A Response To “Responsible Encryption”

[SOURCE: Stanford Center for Internet and Society]

by Riana Pfefferkorn

On October 10, Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein gave a speech at the U.S. Naval Academy about encryption. I have a lot to say about his remarks, so this will be a long post. Much of Rosenstein's speech recycled the same old chestnuts that law enforcement's been repeating about crypto for years. I'm happy to roast those chestnuts. But his remarks went beyond the usual well-worn lines to a new level of inflammatory rhetoric that signals a change in American law enforcement's approach to the crypto wars.

The "going dark" debate over encryption is largely a branding exercise. As UC Davis cryptography professor Phil Rogaway has pointed out, even the label "going dark" has a Lakoffian aspect to it, evoking our ancient fear of the dark. When we call this the "going dark" debate, we're giving more power to that framing. Dictating the labels we use has been an important arrow in DOJ's rhetorical quiver as it tries to persuade the American public that encryption is bad for us. What I would brand "strong encryption," the DOJ likes to call "warrant-proof" encryption. We're both referring to the same thing: encryption that does not provide a mechanism for law enforcement, or the provider of the encryption itself, to gain access to plaintext—even with a warrant.1 Yet Rod Rosenstein and I use different rhetorical frames, because we have different answers to this question: Should there exist spaces in human society that cannot be policed?

This, too, is just another framing, but I believe it's a fundamental question that almost never gets stated overtly. It's clear what the DOJ's answer is. "[T]here has never been a right to absolute privacy," Rosenstein says, repeating a well-worn line. But the government has never been entitled to absolute surveillance, either. We can have quiet conversations face-to-face, or cast a letter into the fire. And some evidence can lie beyond the reach of the police, thanks to the Fifth Amendment and other privileges, which we have gradually expanded over time as a matter of sound public policy, informed by "reason and experience." "Warrant-proof" is a cute term, but warrants are not magical talismans.

Rosenstein didn't coin the phrase "warrant-proof" encryption, and it's been called out before as just rhetoric. What's new, at least to me, is the label Rosenstein used for its opposite: "responsible encryption." Yet I've learned that even this term is not new: in 1996, the then-Director of the FBI was already referring to "socially-responsible encryption." (Hat tip.) Now, in 2017, Rosenstein is reviving it. By "responsible," he means "capable of granting law enforcement access to plaintext." Given the DOJ's answer to the question I posed above, it comes as no surprise that in this framing, by definition, end-to-end encryption of communications is irresponsible. Building a smartphone that's encrypted by default, from which not even its manufacturer can extract plaintext data, is irresponsible.

Rosenstein's rhetoric about "responsible encryption" encapsulates in two words a speech that repeatedly portrays encryption as a dangerous weapon used almost exclusively by wrongdoers. It portrays the tech companies that provide encrypted products and services as scofflaws2 recklessly enabling those wrongdoers behind a fig-leaf of "absolute privacy." (This is itself a rhetorical flourish, given that this is a credo almost none of these companies actually espouse, about which more later.)

But responsibility is transitive, not reflexive. Responsibility does not exist in a vacuum; it must be answerable. The phrase "responsible encryption" prompts the question, responsible to whom? To Rosenstein, tech companies must be answerable to law enforcement above all other masters, and it is irresponsible to do otherwise. We have seen what "responsible" encryption products look like: the Clipper chip, whose notorious security flaws helped to decide the crypto wars of the 1990s. The Clipper chip was responsible to the U.S. government. It was not responsible to its would-be users, who wanted to secure their phone conversations.

The notion of computer security as a core value is not totally lost on Rosenstein. He pays the usual lip service to encryption's positive uses and makes the usual claim that the DOJ "understand[s] and encourage[s] strong cybersecurity." Yet he refuses to acknowledge the agreement among computer security experts that the DOJ vision of "responsible" encryption necessarily means serious security shortcomings.

Instead, he invokes the lazy old excuse that the wizards of Silicon Valley, currently hard at work on "drones and fleets of driverless cars, a future of artificial intelligence and augmented reality," just need to nerd harder. "Surely such companies could design consumer products that provide data security while permitting lawful access with court approval." If they keep insisting that they can't, it must be because they're not being "responsible." It's easier to pretend that the objections to backdoors (a term he vehemently disavows) are not about technical realities, but rather, purely about policy choices—driven, Rosenstein insists, by greed.3

There is no room, in this worldview, for the notion of tech companies being responsible, answerable, to their legions of everyday users. There is designing to serve law enforcement, and there is designing to protect pedophiles and terrorists; that's it. Rosenstein willfully ignores encryption's use by millions of ordinary people for completely legitimate purposes. Tech companies don't keep improving their encryption designs because they want to provide better security to their users (and thereby improve the security ecosystem overall). No, they are interested only in "selling products and making money." Law enforcement, by contrast, is "in the business of preventing crime and saving lives."

This is Rosenstein's anti-crypto rhetoric at its most blatant, and its most insulting. Strong encryption does prevent crime, such as identity theft. That's something "responsible" companies need to worry about at a time when massive data breaches regularly dominate the headlines. Strong encryption does save lives, such as by helping protect individuals from being stalked by abusive family members or intimate partners. That's something a "responsible" law enforcement agency, charged with protecting and serving the public, should embrace. In a time when it's open season on women, immigrants, Muslims, Black people, trans and gender nonconforming people, and anyone else who's "other," strong encryption helps ward off victimization—not just by private bad actors, but by the state too.

Perhaps anticipating critiques like those above, Rosenstein proactively paints himself as a victim under assault. In a speech that has already used the word "attack" 15 times, he mentions it one final time in the context of the claim that "Sounding the alarm about the dark side of technology is not popular. Everyone who speaks candidly about 'going dark' faces attacks by advocates of absolute privacy." This man is the second highest ranking law enforcement official in the mightiest country the world has ever seen. Portraying himself as an inconvenient gadfly boldly stating unpopular truths, who is then "attacked," like a Cassandra or Socrates, by the arrayed armies of… civil liberties advocates (who, he goes on to say, are only in it for the money), is frankly bizarre.

