NYT: Techies Now Respect Government

Tim May tcmay at got.net
Sun May 26 09:28:15 PDT 2002

On Sunday, May 26, 2002, at 10:07  AM, John Young wrote:

> Thomas Friedman in the New York Times today:
> http://www.nytimes.com/2002/05/26/opinion/26FRIE.html
> Webbed, Wired and Worried, May 26, 2002
> ....

> pose these questions to techies. I found at least some of
> their libertarian, technology-will-solve-everything cockiness
> was gone. I found a much keener awareness that the unique
> web of technologies Silicon Valley was building before 9/11 --
> from the Internet to powerful encryption software -- can be
> incredible force multipliers for individuals and small groups
> to do both good and evil.

Well, "duh." As an analyst of high tech, Friedman is a pretty good 
analyst of the Arab-Israeli conflict. His conclusions about the views of 
Silicon Valley are facile and simplistic.

For example, in another place:

"The question `How can this technology be used against me?' is now a 
real R-and-D issue for companies, where in the past it wasn't really 
even being asked," said Jim Hornthal, a former vice chairman of 
Travelocity.com. "People here always thought the enemy was Microsoft, 
not Mohamed Atta.""

No, the reason companies deployed crypto was not because they feared 
Microsoft would read their mail, but because they feared hackers, 
terrorists, thieves would read their mail.

As for worrying about terrorism, many corporate headquarters have 
anti-truckbomb measures in place. In front of the Noyce Building in 
Santa Clara, Intel's high-rise  headquarters building, there are 
extensive barriers and other measures to prevent a truck bomb from being 
driven into the main lobby and detonated. These have been there for most 
of the past decade; security was not an afterthought resulting from 9/11.

> And I found an acknowledgment
> that all those technologies had been built with a high degree
> of trust as to how they would be used, and that that trust had
> been shaken. In its place is a greater appreciation that
> high-tech companies aren't just threatened by their
> competitors; but also by some of their users.

Double duh. Incredible that Friedman was this naive.

> It was part of Silicon Valley lore that successful innovations
> would follow a well-trodden path: beginning with early
> adopters, then early mass-appeal users and finally the
> mass market. But it's clear now there is also a parallel,
> criminal path: starting with the early perverters of a new
> technology up to the really twisted perverters.

"The street will always find uses for technology" has been the motto for 
a generation. Has Friedman not noticed online porn, cellphones used by 
gangbangers, and so on? Porn is what made the VCR a success.

> For instance,
> the 9/11 hijackers may have communicated globally
> through steganography software, which lets users e-mail,
> say, a baby picture that secretly contains a 300-page
> compressed document or even a voice message.

How many years have we known about this _possibility_? I wrote about it 
online in 1990, Kevin Kelly quoted me at length about it in 1992 for 
some articles and for his eventual book, "Out of Control," and Romana 
Machado released "Stego" in 1993.

As to the actual _use_ by 9/11 hijackers, there is no evidence 
whatsoever that anything this sophisticated was necessary or was used.

> "We have engineered large parts of our system on an
> assumption of trust that may no longer be accurate," said
> a Stanford law professor, Joseph A. Grundfest. "Trust is
> hard-wired into everything from computers to the Internet
> to building codes. What kind of building codes you need
> depends on what kind of risks you thought were out there.
> The odds of someone flying a passenger jet into a tall
> building were zero before. They're not anymore. "

We have been writing about "soft targets" for a long time. Schelling 
points for attacks.

And the scenario of crashing a loaded jetliner into a building was of 
course not unforeseen. Tom Clancy described a very detailed scenario for 
just such an act in his _1994_ (there's that seminal year again) novel 
"Debt of Honor." A Google search will turn up many discussions of this 
over the years. Here's my own description of the Sato Solution from a 
post made to this very list in 1997:

---begin quote---
"      To: cypherpunks at cyberpass.net
*	Subject: Re: Tim May's offensive racism (was: about RC4)
*	From: Tim May <tcmay at got.net>
*	Date: Fri, 14 Nov 1997 10:52:32 -0700
*	In-Reply-To: <199711141755.SAA20812 at basement.replay.com>
*	Sender: owner-cypherpunks at Algebra.COM
lines of: "I fully expect to wake up some morning and hear that some
terrorist nuke has destroyed Washington, D.C. I can't say I'll be 

Big deal. Nothing Tom Clancy hasn't talked about in his novels. (And 
Clancy's delicious description of a Japanese 747 loaded with jet fuel 
crashed into the main hall of Congress during a joint session, with the
President and cabinet in attendance. It was clear that Clancy was 
relishing this vermin removal effort.
---end quote---

So, Clancy had this scenario worked out. Ramsy Yousif, one of the WTC 
bombers, was implicated in a plot in the mid-90s to hijack half a dozen 
jetliners and crash them simultaneously into Schelling point/high 
psychological value targets, including the Eiffel Tower, CIA 
headquarters, etc.

Does this mean I, for example, "knew" the WTC attack in 2001 would 
happen? Of course not.

Did I expect such an attack, in broad outlines, would happen? Of course.

It's the history of warfare. Burning down a city, lobbing dead animals 
over fortified walls, dynamiting bridges, putting an entire city to the 
sword, firebombing civilian cities...it's the nature of war.

We knew it.

Friedman should get up to speed. Maybe I'll forward him my _1988_ 
"Cryptoanarchist Manifesto." Then maybe he'll see that the "techies" (at 
least he didn't call us "nerds") have known what was coming, and looked 
forward to it!, for many years.

> Silicon Valley staunchly opposed the Clipper Chip, which
> would have given the government a back-door key to all
> U.S. encrypted data. Now some wonder whether they
> shouldn't have opposed it. John Doerr, the venture
> capitalist, said, "Culturally, the Valley was already
> maturing before 9/11, but since then it's definitely
> developed a deeper respect for leaders and government
> institutions."

Guys like Friedman represent the New Enemy.

--Tim May
"To those who scare peace-loving people with phantoms of lost liberty, 
my message is this: Your tactics only aid terrorists."  --John Ashcroft, 
U.S. Attorney General

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