Cryptography and the Present Crisis

Nomen Nescio nobody at
Sun Oct 28 19:21:46 PST 2001

Cypherpunks are forgetting everything they are supposed to know.
Does anyone remember why this list was formed?  Does the "cypher" in
cypherpunk mean anything?  Has anyone considered whether there is a role
for crypto technology in the face of the current threats to civil rights?

These new laws are a perfect opportunity to promote the message of
cryptography for privacy.  Virtually all of the provisions which have
cypherpunks wailing in despair can be easily circumvented by the use of
crypto technology.  And every trial balloon floated to limit or ban crypto
has been shot down instantly, so full of holes that it will never fly.

Carnivore will be deployed to snoop on email?  Simple, use PGP/GPG.

Carnivore used for "trap and trace" address gathering?  Simple, use
remailers to disguise the patterns of who you are communicating with.

Legitimate criticism of U.S. government potentially interpreted
as supporting terrorism?  Simple, make your points anonymously or
pseudonymously and be free from the fear of prosecution.

Every one of these policies is an opportunity, not a threat.  To the
extent that these crackdowns engender concern about privacy violations
from a growing segment of the population, this is a chance for cypherpunks
to spread their knowledge and their technology.  You don't have to be
a paranoid any more to be afraid that the government is spying on you.
John Ashcroft himself boasts that Big Government will be watching.

Cypherpunks should be taking advantage of this opportunity to promote
their message of privacy through technology.  For the first time since
the group was formed, they can make a legitimate case that the threat
of government surveillance is increasing.  With the Bill of Rights
being tossed out the window and the AG openly admitting to bending the
rules to achieve his goals, a wide community is going to be receptive
to this message.

Of course there are presently substantial numbers who are caught up in
the collectivist urge and who might view attempts to protect privacy
as unpatriotic.  But this is a temporary phenomenon, already fading.
The flags which flew from every car and building in sight a few weeks ago
are disappearing.  Yet the Draconian new regulations will not go away.
Inevitably there will be a growing segment of the population which sees
the government as a fearsome threat.

It is time for cypherpunks to go back to their roots.  Let us put the
cypher back in cypherpunk.  There are other places where people can whine
about how evil congress is or fantasize about secession from the U.S.
Focus on crypto and what role it can play in the current crisis.  Believe
it or not, no one else is doing that.  No one in the world is speaking
out to say, here are tools which can circumvent the government's efforts
to take away our privacy.  If the cypherpunks don't do it, no one will.

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