It is also a clever means of turning the focus away from the thoroughly discredited ideas he is rehashing, and onto those of us who have had to discredit them, over and over again, ever since law enforcement started "sounding the alarm" about encryption two decades ago. The "absolute privacy" stance is one which, as noted, few companies offering encrypted devices and services actually take—as any large tech company's transparency report on government demands for user data will readily reveal. It's also a rarity among privacy and civil liberties advocates. (To say nothing of the actual cryptographers and other information security professionals whose expert opinions Rosenstein does not even acknowledge, since their conclusions do not fit into the only two categories of motivation he can think of for espousing strong encryption: "profit" and "sincere concern" for privacy.)

Yet branding everyone who is against weakened crypto as "advocates of absolute privacy" is a sly way of reframing the debate. It forces civil liberties activists to respond to that framing and it channels those responses. For people who embrace Rosenstein's label (and some do), whatever they say can safely be ignored, as privacy absolutists are not to be taken seriously. The other option is to push back against the hyperbole and deny that one is a privacy absolutist (and thereby allow the DOJ to pit those who are not against those who are, driving a wedge between people who are fundamentally on the same side in this debate).

If you fall into the latter camp, Rosenstein has gotten his foot in the door. He has put your commitment to privacy and security up for negotiation. Surely you are reasonable people, and you can be persuaded to move your preferred balance point between privacy and law enforcement—or security and security—to favor the law enforcement side a little more. There is little incentive to do that, given that there's been a clear winner in the latest round of the crypto wars and it's not the DOJ. But if you don't budge, then law enforcement can claim you're refusing to have "mature conversations" about encryption. That's the line the government trots out every time its "efforts to engage" with tech companies do not "bear fruit," in Rosenstein's words.

But, he warns darkly, the time for talking is over. In October 2015, then-FBI Director Jim Comey had backed off a "legislative remedy" to the "going dark" issue, promising instead to "continue the conversations with industry"—that is, pressure tech companies to "voluntarily" change their encryption designs in closed-door meetings held outside of public view and accountability. Two years later, it appears the DOJ has given up on those conversations. Tech companies won't knuckle under and design their encryption the way law enforcement wants them to unless a law passes that forces their hand. (Rosenstein euphemistically calls this companies' "willing[ness] to make accommodations when required by the government.")

Rosenstein even goes so far as to hold up oppressive governments as an instructive example. Tech companies, he says, have proved willing to compromise their products in order to do business in countries with "questionable human rights records," for insalubrious purposes such as censorship. Therefore, he reasons, those companies should be willing to adopt "responsible" encryption that permits access by U.S. law enforcement. That is, if it's OK for a company to accede to oppressive states' demands, then it's even more OK to do so for our own government, given its ostensibly greater respect for human rights and the rule of law. (Rosenstein invokes American respect for the rule of law repeatedly in his remarks, delivered, you'll recall, to a room full of Navy servicemembers—the unsubtle implication being that their devotion to strong encryption makes the tech companies un- or anti-American.)

This remarkable line of reasoning inverts one of the common policy arguments for governments to embrace strong encryption. Advocates of strong encryption like to argue that if a Western democratic government adopts an anti-encryption national policy, then we have no moral leg to stand on when countries with dismal human rights records do the same. Call it a "slippery slope" argument. Rosenstein thinks American tech companies should fall up that slippery slope. He does not see, in their global market dominance, an opportunity to spread our values abroad. (Perhaps I should not be surprised, given America's abdication since January 20 of its previous role—fraught though it was—as a champion of democracy, freedom, and human rights on the world stage.)

Here's the thing: Rosenstein has a point. When a company submits its tech products to security reviews by China or source code audits by Russia, when it aids official censorship or helps a regime persecute journalists, it opens itself up to a chorus of "me toos" by those wanting a similar deal. It has indicated that its commitment to its users' security, privacy, and human rights can be bought off; that it will follow unwise laws as the price of continuing to do business in a particular market. Rosenstein, as said, is unable to believe that tech companies might be answerable to their users, rather than to money or the state—and they have proved him right.

If that's the case, Rosenstein seems to be saying, the U.S. may as well go ahead and pass its own unwise law, mandating that technology companies weaken their products' security by kneecapping their encryption. The government won't tell them how; it will merely require them to be able "to achieve the crucial end": court-ordered law enforcement access to plaintext. If such a law (however ill-advised) passes, Rosenstein foresees that the companies currently vexing him will have no choice but to follow suit. And even if "less-used platforms" don't comply, getting "only major providers" to weaken their crypto "would still be a major step forward."

What Rosenstein is capitalizing on here is the shifting winds of public opinion, which lately have become more hostile to the giants of Silicon Valley. The whiff of regulation is in the air, and Rosenstein is cannily fanning it in the direction of the encryption debate. His speech was not truly directed at the Navy choir to which he was preaching: it was aimed at the big companies like Apple and Facebook (owner of WhatsApp) whose continuing efforts to better secure their users' data have so infuriated Rosenstein and his colleagues in law enforcement. The message: "You wouldn't do this the easy way, so now let's try it the hard way."

The gloves are off; the long knives are coming out. It's a scary story just in time for Halloween, courtesy of the zombie encryption debate that refuses to die.

1 Side note: "law enforcement is entitled to plaintext because we have a warrant" is a red herring, given the numerous circumstances under which police are allowed to obtain the contents of communications without a warrant. But that's a different blog post.

2 For example, he says that creators of encrypted messaging apps "do something that the law does not allow telephone carriers to do: they exempt themselves from complying with court orders." That is a misstatement of the law. The federal Communications Assistance for Law Enforcement Act, 47 U.S.C. § 1002(b)(3), says exactly the opposite about phone carriers and encryption, as my colleague Al Gidari has explained. Rosenstein surely knows that, being one of the country's top lawyers and all.

