mastermind to produce the appearance of a conspiracy. All we need is a set of implicit and unstated tendancies where most people do what they think ought to be done, and the mass moves inexhorably in a particular direction, irrespective of a few free thinkers trying to throw a spanner in the works. This group concensus serves the interest of those in power (the rich, via corporations, media - which is corporate owned, and politicians - who are also corporate owned), and pushes the rest of the population in that direction.

    Mainstream media is even more laughably distorted than normal at the moment. Suddenly the media is full of convenient statistics "80% of US population favors back-doors in encryption". And what percentage of the US population has any idea what the hell that means ? What was the queston "Do you favor laws that make it harder for terrorists to communicate in private ?" or "Should it be illegal for people to try to stop others from monitoring their communication ?"

    Corporations and politicians have a vested interest in eliminating free speach from the population. They don't want you talking to each other, they want you listening to them. They definitely don't want you saying stuff to each other without them being able to monitor it and punish you for saying stuff that makes them uncomfortable. The real reasons for the desire to restrict and monitor may not even be apparant to the "group mind", but everyone has a huge capacity for self-delusion.

    The media is just as accurate about other stuff. They laud George Jr's "bravery" without a trace of irony, like the jester in the Holy Grail "When danger reared its ugly head,
    He bravely turned his tail and fled...." Meanwhile the cowardly terrorists were cowardly
    giving their lives for their beliefs. Fanatical assholes, sure, but cowardly ?

    The distortion is much worse than you think. The entire language is adjusted in a thoroughly Orwellian fashion. When people on our side die, the "terrorists" cause the "murder of innocent, men, women and children". Fine, this is accurate. However, when we do start beating up on Afghanistan. "Military commanders" will replace "terrorists" and "inevitable collateral damage during surgical strikes" will replace "bombing civilans". It's very difficult to reason about something when the terms are properly loaded.

    The language molesters will be hard at work over the next few months. The funny thing is that when we hear blatant distortions in the other direction, (eg "The great satan") we laugh at the stupidity and talk about how these people have been brainwashed into believing all sorts of nonsense. Yeah, "they" hate us because they're jealous and they're victims of brainwashing and propoganda. Meanwhile, we're going to destroy civil liberties, escalate corporate welfare (through "defense" spending), slaughter innocent civilians and risk our own soldiers fighting people across the world who previously had no serious quarrel with us, because we're all well informed and logical.

    • Language (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Steve B (42864)
      The entire language is adjusted in a thoroughly Orwellian fashion. When people on our side die, the "terrorists" cause the "murder of innocent, men, women and children". Fine, this is accurate. However, when we do start beating up on Afghanistan. "Military commanders" will replace "terrorists" and "inevitable collateral damage during surgical strikes" will replace "bombing civilans".

      The difference is terminology implies that the terrorist's actions were targeted at innocent people, whereas the military actions will be targeted at the terrorists and their sponsors. Since this happens to be the truth (unless you can show some reason to believe that we're planning to attack civilian populations), I fail to see the problem.

      • "Terrorist" is a very fuzzy term, but as close as I can tell, a terrorist is someone who is prepared to use or threaten violance who disagrees with western policy. If you have any examples of someone the US was in favor of being described as a terrorist, I would

        Do you really fail to see a disparity between phrases like "murder of innocent men, women, and children" and "inevitable collateral damage". When they crashed a plane into the pentagon, how did the media describe the deaths of those on the plane ? If Iraqi television said "some inevitable collateral damage occured during the attack on a legitimate military target" would that seem reasonable to you ?
    • This is probably the most insightful post (damn those moderators for marking this "interesting"!) I've seen regarding this whole media circus. I assume a number of books have inspired you to draw conclusions of this kind (if not, you are an orginial. Please go into politics), and I also assume that these books are the same that got me thinking, since a lot of these ideas sound stikingly similar.

      Without rambling further, I will introduce all of you who found these ideas +5 interesting to the disturbing world of Noam Chomsky. Suggested reading here [amazon.com] and here [amazon.com] and here [amazon.com].

  • by MEK (71818) on Thursday September 27, 2001 @08:44AM (#2357786)
    It looks like the rush to legislate against encryption has little basis in the facts. An article in today's Guardian states:

    FBI investigators had been able to locate hundreds of email communications, sent 30 to 45 days before the attack. Records had been obtained from internet service providers and from public libraries. The messages, in both English and Arabic, were sent within the US and internationally. They had been sent from personal computers or from public sites such as libraries. They used a variety of ISPs, including accounts on Hotmail.


