1996-01-16 - Re: Respect for privacy != Re: exposure=deterence?

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From: s1018954@aix2.uottawa.ca
To: Scott Brickner <sjb@universe.digex.net>
Message Hash: 28999856a85095ce697c59e9697dc9a97542d6997e60637fabf29f1ee2ae64fa
Message ID: <Pine.3.89.9601152127.D64778-0100000@aix2.uottawa.ca>
Reply To: <199601152213.RAA19247@universe.digex.net>
UTC Datetime: 1996-01-16 04:31:54 UTC
Raw Date: Tue, 16 Jan 1996 12:31:54 +0800

Raw message

From: s1018954@aix2.uottawa.ca
Date: Tue, 16 Jan 1996 12:31:54 +0800
To: Scott Brickner <sjb@universe.digex.net>
Subject: Re: Respect for privacy != Re: exposure=deterence?
In-Reply-To: <199601152213.RAA19247@universe.digex.net>
Message-ID: <Pine.3.89.9601152127.D64778-0100000@aix2.uottawa.ca>
MIME-Version: 1.0
Content-Type: text/plain

*Overlong and badly edited argument in underhanded support of government
anonymity follows, it gets better towards the end, feel free to skim*

On Mon, 15 Jan 1996, Scott Brickner wrote:

> s1018954@aix2.uottawa.ca writes:
> >My apologies for responding to a political post.
Here I go again.

> I agree with Charlie.  These government employees claim to be working
> for the american taxpayers, of which group I am a member.  Government
> agents must, therefore, expect to be accountable to the citizens, while
> accountability in the other direction is virtually the definition of
> tyranny.

I mostly agree with that argument on even days and mostly disagree with it
on odd ones. The way I see it mostly depends on whether or not you believe
in organizational thermodynamics ("the center cannot hold, entropy 
increases...") and positive and practical uses of absolute freedom of speech 
(and by extension the anonymity to keep it that way).

Should government employees be "allowed" to have access to the package deal
of anonymity (and money laundering) that we are pushing?

  First you should check whether or not they already do and in what form it 
comes. As we've seen in (among many other things) the persecution of Phil Z.,
there definitely are the proverbial nameless bureaucrats. Is this not 
  FOIA filings or suits cost money, time and sanity. While you can get 
the odd tidbit out of this method, it is not for the faint-hearted and 
will not get you anything that the government wants to keep classified 
(except in the really odd case that it was temporarily unclassified by 

  If government accountability is to be based upon this disclosure method,
then it is on very shaky footing. This is anonymity, not the overt and freely
usable anonymity of the cypherpunk style, but covert anonymity, that which
is exists for an entrenched institution while giving the public impression
of not being there and justifying inadequate measures like the FOIA.
This is a form of organizational stegonography, I guess.

 Consider on the other hand if a large part of the govermental communications
infrastructure, let's say email and groupware were conducted through a 
remailernet or somesuch cpunk-style anonymizing scheme. Would bureaucratic 
secrecy get any worse? Since I am neither an active activist nor a journalist, 
I cannot say. 

  I do know that besides the natural desire of the spook agencies
to work this way, many businesses have often claimed that there are 
pruductivity advantages to anonymous offices communications and boardroom 
meetings. They tend to generate creative ideas and encourage honesty and 
outspokenness by those lower on the pecking order. So there are legitimate
business uses for it. The more legitimate the concept becomes, the more
people get used to it and start thinking about the advantages and the 
implications of not using True Names. (I realize this has been said before,
bide with me.) Think of it as grass-roots crypto vs. institutional stego.

  Legitimacy, publicity and widespread use are one thing, giving it to 
government is another. The argument is that if we legitimize privacy for 
the gov, that's the end of democracy. IMO, if you sell people on the illusion
of fourth estate power to verify gov action and render them accountable, 
you are living in an even more dangerous form of self-denial and willful 
ignorance. So far so good, nothing new. But what if there are actual benefits
to be had? If cypherpunks have some latent desire to speak freely, maybe 
this is a natural tendency for everyone else too. 

  Ottawa is the bureaucratic capital of this country. In my short stay 
here, the most vehement opposition to the bureaucracy and red tape I 
have heard has been from the fed-up bureaucrats themselves. 
They are the poor saps who must deal with this stupidity and waste day-in 
day-out. I assume the military and the spooks have it the worst (and I 
have heard them say just that). AFAIK this is our best constituency. Notice
that Tim, of all people, is from a government town.

  Journalists frequently get anonymous tips, the gov even occasionally pays
lip-service to setting up an anonymous whistleblowers BBS. How were books
like The Puzzle Palace written if not with inside help and off-the-record
interviews. Need I mention the Pentagon Papers? Anonymity is something the 
government (the organization) craves, yet allowing its employees to use
the anonymity we as cypherpunks want could be the most underhanded 
present possible. Not only does it entrench it (if the entire government has 
it, how could they ban it?) but allows individuals within it to pass on the 
info they please without fear of persecution. If we are ever to get, 
let's say, the Skipjack algorithm, this scenario is much more likely than
reverse-engineering of Clipper. This has many implications. Anonymous
government employees are IMHO a far more effective check on power than
a disinterested easy-profit oriented mainstream press and overstretched 
civil liberties lobbies. 

 Think of it as one organization with 3 million potential unions. Can anyone 
imagine what would have happenned if even one of the pilots during the 
Gulf War had been able to anonymously post a video of the carpet-bombing 
of Iraq or any other contradiction of official reporting? No journalist 
could have done this.

 The decentralizing, entropic power of masses of thinking individuals has
more power than centralized paper-shuffling court-martialing rule. The 
gov is already out of control, maybe it will go out of control in a different 
direction once the technology of free speech permits it.

 There is also very little we can do to stop anyone from using it. As Louis 
Freeh has discovered, once the technological genie is out of the bottle, it 
stays out. Should I be wrong about these positive implications, once the
code written, just as the inventors of nukes turned pacifist, the authors
of crypto software will have no control over their creation. Giving to the
public amounts to giving it to the gov. I simply prefer that it be overt 
rather than covert.

 I will not even go into the positively underhanded benefits of giving 
the gov anon digicash. The issues are the same, but even moreso. Three cheers
for capitalism.