3 Allow me to cite Phil Rogaway again, because this paper is just that good: "Yet the [going dark] narrative's uneasy coexistence with reality hasn't mattered. It is, in fact, beautifully crafted to frame matters in a way guaranteed to lead discourse where authority wants it to go. It is a brilliant discourse of fear: fear of crime; fear of losing our parents' protection; even fear of the dark. The narrative's well-honed deceptiveness is itself a form of tradecraft."

>> Original source

Democracy Vs. Liberty: Trump Fails To Understand The Founders, As Have All Presidents Since Wilson

[SOURCE: Forbes]

by Steve H. Hanke

In the aftermath of World War I, President Woodrow Wilson set out to make the world safe for democracy. Since then, U.S. Presidents have marched to the drumbeat of Wilsonian idealism. Indeed, most U.S. foreign policy is carried out under the pretext — and in some cases perhaps the genuine belief — that America is delivering democracy to the rest of the world. President Trump’s recent pronouncements at the United Nations are neither new nor unusual.

Most people, including most Americans, would be surprised to learn that the word “democracy” does not appear in the Declaration of Independence (1776) or the Constitution of the United States of America (1789). They would also be shocked to learn the reason for the absence of the word democracy in the founding documents of the U.S.A. Contrary to what propaganda has led the public to believe, America’s Founding Fathers were skeptical and anxious about democracy. They were aware of the evils that accompany a tyranny of the majority. The Framers of the Constitution went to great lengths to ensure that the federal government was not based on the will of the majority and was not, therefore, democratic.

The Constitution divided the federal government into legislative, executive and judicial branches. Each branch was designed to check the power of the other branches. The Founders did not want to rely only on the voters to check government power. As a result, citizens were given very little power to select federal officials.

Neither the President, nor members of the judiciary, nor the Senate were elected by direct popular vote. Only the members of the House of Representatives were directly elected by popular vote. Even in this case, the franchise was quite restricted.

If the Framers of the Constitution did not embrace democracy, what did they adhere to? To a man, the Framers agreed that the purpose of government was to secure citizens in John Locke’s trilogy of the rights to life, liberty and property. The Framers wrote extensively and eloquently. On property, for example, John Adams wrote that “the moment the idea is admitted into society, that property is not as sacred as the laws of God, and that there is not a force of law and public justice to protect it, anarchy and tyranny commence.”

The Founders’ actions often spoke even louder than their words. Alexander Hamilton, a distinguished lawyer, took on many famous cases out of principle. After the Revolutionary War, the state of New York enacted harsh measures against Loyalists and British subjects. These included the Confiscation Act (1779), the Citation Act (1782) and the Trespass Act (1783). All involved the taking of property. In Hamilton’s view, these Acts illustrated the inherent difference between democracy and the law. Even though the Acts were widely popular, they flouted fundamental principles of property law. Hamilton carried his views into action and successfully defended — in the face of enormous public hostility — those who had property taken under these three New York state statutes.

The Constitution was designed to further the cause of liberty, not democracy. To do that, the Constitution protected individuals’ rights from the government, as well as from their fellow citizens. To that end, the Constitution laid down clear, unequivocal and enforceable rules to protect individuals’ rights. In consequence, the government’s scope and scale were strictly limited. Economic liberty, which is a precondition for growth and prosperity, was enshrined in the Constitution.

After European settlement, America consisted of thirteen English colonies. They benefited from a rather light administration from London and salutary neglect. This contrasted with the French colonies, which were controlled from Paris, and the Spanish colonies, which had entire institutional superstructures imposed from Spain.

Everything did not go well in the American colonies, however. One major colonial problem centered on money. Officially, British silver coins were the coin of the realm in America. But there were problems. The Navigation Acts prohibited the export of silver coins from England. There was also a prohibition against any of the colonies establishing mints. As a result, there was an endemic shortage of silver coins in the colonies. To fill this large gap, bills of credit were issued and circulated freely during the first half of the eighteenth century.

This resulted in high inflation, which forced most of the colonies to abandon fixed exchange rates and a specie standard. Things finally deteriorated to such an extent that the British Board of Trade imposed the Currency Acts of 1751 and 1764. These prohibited the issuance and use of bills of credit not fully backed by specie. The prohibitions against paper money created an enormous source of resentment in the colonies. Coupled with the better-known Stamp Act of 1765, the prohibitions on bills of credit set the stage for the Declaration of Independence and the ensuing Revolutionary War.

The Revolutionary War added to America’s money problems. The best estimates place the cost of the Revolutionary War at about 15 to 20 percent of the colonies’ GNP. Roughly 85 percent of it was financed with fiat money. During the 1775-80 period, annual inflation was about 65 percent. Subsequently — and prior to the Constitutional Convention (1787) — the economic situation was one in which individual states increased taxes and regulations dramatically and money remained unstable. In addition, there was a great deal of political corruption and scandal. And to top it off, the economy was in a general slump which was punctuated by the crisis of 1787.

As a reaction to the overall political-economic situation, the Constitutional Convention convened in 1787 in Philadelphia. In due course, the Constitution was crafted and ratified in 1789. It is a short, clear, intelligible document. The Constitution’s preamble contains only 52 words which are followed by seven short articles and ten amendments known as the Bill of Rights (1791).

The original Constitution established the rule of law and limited government. It is noteworthy that about 20 percent of the Constitution itemizes things that the federal and state governments may not do, while only 10 percent of the Constitution is concerned with positive grants of power. In total, the legitimate powers granted by the Constitution were less than those that had existed. The bulk of the Constitution — about 70 percent — addresses the Framers’ conception of their main task: to bring the United States and its government under the rule of law.

The Constitution is primarily a structural and procedural document that itemizes who is to exercise power and how they are to exercise it. A great deal of stress is placed on the separation of powers and the checks and balances in the system. These were not a Cartesian construct or formula aimed at social engineering, but a shield to protect the people from the government. In short, the Constitution was designed to govern the government, not the people.