    According to the FBI, the conspirators had not used encryption or concealment methods. Once found, the emails could be openly read.


    Guardian: How the plotters slipped US net [guardian.co.uk]
  • == hammer seller? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by anshil (302405) on Thursday September 27, 2001 @08:46AM (#2357794) Homepage
    I think this is the same status like selling a hammar. One can use it to construct houses, cupboards, tables, hang up pictures on the wall, and a lot of other good and constructive things. Now there is a group of people who might use hammers to destroy windows, does the producer of the hammer have any guiltiness on the destroyed window?

    Same was dynamite, Nobel also thought of the constructive things when inventing it, like mining etc. but there are also people that will use dynamite to blow up other things than rocks.

    Personally I think different for things created only for pure destruction. Like rockets, to a limited degree some kind of guns etc.

    But also there history made sometimes funny turns. Take the LASER in example, when this technology came up people only thought of them using as super longrange weapons, and got quite funding for this purpose. Now look today, LASERs are used for everything, from construction computers, correcting teeth and eyes, meassuring stars, etc. etc. but one application they failed miserable as weapons themselfs.
  • by bflong (107195) on Thursday September 27, 2001 @08:50AM (#2357810)
    There is something we all need to stop...

    Somthing so vile that almost all terrorists, criminals, and other bad people use...

    Somthing that is so easy to get ahold of that anyone can get them.

    And that is... Pants! Yes, Pants! Just about every crime is commited by someone that is wearing pants! (unless you're in Scotland).

    We need to stop the insanity by cutting off the supply of pants to the world. Heaven forbid that somone commits a crime becouse it was so easy to get some pants.
    • There is something we all need to stop...

      Somthing so vile that almost all terrorists, criminals, and other bad people use...

      Somthing that is so easy to get ahold of that anyone can get them.

      And that is... Pants! Yes, Pants! Just about every crime is commited by someone that is wearing pants! (unless you're in Scotland).

      We need to stop the insanity by cutting off the supply of pants to the world. Heaven forbid that somone commits a crime becouse it was so easy to get some pants.


      And that's why freedom-loving true blooded Americans are buying Utilikilts [utilikilts.com] in record numbers. They're manufactured in the US right here in Seattle, where terrorists tried to blow up the Space Needle, and all the fine workers there love their Fremont neighborhood location.

      So, buy American! Get rid of your pants - only terrorists would wear them!

  • OMIGOD (Score:3, Funny)

    by Hard_Code (49548) on Thursday September 27, 2001 @08:57AM (#2357838)
    Do you know what this **means**? They kidnapped Zimmerman and replaced him with a robot (Carnivore-enabled of course)!! I bet the Post and CIA are in some sort of wicked wicked collusion!! Fire up those mail bombers!
  • by gotan (60103) on Thursday September 27, 2001 @09:01AM (#2357859) Homepage
    The article builds up to the end of the first paragraph to the "overwhelming feeling of guilt" part (the sad thing is, that a lot of people won't read any further, jumping to the conclusion, that even a reknown cryptanalyst is now against the use of strong cryptogrtaphy). This 'setting' overshadows the whole article.

    Then the rest aof the article slowly comes around to Phils opinion, that strong crypto is still necessary, and that backdoors severely weaken security protocols including them (they just open up more possibilities of attack). The clear reasoning in that part of the article is inconsistent with the first paragraph, someone applying such reasoning is not "overwhelmed" with guilt.

    Also anyone who jumped to aforementioned conclusion is in for a rollercoaster ride, when he reads on and is taken through a whole 180 before being let out of the article. So the whole piece isn't consistent in itself, and someone proofreading, let alone writing it should spot that with a little narrative experience.
    I still think that the writer somehow let his own opinions on the matter guide his hand, maybe not even consciously. But i really wonder what picture of Phil Zimmerman that reporter must have created in his mind, to come up with someone overwhelmed with guilt and yet reasoning it all away.
  • by man_ls (248470) on Thursday September 27, 2001 @09:40AM (#2358009)
    The ACLU [aclu.org] [aclu.org] has a place where you can send a form-fax to your senator or congressman urging them to make an informed decision about the laws regarding cryptography. I sent such a message to my elected officials in Washington; you should to. I can't for the life of me find the actual link for the page again, but it is there, somewhere. I will post it as a reply here.

