1997-05-15 - Civil Disobediance

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From: nobody@huge.cajones.com (Huge Cajones Remailer)
To: cypherpunks@cyberpass.net
Message Hash: 2b746fc698bc87ce74f9b4ea601dc51fdfd7c4bebd259728fe84a6001568f386
Message ID: <199705150652.XAA21425@fat.doobie.com>
Reply To: N/A
UTC Datetime: 1997-05-15 07:07:56 UTC
Raw Date: Thu, 15 May 1997 15:07:56 +0800

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From: nobody@huge.cajones.com (Huge Cajones Remailer)
Date: Thu, 15 May 1997 15:07:56 +0800
To: cypherpunks@cyberpass.net
Subject: Civil Disobediance
Message-ID: <199705150652.XAA21425@fat.doobie.com>
MIME-Version: 1.0
Content-Type: text/plain

"All that matters is how we die: shall we offer our bodies helplessly,
like cattle, to the knife, or, refusing passively to await the end
shall we turn the strength of our anger to one last battle, til,
daring and doing, we fall, drenched with their blood, amongst the
heaped bodies and weapons of our dying enemies?"  -- Livy Book XXV

We've seen many sentiments like this one on the list lately.  Such
sentiments are understandable and have a certain visceral appeal.  And
it is good that people who are thinking along these lines are also
telling their friends on the list instead of censoring themselves.

But, these strategies are not the best we can choose to achieve our
true goals.  Few of us wish to be martyrs.

The years long discussion of "crypto policy" has had the unfortunate
and intended effect that it has caused us to become accustomed to
restrictions on sharing ideas.  That doesn't mean we like it, but it
does mean that we consider the control of mathematical ideas to be
expected and somewhat inevitable.  (The same mechanisms we use to
train animals are at work here.)

Many of us have, perhaps, lost our youthful rage at the complete
absurdity of a law which makes it highly illegal to invent some math,
express it in code, and distribute it for free to the world.

Perhaps there is a way to turn the training on the trainers?  Civil
disobediance is the best way to do this.  Were a relatively small
number of people, a thousand for instance, to post the "RSA in 3
lines" code to the world, it would be highly unlikely that anybody at
all would be prosecuted, particularly if a sizeable number of these
people were professors, graduate students, professionals at well known
companies, journalists, politicians?, or otherwise prominent people.
The whole situation would be so absurd they would never dare take it
to court.

If no response results from the first release of code, more people
will feel comfortable jumping in when it becomes clear that they have
a chance to change the world.  The longer somebody waits, the less
opportunity they have to tell their grandkids "I was the 500th person
to publically export RSA back in the late 20th century.  The
government was actually trying to make math illegal!"  Best of all,
anybody "fortunate" enough to be a U.S. citizen can participate, even
if they don't write code themselves.

Having established beyond any doubt that the export of RSA was
possible without repercussions, the lesson will be driven home by
group releases of successively longer mathematical works expressed in
source code.  The first release will be the most challenging.  In no
time at all everybody - including everybody in the government - will
find themselves accustomed to the idea that laws against mathematics
are absurd.  (Even Senators will be able to grasp this unchallenging

It is not hard for the government and the newspapers to discredit
militia type activities involving large weapons collections and
chemistry experiments.  But, no matter how much spin is put on it, it
is extremely hard to persuade the public that sending a few lines of
source code is terrorism, especially when they can download it off the
web and see for themselves that it is just, well, source code, and
maybe export it themselves.

The way to get started is for people to pledge to post "RSA in 3
lines" if certain conditions are met.  For instance, "I will post 'RSA
in 3 lines' if 500 people promise to do it as well, among them being
Michel Foucault, Jacob Bernoulli, and Blaise Pascal."  No risk need be
taken without allies!

Dr. Roberts