The Bill of Rights establishes the rights of the people against infringements by the State. The only thing that the citizens can demand from the State, under the Bill of Rights, is for a trial by a jury. The rest of the citizens’ rights are protections from the State. For roughly a century after the Constitution was ratified, private property, contracts and free internal trade within the United States were sacred. The scope and scale of the government remained very constrained. All this was very consistent with what was understood to be liberty.

A remark about the Framers and the public is in order. There were 55 Framers and 35 had attended college. The college entry standards in those days were very high and strict. At the age of 14 or 15, the normal college entry age, students were required to be fluent in both Latin and Greek and proficient in the Classics. They were skilled at the art of rhetoric and were keenly aware of the necessity of garnering public support for their constitutional project. For the Framers, policies needed to be developed from the bottom up.

At the time, Americans were literate and well informed, via pamphlets and manuscripts, about the political debates of the day. There were four times as many newspapers in the United States as there were in France, which was the center of continental thinking and debate on many constitutional and philosophic matters. The Federalist Papers were published in 1787 and 1788 in New York City’s Independent Journal, an ordinary newspaper. These important essays — written under pseudonyms by Alexander Hamilton, James Madison and John Jay — were of very high quality and set the stage for the Constitutional Convention and the resulting product. In passing, it is worth mentioning that Hamilton organized this project, wrote most of the essays, and of all the Founding Fathers, performed most of the intellectual work for the least historical credit. That said, two notable economists have given Hamilton his due. Lionel Robbins thought the Federalist Papers were “the best book on political science and its broad practical aspects written in the last thousand years.” And if that were not enough, Milton Friedman wrote in 1973 that Federalist Paper 15, written by Hamilton, “contains a more cogent analysis of the European Common Market than any I have seen from the pen of a modern writer.”

After the Constitution was ratified and George Washington was elected President, the new federal government lacked credibility. Public finances hung like a threatening cloud over the government. Recall that paper money and debt were innovations of the colonial era, and that once the Revolutionary War began, Americans used these innovations to the maximum. As a result, the United States was born in a sea of debt. A majority of the public favored a debt default. Alexander Hamilton, acting as Washington’s Secretary of the Treasury, was firmly against default. As a matter of principle, he argued that the sanctity of contracts was the foundation of all morality. And as a practical matter, Hamilton argued that good government depended on its ability to fulfill its promises.

Hamilton won the argument and set about digging the country out of its financial debacle. Among other things, Hamilton was — what would today be called — a first-class financial engineer. He established a federal sinking fund to finance the Revolutionary War debt. He also engineered a large debt swap in which the debts of individual states were assumed by the newly created federal government. By August 1791, federal bonds sold above par in Europe, and by 1795, all foreign debts had been paid off. Hamilton’s solution for America’s debt problem provided the country with a credibility and confidence shock.

The state of economic affairs in the United States, roughly until World War I, was in the spirit of the Constitution. The economy flourished, with large increases in labor and capital inputs as well as strong productivity growth. There was, of course, one near fatal interruption during this period: the Civil War. The war consumed 15 to 20 percent of GNP, about the same proportion as during the Revolutionary War. War finance was somewhat similar in the Confederacy (the South) as it was during the Revolutionary War. About 60 percent of the financing for the southern effort was paper money. The North also resorted to fiat money financing, but at only a 13 percent rate. Consequently, there was an inflationary surge.

In addition to the major disruption caused by the Civil War, it is worth mentioning one major anomaly in the U.S. economy: lands owned by the federal, as well as state and local, governments.

Alexander Hamilton, the first Secretary of the Treasury, wanted to sell the public lands as fast as possible. This did not happen. In consequence, the government still owns a huge amount of real estate. Its surface area is about six times larger than the total area of France. This is a stateowned enterprise. As you might expect, it is also unproductive. Detailed studies of SOE lands indicate that they are only about 25-30 percent as productive as comparable private ones.

America’s SOE lands have been the center of repeated debates about the free market system in the United States. Indeed, the American Economic Association put itself at the center of one of these debates. One, possibly the major, motivation for establishing the American Economic Association was as a protest against laissez-faire attitudes in the United States. Not surprisingly, the May 1885 American Economic Review contains three papers justifying the retention of government-owned timberlands!

On the eve of World War I, government expenditures were less than 2 percent of GNP and 99 percent of the population paid no income tax. The income tax had just been introduced, but the top rate was only 7 percent and applied to incomes exceeding $500,000. The federal government had around 400,000 employees, less than 1 percent of the labor force. About 165,000 troops were on active duty. No federal regulations of capital or labor markets existed. Agricultural production and distribution were also unregulated.

There was no minimum wage rate and no social security. One area where there was a rather aggressive interference in the economy concerned the rates and tariffs that the railroads charged. Antitrust was also strong.

The conflagration of World War I marks a violent break with the letter and spirit of the Constitution. Property rights were suspended on a large scale. There were wide-scale nationalizations of rail, telephone, telegraph and to a lesser degree ocean shipping. Over 100 manufacturing plants were nationalized. The government got involved in labor-management relations under the Adams Act in 1916. Conscription was instituted. The Espionage Act was passed in 1917. The Sedition Act of 1918 imposed penalties for anti-government expression, subverting the Bill of Rights. The novelist, Upton Sinclair was actually arrested for reading the Bill of Rights and Roger Baldwin, one of the founders of the American Civil Liberties Union, was arrested for reading the Constitution. President Woodrow Wilson accomplished all this under emergency powers granted to him by Congress in 1916.

Much of this anti-Constitutional apparatus was scrapped after World War I. However, residues remained and eventually resurfaced. All it took were other national emergencies — the Great Depression, World War II, the Vietnam War, and so on. With each, laws were enacted, bureaus created and the budgets enlarged. In many cases, these changes turned out to be permanent. The result is that crises acted as a ratchet, shifting the trend line of government size and scope up to a higher level.

It comes as no surprise that governments spend more money and regulate more actively during crises — wars and economic bailouts are expensive and complicated. But a more active government also attracts opportunists, who perceive that a national emergency can serve as a useful pretext for achieving their own objectives.