    Also, elsewhere on Slashdot, again I can't find the link again, there is a very well-written letter that the author said he would allow for use provided it was modified a little bit.

    If we don't want something to happen, we need to make sure to tell our government about it. They are there to represent US, and if we don't want something, it shouldn't happen.
  • The Wright brothers [nps.gov], creators of modern aviation, were quoted in a recent Time Magazine article [time.com] as saying they were "overwhelemd with feelings of guilt" about the use of aircraft by suspected terrorists.

    "We had no idea. If we had, we would have stuck to the bicycle trade, and saved countless lives!" declared Orville.

    "Oh, get a life!" replied Wilbur, "We never said any of that. Typical yellow journalism."

  • Are there better things for the United States government to be doing than restricting crypto, spending lots of money on planes or anything else they are doing post NY.

    A few statistics
    A NY death toll figure 5,500 - CNN [cnn.com] (maybe not the current one, but close enough)
    Firearms deaths for 1997 10,369 - pcvp [pcvp.org] (again sorry for the old figures, newer ones have probably gone up)

    now, twice as bad. why hasn't anything been done? As I see it its far easier to ban handguns than it is to ban crop dusters, put security guards on Aeroplanes, monitor trucks or declare war on a hidden man.

    After all, every one of those weapons has a legitimate purpose. What alternative use does a handgun have?

    • What alternative use does a handgun have?

      Target shooting. Backup weapon when bow-hunting bears. (My brother-in-law does that, and bear meat tastes pretty good -- but his hunting buddy didn't aim the arrow just right one fall, and if not for Ralph's .357 the bear would have ate them.) Shooting terrorists. Scaring off muggers, burglars, and robbers. (Occasionally shooting them, but most will run away when their victim pulls a gun, and normal people don't chase them and shoot them in the back.)

      The legitimate uses of fire-arms are grossly under-reported, in crime reports because usually just showing the gun prevented any crime from occuring, and in the media because it's so far outside the typical big-city reporter or editors experience they can't think what to do with the story. E.g., an NRA member finally found a reporter that seemed willing to listen and sent him documentation of 20 cases of people using guns to defend themselves against crime. Then at the interview, the first question was "People really use guns to defend themselves?" ... It's a mental block, similar to the one that let a copyeditor at the WP turn "anger and grief" into "overwhelming guilt."
    • If you take the 10,369 statistic apart a bit, you'll likely find that many of those "statistics" were drug dealers and drug lords trying to defend their legally defenseless turf from their competitor drug lords and drug dealers.

      The insane War on Drugs has militarized our American inner cities with police using legal guns to shoot and kill innocent bystanders, and druggies using "illegal" guns to shoot back at police and at competitors.

      Drug dealers can't go to court to solve turf problems, nor can they go to court to gain relief from some junkie who just ripped them off. Their only relief is to use their "illegal" gun to administer instant "justice."

      Decriminalizing the ingestion of whatever substances you wish to put into your body, for whatever reasons you may have for that ingestion, would go a long way towards reducing the 10,369 statistic.

      But instead, our National Socialist government insists that they have the (unconstitiontional) right to impose National standards on every Social group through out the country regading what you can or cannot ingest. The result is the carnage of the Drug War, and those politicians who are responsible for the carnage continue to claim that they're only continuing it for "the good of the people."

      What alternative use does a handgun have?
      Well, I assume you might allow that the new Federal Marshals on airplanes might have a use for them.

      And, had our politicians not traitorously trashed the second amendment many years ago, the events on September 11 may have been prevented completely. Had any one of the passengers on AA Flight 11 been armed as the second Amendment prevents the government from restricting ("...shall not be infringed." doesn't allow for an infringement on airplanes as an exception) those hijackers wouldn't have even made it to the flight attendants before being challenged and/or shot.

      You see, the politicians don't trust ordinary Americans with the right to self-defense. They believe they know better and are less likely to go crazy and use armed force in a detrimental way. (Anybody remember Ruby Ridge and Waco?)

