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How To Foil NSA Sabotage: Use a Dead Man's Switch

Unknown Lamer posted about a year ago | from the do-i-smell-methane dept.

Privacy 259

mspohr writes "Cory Doctorow has an interesting idea published in today's Guardian on how to approach the problem of NSA 'gag orders' which prevent web sites, etc. from telling anyone that they have been compromised. His idea is to set up a 'dead man' switch where a site would publish a statement that 'We have not been contacted by the government' ... until, of course, they were contacted and compromised. The statement would then disappear since it would no longer be true. He points out a few problems... Not making the statement could be considered a violation of disclosure... but, can the government force you to lie and state that you haven't been contacted when you actually have?" Rsync.net has been doing this for years; rather than the statement disappearing in case of an NSL being issued, it simply would stop updating. Indeed, their canary text also points out the same possible flaws: "This scheme is not infallible. Although signing the declaration makes it impossible for a third party to produce arbitrary declarations, it does not prevent them from using force to coerce rsync.net to produce false declarations. The news clip in the signed message serves to demonstrate that that update could not have been created prior to that date. It shows that a series of these updates were not created in advance and posted on this page."

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What do you mean by "can"? (4, Insightful)

kju (327) | about a year ago | (#44806543)

can the government force you to lie and state that you haven't been contacted when you actually have

As we should have learned, the government by large does not care if they "can" (in a legally sense), they just do it. But if necessary: Those rubber stamp courts will surely find a way to make it happen in a way which is legal on paper.

Re:What do you mean by "can"? (4, Insightful)

Joce640k (829181) | about a year ago | (#44806605)

All these tricks are just wishful thinking.

If other people learn you've been contacted then you're guilty no matter how you did it - by telling them or by stopping updates to a web site. It's all communication.

Re:What do you mean by "can"? (4, Interesting)

FriendlyLurker (50431) | about a year ago | (#44806751)

Speaking of foiling NSA and other of the worlds shadowy sky organizations shenanigans, there are some great ideas floating about like this one posted a few NSA stories back by Anachragnome [slashdot.org] : "The NSA has made it clear that making connections--following the metadata--is often enough to get an investigation started. So why not do the same thing? Turn the whole thing around? Start focusing on their networks. [slashdot.org] "

A sort of They Rule [theyrule.net] type network connection analysis on lists of people involved, start tallying connections and contacts build dossiers and trust-worthiness - combined with dead man switches for websites and professionally shunning anyone/organizations that have worked to subvert the security of the internet in favor of spying and undermining the social contract of the internet.

In related news Reddit co-founder was exposed as wanting to sign up and use Reddit/his reputation as a mouthpiece/research partner for Stratfor [startpage.com] . Stratfor turned him down they already had people from the social networking world working for them apparently. Given Slashdot appears to give regular airtime to well known warmongering trolls [slashdot.org] , will anyone be surprised if most sites like Slashdot are already on the payroll...

The truth, it's just a leak away, it's just a leak awaaay....

Re:What do you mean by "can"? (4, Funny)

Defenestrar (1773808) | about a year ago | (#44806883)

... The truth, it's just a leak away, it's just a leak awaaay....

And if you have potatoes, then the truth can bring some awesome soup with it

Re:What do you mean by "can"? (1)

Cormacus (976625) | about a year ago | (#44807317)

Dab of sour cream on top please.

Re:What do you mean by "can"? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44807081)

"...Stratfor turned [Reddit co-founder Alexis Ohanian] down..." Or did they? That is part of the problem to be solved in any reputation tracking, dossier building system. Not impossible to solve of course...

Re:What do you mean by "can"? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44807179)

will anyone be surprised if most sites like Slashdot are already on the payroll

Well, creepy corporate spy agency contractors like Stratfor wouldn't need whole organization's on the payroll, just an editor/administrator here and there is sufficient and more low-key, less noticeable and cheaper...

Re:What do you mean by "can"? (4, Insightful)

TWiTfan (2887093) | about a year ago | (#44806803)

Agreed. In an America of secret courts, indefinite detention without trial or habeas corpus, secret police who prohibit you from even telling anyone they've contacted you, etc.--the concept of "proving yourself innocent" is laughable. "Because we said so" is the only charge the feds need anymore. Everything else is just dressing.

Re:What do you mean by "can"? (5, Insightful)

Lumpy (12016) | about a year ago | (#44806869)

Secret? They do that openly. It is common knowledge they can jail you forever without trial or even telling you of what crime you may have violated. And the American public love it because it's "fighting terrorisim".