The U.S. and other countries seem no more aware of this today than they were in the past. And yet history has provided many examples to illustrate how damaging it is. Take the Great Depression. At that time, the organized farm lobbies, having sought subsidies for decades, took advantage of the crisis to pass a sweeping rescue package, the Agricultural Adjustment Act, whose title declared it to be “an act to relieve the existing national economic emergency.”

Almost 80 years later, the farmers are still sucking money from the rest of society and agricultural policy has been enlarged to satisfy a variety of other interest groups, including conservationists, nutritionists and friends of the Third World. Then, during World War II, when government accounted for nearly half the U.S. GDP, virtually every interest group tried to tap into the vastly enlarged government budget. Even bureaus seemingly remote from the war effort, such as the Department of the Interior (which is in charge of government lands and natural resources), claimed to be performing “essential war work” and to be entitled to bigger budgets and more personnel.

Within the U.S. government, the war on terrorism has given cover to a multitude of parochial opportunists, whose proposals range from bailing out the airlines to nationalizing vaccine production. As a result, former President George W. Bush — a so-called conservative — ushered in a record-setting expansion of government. This trend continued with the left-of-center President Obama. And now, populist President Trump promises more of the same.

What lessons can we learn? First, “democracy” and “freedom” are not interchangeable words. Second, only the first century of the American experience represents a standard for freedom. Expanding democracy is a slogan which requires great caution. It can easily result in elected tyranny. Freedom is the concept. Our challenge is to persuade every citizen that benefits flow from freedom’s practical applications. Freedom might then flourish in very diverse and unexpected forms in different parts of the world.

Authored by Steve H. Hanke of the Johns Hopkins University. Follow him on Twitter @Steve_Hanke.

>> Original source

Trump’s DOJ tries to rebrand weakened encryption as “responsible encryption”

[BA:] This is absolutely what it all comes down to in the crucial argument about privacy. If you want a world that is actually worth living in, then you must categorically elevate privacy above fake “public safety.” For our take on this argument, please see Fuck Safety.

Contrary to Rosenstein’s childishly tyrannical premise around the constitutionality of the right to privacy, the US Constitution makes it very clear that it is intended to work in the opposite direction than Rosenstein posits. The Constitution does not have to specifically provide for “the right to sell warrant-proof encryption,” or any of the literally infinite number of natural rights. The 10th Amendment makes it clear that the Constitution does not tell the people what they can do; it specifically tells the government what it can do, and any powers that it does not explicitly grant to the federal government are implicitly prohibited to the federal government and reserved to the states and the people.

The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.

And there is definitely nothing in the Constitution that says that the government can legislate away the privacy of the people.

[SOURCE: ars technica]

by Jon Brodkin

A high-ranking Department of Justice official took aim at encryption of consumer products today, saying that encryption creates “law-free zones” and should be scaled back by Apple and other tech companies. Instead of encryption that can’t be broken, tech companies should implement “responsible encryption” that allows law enforcement to access data, he said.

“Warrant-proof encryption defeats the constitutional balance by elevating privacy above public safety,” Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein said in a speech at the US Naval Academy today (transcript). “Encrypted communications that cannot be intercepted and locked devices that cannot be opened are law-free zones that permit criminals and terrorists to operate without detection by police and without accountability by judges and juries.”

Rosenstein was nominated by President Donald Trump to be the DOJ’s second-highest-ranking official, after Attorney General Jeff Sessions. He was confirmed by the Senate in April.

Rekindling fight with Apple

Rosenstein’s speech makes several references to Apple, continuing a battle over encryption between Apple and the US government that goes back to the Obama administration. Last year, Apple refused to help the government unlock and decrypt the San Bernardino gunman’s iPhone, but the FBI ended up paying hackers for a vulnerability that it used to access data on the device.

“Fortunately, the government was able to access data on that iPhone without Apple’s assistance,” Rosenstein said. “But the problem persists. Today, thousands of seized devices sit in storage, impervious to search warrants.”

“If companies are permitted to create law-free zones for their customers, citizens should understand the consequences,” he also said. “When police cannot access evidence, crime cannot be solved. Criminals cannot be stopped and punished.”

We asked Apple for a response to Rosenstein’s speech and will update this story if we get one.

Separately, state lawmakers in New York and California have proposed legislation to prohibit the sale of smartphones with unbreakable encryption.

“Responsible encryption”

Despite his goal of giving law enforcement access to encrypted data on consumer products, Rosenstein acknowledged the importance of encryption to the security of computer users. He said that “encryption is a foundational element of data security and authentication,” that “it is essential to the growth and flourishing of the digital economy,” and that “we in law enforcement have no desire to undermine it.”

But Rosenstein complained that “mass-market products and services incorporating warrant-proof encryption are now the norm,” that instant-messaging service encryption cannot be broken by police, and that smartphone makers have “engineer[ed] away” the ability to give police access to data.

Apple CEO Tim Cook has argued in the past that the intentional inclusion of vulnerabilities in consumer products wouldn’t just help law enforcement solve crimes—it would also help criminals hack everyday people who rely on encryption to ensure their digital safety.

Rosenstein claimed that this problem can be solved with “responsible encryption.” He said:

Responsible encryption is achievable. Responsible encryption can involve effective, secure encryption that allows access only with judicial authorization. Such encryption already exists. Examples include the central management of security keys and operating system updates; the scanning of content, like your e-mails, for advertising purposes; the simulcast of messages to multiple destinations at once; and key recovery when a user forgets the password to decrypt a laptop.

No one calls any of those functions a “back door.” In fact, those capabilities are marketed and sought out by many users.

It’s not clear exactly how Rosenstein would implement his desired responsible encryption.

Rosenstein’s “key recovery when a user forgets the password to decrypt a laptop” reference seems to refer to Apple and Microsoft providing the ability to store recovery keys in the cloud. But users who encrypt Mac or Windows laptops aren’t required to do this—they can store the keys locally only if they prefer. To guarantee law enforcement access in this scenario, people who encrypt laptops would have to be forced to store their keys in the cloud. Alternatively, Apple and Microsoft would have to change the way their disk encryption systems work, overriding the consumer’s preference to have an encrypted system that cannot be accessed by anyone else.