      Because most of the people who write and speak for the "media" have been trained at Columbia University, they have an immediate bias against individual self-defense rights. They assume that Americans are incapable of making good decisions regarding the use of armed force. See Eric S. Raymond's thoughts on this. [tuxedo.org] As Raymond points out, yes, there is a vanishingly small minority that cannot, and should not, handle their own self-defense. But if you punish everyone for the inabilities of an extremely small minority, you are doing just what Ben Franklin warns against in my .sig below.

  • Misquote (Score:2, Interesting)

    by nnet (20306)
    What hasn't been answered is WHY the article misquoted the overwhelming grief statement attributed to him.
  • by Archfeld (6757) <treboreel@live.com> on Thursday September 27, 2001 @10:33AM (#2358336) Journal
    catches up with everyone here in the "Land of the Free"
    I wish the Politicos would STOP the GrandStanding and start dealing with REALITY and the ISSUES. Ashcroft is one of the WORST REACTIONARIES. He fully realizes that the extraordinary powers he is requesting WILL NEVER BE REVOKED.
  • by andrew_ebbatson (524891) on Thursday September 27, 2001 @11:05AM (#2358538)
    It appears that after years of defending personal strong encryption and the rights of individuals to privacy, Mr Zimmerman has honed the ability to think through reasoned and balanced responses even under the most difficult of circumstances. My only hope is that governments do not use this terrible event to limit the privacy of individuals and clamp down on the freedoms of our society. We all know that the FBI, CIA, NSA, MI5 and others have always desired stronger snooping laws, ID card and all the other invasive powers. After all is said and done the attacks were a hideous example of mans violence against man - however we must remember that for 50+ years many countries from both east and west, have all invested vast sums to build and maintain stockpiles of nuclear weapons. We should be under no illusions, these are aimed at population centers across the globe and could be used without hesitation and without warning if our governments deem it necessary. Such is human nature.
  • by TomRC (231027) on Thursday September 27, 2001 @12:08PM (#2358850)
    If slash-dotters want to win the debate over strong crypto, they need to examine their own arguments and eliminate specious ones, lest those weak arguments be considered the best case for strong crypto.

    1) Arguments equating unbreakable encryption with various tools or envelopes for private mail are specious. Envelopes are easily opened - and can be opened under a court order. Hammers, pants, airliners, and crypto do all have uses beyond terrorism - but the vast majority of the value of crypto could *theoretically* be retained with well managed (i.e. privately owned and run, paid for by crypto users) key escrow.

    2) Terrorists using alternative unbreakable crypto is NOT an argument against key escrow. Requiring all communication using strong encryption to use key escrow has the flip side of making other forms of encrypted communication illegal. Discovery that a suspect is using illegal/unbreakable encryption would be enough to arrest them and detain them indefinitely for contempt of court if they failed to turn over the keys to their crypto.

    To defeat any particular "government backdoor crypto scheme", you must
    (a) show it damages recognized constitutional rights;
    (b) show it could not work because...(?);
    (c) get enough people using it and emotionally attached to the protection it provides, that they irrationally tell their law makers to buzz off - or engage in widespread civil disobedience once key escrow is mandated.

    • Arguments equating unbreakable encryption with various tools or envelopes for private mail are specious. Envelopes are easily opened - and can be opened under a court order.

      Crypto is also easily opened -- just use a key logger or an old-fashioned hidden camera aimed at the suspect's keyboard.

      Of course, this is only practical against a reasonably small group of suspects. An attempt at dragnet fishing expeditions would be too difficult, and the risk of detection would increase more or less linearly with the number of targets.

      Thus, any argument in favor of using a technology that lends itself to fishing expeditions (key escrow) rather than one that lends itself to specifically targeted surveillance (key loggers and bugs) raises a red flag that the former is on somebody's agenda.

      the vast majority of the value of crypto could *theoretically* be retained with well managed (i.e. privately owned and run, paid for by crypto users) key escrow

      One corrupted escrow agent, and an arbitrarily large number of people's communications are compromised.

      If you say that your definition of "well managed" excludes that possibility, then you ought to admit that what you're really saying is: "the value of crypto could *theoretically* be retained with perfect key escrow".

      Requiring all communication using strong encryption to use key escrow has the flip side of making other forms of encrypted communication illegal.

      In general, this cannot be detected without fishing expeditions. In specific cases, see above re key loggers, etc.

If it smells it's chemistry, if it crawls it's biology, if it doesn't work it's physics.

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