Rosenstein gave some further insight into how “responsible encryption” might work in this section of his speech:

We know from experience that the largest companies have the resources to do what is necessary to promote cybersecurity while protecting public safety. A major hardware provider, for example, reportedly maintains private keys that it can use to sign software updates for each of its devices. That would present a huge potential security problem, if those keys were to leak. But they do not leak, because the company knows how to protect what is important. Companies can protect their ability to respond to lawful court orders with equal diligence.

Of course, there are many examples of companies leaking sensitive data due to errors or serious vulnerabilities. The knowledge that errors will happen at some point explains why technology companies take so many precautions to protect customer data. Maintaining a special system that lets third parties access data that would otherwise only be accessible by its owner increases the risk that sensitive data will get into the wrong hands.

No “constitutional right” to warrant-proof encryption

Rosenstein claimed that “responsible encryption can protect privacy and promote security without forfeiting access for legitimate law enforcement needs supported by judicial approval.” But he doubts that tech companies will do so unless forced to:

Technology companies almost certainly will not develop responsible encryption if left to their own devices. Competition will fuel a mindset that leads them to produce products that are more and more impregnable. That will give criminals and terrorists more opportunities to cause harm with impunity.

“Allow me to conclude with this thought,” Rosenstein said just before wrapping up his speech. “There is no constitutional right to sell warrant-proof encryption. If our society chooses to let businesses sell technologies that shield evidence even from court orders, it should be a fully-informed decision.”

>> Original source

Donald Trump: Warmonger-in-Chief!

[SOURCE: Antonius Aquinas]

If a world conflagration, God forbid, should break out during the Trump Administration, its genesis will not be too hard to discover: the thin-skinned, immature, shallow, doofus which currently resides in the Oval Office!

This past week, the Donald has continued his bellicose talk with both veiled and explicit threats against purported American adversaries throughout the world. In a cryptic exchange with reporters during a dinner with military leaders, he quipped:

You guys know what this represents? Maybe it's the calm before the storm. It could be the calm. . . before. . . the storm.

A reporter asked if he meant Iran or Isis which the POTUS responded, "you'll find out." Instead of threatening supposed overseas foes with nuclear annihilation, none of whom have taken any concrete military action against the US, why not go after someone who has actually compromised the country's security, namely Hillary Rodham Clinton!

While some dismissed the comments as typical Trumpian bluster, White House press secretary Sarah Sanders added further ominous overtones when questioned saying they were "extremely serious."

Later in the week, Trump continued to threaten tiny North Korea, this time in not so veiled terms:

Presidents and their administrations have been talking to North Korea for 25 years, agreements made and massive amounts of money paid hasn't worked, agreements violated before the ink was dry, making fools of U.S. negotiators. Sorry, but only one thing will work.

If war erupts either on the Korean Peninsula or in any other part of the globe that the U.S has wantonly poked its nose into, it can be safely assured that neither Trump nor any of the other "military leaders," with which he recently had dinner with, will be in the midst of hostilities as the bombs and bullets are being cast about. No, these laptop bombers will be in safe quarters far away from enemy lines, giving orders, making speeches, and praising the troops while Congress will be hurriedly passing more "defense" funding legislation further lining the pockets of the military industrial complex.

The Warmonger-in-Chief, who has repeatedly bragged about America's military prowess, had a chance to become a part of the organization he constantly gushes over during his youth at the time of the Vietnam War. Yet, he escaped military service, due to the machinations of his father, because of a mysterious foot/toe malady.

For all those who avoided being conscripted into America's disastrous imperial exercise in Southeast Asia during those years, whether it was from phony medical conditions, escaping to Canada or beyond, or going to jail, they did so for justifiable reasons. The war was immoral, since Vietnam had taken no hostile action against the US and what made it worse, the government drafted thousands of America's youth to fight it. It is reprehensible that those who got out of military service then are now at the forefront in advocating mass murder (war).

One resolution that would certainly curtail warmongering in the future would be that any legislator, president, cabinet officer, or ambassador that promotes military intervention abroad should be required to directly participate in field operations. This would quickly put the brakes on threatening talk from the likes of Trump and his crazed UN Ambassador, Nikki Haley.

A country's leadership personally conducting military operations has had a long tradition in Western history. During the crusading era, princes and kings led their retinues and forces into battle risking life and limb such as the great Norman prince, Bohemond, whose courage, tenacity, and military acumen won the day for Christian forces at the battle of Antioch.

This venerable ideal can still be seen in Russia when recently one of its generals and two colonels lost their lives in the Syrian quagmire. When was the last time a US general has perished in active combat?

It is apparent that the current POTUS does not understand the catastrophic consequences of what his threats, if carried out, would lead to – death to millions, unimaginable destruction, and the end of civilization. Maybe, had he actually suffered through the horrors of combat or had been the victim of US aggression as the peoples of North Korea, Vietnam and Iraq have witnessed, he might refrain from such bellicose language.

Hopefully, cooler heads in the Administration will prevail, however, a more peaceful world is unlikely with the likes of Donald John Trump at the command of the greatest destructive force in human history.

>> Original source

Don’t Become a Right-Wing Snowflake

[SOURCE: Liberty Blitzkrieg]

by Michael Krieger

But it does me no injury for my neighbor to say there are twenty gods, or no God. It neither picks my pocket nor breaks my leg…Reason and free inquiry are the only effectual agents against error. Give a loose rein to them, they will support the true religion by bringing every false one to their tribunal, to the test of their investigation.

– Thomas Jefferson, Notes on the State of Virginia

Here's a prediction. Right-wing snowflake culture will expand exponentially in the coming years, and its rise will be cynically and intentionally fueled by Donald Trump himself. Having proved himself a fake populist on most issues that actually matter, Trump has no choice but to move more enthusiastically into the culture war to deflect away from his obvious betrayal on economic populism and keep his diehard supporters in heat. In other words, he'll do exactly what mainstream Democrats and Republicans have been doing for decades, which is distract the public and keep it fighting while oligarchs grab what little is left. This works out just fine for billionaire Trump and the Goldman Sachs guys running his administration.

If I'm correct, how should we respond? How do those of us who see a creeping right-wing snowflake culture emerging push back? Rule number one is don't act like a snowflake in response. Exposing hypocrisy with incisive rational arguments and humor is the best way to push back against right-wing authoritarianism, just like it's the best way to push back against left-wing authoritarianism. The authoritarian mindset is the enemy of freedom loving people everywhere irrespective of your specific views on health care, taxes, etc. There are far bigger things at risk to us as a people if we allow ourselves to be divided into two separate authoritarian gangs fighting for power.

Unfortunately, this is exactly what seems to be happening with far too many people, and I ask that you not play this dangerous game. People are vulnerable to autocratic cults when they lack real principles based on freedom; when they know what they're against, but don't really know what they're for. Standing for something as empowering and ethical as liberty is what keeps you grounded and sane in the midst of a society-wide mental breakdown.

A perfect example of the emergent right-wing snowflake mindset comes courtesy of Donald Trump himself. In his commentary on NFL protests last Friday in Alabama, the president showed a degree of thin skinned outrage quite reminiscent of the hordes of college cry bullies I've criticized so harshly over the years. Let's revisit that comment, which is what sparked everything that followed.

"Wouldn't you love to see one of these NFL owners, when somebody disrespects our flag, to say, 'Get that son of a bitch off the field right now, out, he's fired!' You know, some owner is going to do that. He's gonna say, 'That guy disrespects our flag, he's fired.' And that owner, they don't know it. They don't know it. They're friends of mine, many of them. They don't know it. They'll be the most popular person, for a week. They'll be the most popular person in the country."

If you take a step back and honestly analyze the emotional sentiment at play in the above rant, you'll see it's quite similar to that of a 19 year old Berkley leftist dressed like a ninja hyperventilating about Milo Yiannopoulos giving a speech. For left-wing snowflakes, right-wing trolls is where they draw the line, while for right-wing snowflakes it's the act of refusing to stand for a song or salute a flag. It's one thing to have a strong opinion on your own personal behavior, but it's quite another to demand your fellow citizens behave in the same way you see fit. The mindset of someone obsessed with telling you how to live or behave in your everyday life is the mindset of an authoritarian.

It doesn't matter if that person is marching with antifa, wearing a MAGA hat or draped in the American flag. The true enemy of freedom is, and always has been, the authoritarian personality. A left-wing snowflake gets triggered by Milo or Ben Shapiro, while a right-wing snowflake gets triggered by a millionaire athlete kneeling during the national anthem. Each side will argue their position is more enlightened, patriotic or whatever, but at the end of the day, if you feel emotionally harmed by a fellow citizen exercising free speeches rights, you should probably start by examining your own demons.

When examining the authoritarian personality one thing becomes clear. Authoritarian types can typically be divided into two camps, leaders and followers. The leaders tend to be opportunistic, power hungry and manipulative. In many cases these people are highly intelligent when it comes to the ways of human nature, which is how they were able to propel themselves into a position of leadership in the first place. Such people typically aren't even genuinely offended by the taboo act they demonize, but they are instinctive enough to know it can be used to corral and manipulate a certain segment of the population. They only care to express outrage over the action in question to bolster their own power. Donald Trump and his high profile cheerleaders tend to fall into this camp. Creating outrage boosts their careers.

Importantly, it's the followers of authoritarian leaders who ultimately hold the real power. Without followers, leaders would fail to exist since the power and social capital of the leader depends on a willingness to follow that person. Most people who fall for authoritarian signaling do so out of deep insecurity, which the authoritarian leader instinctively grasps. It is the insecure and ungrounded person who most easily falls prey to the authoritarian leader.

Take the national anthem for example. Why does someone not standing for it bother you so much? If you feel standing is a patriotic gesture that's your right, but why do you care so much if a fellow citizen fails to see it the exact same way you do? Moreover, what does a patriotic gesture mean if it isn't voluntary? If Americans are cowered into standing for the anthem out of fear of being deemed unpatriotic, then the gesture itself no longer has any meaning. It merely becomes a ritual act of symbolic dogma, more appropriate for a society like Nazi Germany than the U.S. Republic. The fact so many Americans stand for the national anthem voluntarily is precisely what makes it a powerful gesture.

In this sense, right-wing snowflake culture employs the same tactics as left-wing snowflake culture. Left-wing snowflakes are quick to categorize anyone with a different political opinion as a Nazi in an attempt to shut down political debate via intimidation. Right-wing snowflakes do the same thing with superficial patriotic gestures, and then call those who won't stand or salute "un-American." Both tactics are destructive, wrong and the antithesis of a freedom loving person.

Our culture is one of extreme superficiality. This is exactly why so many people lose their minds over NFL players taking a knee, but could never be driven to such burning outrage over a war launched based on falsehoods that killed hundreds of thousands of Iraqis. Politicians and oligarchs encourage such superficiality, because if the public can be kept extremely ignorant and stupid then those who actually call the shots and craft the legislation can be left alone to steer society in the way they deem fit without the general public interfering. The end result is the rabble fights about the national anthem, flags and Milo, while the country continues to get looted.

Going forward, I expect Trump to pull many more stunts like the one he did this past Friday. He knows he's a fraud on the populist issues so many of his voters cared about, so his only option is to rally the troops by further inflaming the culture war. A culture war between right-wing and left-wing snowflakes, each promoting their own brand of authoritarianism. This works just fine for a politician like Trump. His Goldman Sachs advisors can do as they please as a distracted public shrieks over the cultural supremacy of their particular brand of self-indulgent, self-rightous outrage.

So what's my advice? First of all, don't become a snowflake. As Martin Luther King, Jr. noted, hate doesn't drive out hate. Similarly, snowflakes don't drive out snowflakes. You don't battle back against left-wing snowflake culture by becoming a right-wing snowflake, or vice versa. If you truly believe in freedom, don't compromise that core principle just because you got triggered.

Are you a proponent of liberty, or do you want a society based upon whatever type of conformity makes you feel most comfortable? Don't react based upon emotion, or simply because you want to give the other team a black eye. If you believe in liberty, act like it, and please do not become a snowflake.

If you liked this article and enjoy my work, consider becoming a monthly Patron, or visit our Support Page to show your appreciation for independent content creators.

In Liberty,
Michael Krieger

>> Original source

Freedom of Conscience Is the Foundation of All Freedom


by Jeffrey A. Tucker

I was at a church service Sunday and, during one part, the program instructed people to "stand or kneel." People did one or the other. I don't know why people chose to stand or kneel. But no one was upset either way. It was all peaceful and beautiful.

I like to think of this diversity of expression as protective of the freedom of conscience. To be sure, any private organization that wants to impose one way or the other is within its rights. The NFL can let players stand or kneel or impose one way.

But let us never give up on the idea of the freedom of conscience. It is the foundation of all freedoms. It's the idea that gave rise to everything we today call human rights.

The Bad Old Days

The ancient world knew only the ideal of unity. The same beliefs. The same religion. The same laws to enforce the one hegemonic will. The military was the model by which the rest of society was organized. Tribes were tolerated so long as they never mixed and never challenged the ruling class.

That new idea was freedom. Its core was the freedom of conscience. Compliance was the way, because the only means by which that idea can be realized was through the state, which presumed total power to enforce unity.

And with that idea came social stagnation. You stay in the station in which you are born: ruler, citizen, servant, merchant, slave.

That system eventually broke down because thinking men and women cannot forever live in cages. New religions came along that defied the notion that Caesar was a proxy for god. Foreigners tired of living under occupation. The central state proved itself unable to fulfill its promises, and the people revolted. The state lost its power.

One way broke down, but it took another 1,500 years before a different ideal came to replace the idea of unity. That new idea was freedom. Its core was the freedom of conscience. This notion was first tried in Europe due to exhaustion from the religious wars that had lasted centuries. It's not worth it.

Try Toleration

What if we let people believe what they want? What if the individual conscience can prevail as the motive force so long as no one is harmed? It could work. Not only that, maybe we can find value in a diversity of religious expression even if we regard the expression as false or contrary to what our own conscience dictates.

Voltaire in 1762 stated of Holland and Germany: "The Jew, the Catholic, the Greek, the Lutheran, the Calvinist, the Anabaptist, the Socinian, the Memnonist, the Moravian, and so many others, live like brothers in these countries, and contribute alike to the good of the social body."

Thomas Jefferson echoed the same: "it does me no injury for my neighbor to say there are twenty gods, or no God. It neither picks my pocket nor breaks my leg…. But is uniformity of opinion desirable? No more than of face and stature. "

The good of everyone is served by letting everyone exercise their freedom of belief in nonviolent ways. Remarkable. This one idea flipped all known history on its head and forged a new way to think about the individual and society.

The new system worked. It turned out that unity was not necessary. Toleration improved life for everyone. A new wall was erected between the will of the leader and the rights of the people. And this wall thickened and grew higher over the centuries.

The freedom of conscience necessarily and eventually led humanity to new ways of thinking and living. The idea of human rights began to be applied to other areas. Freedom of speech. Freedom of the press. Freedom of association. Freedom to trade, create, buy and sell, travel and move. The root was the same in every case: the core governing unit of society is located within the individual. The conscience. This, and not the will of the leader, is the guide.

The theory behind this idea grew ever clearer into focus during the Enlightenment. So persuasive was the idea that served as the core founding idea behind the United States. Religions that once aspired to build spiritual empires came around too and placed the rights of conscience at the core of even doctrine (where it remains today in, for example. Catholicism).

Blessed Commerce

The economic stagnation began to give way to something new and spectacular: rising wealth. With that came technology, better lives for more people, the end of plagues, the movement of populations to the city.

Deirdre McCloskey, in her three-volume work, demonstrates the cause: it was the unleashing of the creativity of the human mind. The freedom to think new thoughts, dream new ideas, and put them into practice–guaranteed by law–gave the world these gifts.

The freedom of conscience necessarily and eventually led humanity to new ways of thinking and living. We learned to cooperate through commerce.

Benjamin Constant wrote in 1819 that this was the crucial difference between the liberty of the ancients and the liberty of the moderns:

As a result, individual existence is less absorbed in political existence. Individuals carry their treasures far away; they take with them all the enjoyments of private life. Commerce has brought nations closer, it has given them customs and habits which are almost identical; the heads of states may be enemies: the peoples are compatriots. Let power therefore resign itself: we must have liberty and we shall have it. But since the liberty we need is different from that of the ancients, it needs a different organization from the one which would suit ancient liberty. In the latter, the more time and energy man dedicated to the exercise of his political rights, the freer he thought himself; on the other hand, in the kind of liberty of which we are capable, the more the exercise of political rights leaves us the time for our private interests, the more precious will liberty be to us.

We literally owe the whole of our material lives to this one institution, the freedom of conscience. It was the great insight to locate the juridical center of social, political, and economic life in the individual. That was the switch that changed everything.

We have a shared interest in regarding the conscience as sacred and inviolable. And it will continue to do so. Stepping back from that principle, forcing adults to speak or act contrary to what the heart and soul desires, even when no one would be hurt through their actions, and to do so in the name of God or country or the collective will of any sort, is contrary to everything we've learned and everything we've sought to achieve as humans for the last half millennium.

In the contest between the will of the mob, especially when fed by a popular head of state, and the conscience of one, the individual must always win, even if we do not agree. We have a shared interest in regarding the conscience as sacred and inviolable. It's the basis of everything we truly love.

Stand or kneel: it's your choice.

>> Original source

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