Secret means it's hidden, All of this is out in the open and publicly accepted.

Re: What do you mean by "can"? (5, Insightful)

Dave Marney (2977859) | about a year ago | (#44807037)

No, we don't "love it", we're appalled, angry, embarrassed and saddened. Trust in government is at an all-time low.

Re: What do you mean by "can"? (5, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44807197)

A somewhat vocal minority think the government has gone too far in its war on terrorists. Perhaps you remember the TSA's short-lived attempt to relax restrictions [cnn.com] . My local news never has any trouble finding a member of the public willing to say how much safer they feel each time a government agency proposes a new search method or new restriction.

Slashdot is a libertarian-leaning echo chamber and not representative of America.

Re: What do you mean by "can"? (1)

Travelsonic (870859) | about a year ago | (#44807297)

A somewhat vocal minority think the government has gone too far in its war on terrorists. Perhaps you remember the TSA's short-lived attempt to relax restrictions. My local news never has any trouble finding a member of the public willing to say how much safer they feel each time a government agency proposes a new search method or new restriction. Slashdot is a libertarian-leaning echo chamber and not representative of America.

That's why almost every article on the TSA I've read, Mr. A.C, has people lambasting the TSA more than not in the comments section [and lambasting those supporting the TSA in comment form in said comments section], right? *rolls eyes*

Re:What do you mean by "can"? (1)

NatasRevol (731260) | about a year ago | (#44807395)

That doesn't make it illegal, even if some bullshit order by some bullshit court thinks it is.

Time to move to the next box.

of course they can (2)

mschaffer (97223) | about a year ago | (#44806667)

Of course "the government force you to lie and state that you haven't been contacted when you actually have". They have done far worse. Of course, they can lie about doing it, too.

Re:of course they can (1)

mwvdlee (775178) | about a year ago | (#44807029)

They'll just ask how to maintain the particular "canary" page and handle it themselves.
At no point will you have to personally lie; they'll just do the lying for you.

Re:What do you mean by "can"? (2)

TWiTfan (2887093) | about a year ago | (#44806757)

Sadly, this is the state of the country that I was once taught was supposed to stand for freedom in the world.

Re:What do you mean by "can"? (5, Interesting)

Defenestrar (1773808) | about a year ago | (#44806847)

In the case of a signed (and dated) statement, you still hold the controlling factor and would necessitate coercion on the behalf of the other party. If the other party (government or individual) is willing and able to bear sufficient coercion upon you to acquiesce to perjury, than the system fails. So, one should only implement such a model if one believes that the level of coercion is within the limits of one's conviction to resist - otherwise you're setting yourself and your "trusted" parties up for compromise.

A "dead man switch" system like this certainly lends itself to a civil disobedience of passive resistance in the tradition of Gandhi, and MLK Jr. But what level do you go for? If I recall right (and strongly paraphrasing), Gandhi's solution to the atomic threat was to allow yourself to be nuked so that the children of the "victor" would express enough horror at the methods that they would reject the philosophy used for the strike and therefore giving the "victim" the final moral victory. Personally, I suspect that I am vulnerable to coercion threatening the annihilation of my entire nation - and probably even a lesser version closer to home.

One thing I've learned about the country with the Bill of Rights is that there are times when the government does exceed its authority, and sometimes even the courts rubber stamp it (although not always - look at Jackson and the Supreme Court), but ultimately a correction factor is applied. Sometimes this is a groundswell of public ire, a brave confrontation like Ed Murrow, and often a combination of the two (i.e. civil rights in the '60s). Although occasionally, due to lack of notoriety or some such, the lesson isn't completely learned until the next generation reads it in their history books (i.e. syphilis study).

Finally, one also need to make sure that anyone else with the authentication to substitute for you holds the same convictions. For example, Thoreau only spent the one night in jail because someone else paid his poll taxes.

Re:What do you mean by "can"? (4, Insightful)

BrokenHalo (565198) | about a year ago | (#44807001)

If I recall right (and strongly paraphrasing), Gandhi's solution to the atomic threat was to allow yourself to be nuked so that the children of the "victor" would express enough horror at the methods that they would reject the philosophy used for the strike

Trouble is, the history books tend to be written by the victors.

...Although occasionally, due to lack of notoriety or some such, the lesson isn't completely learned until the next generation reads it in their history books...

And given that so many people increasingly do not read at all (except in gobbets of 140 characters), I don't hold out much hope that their attention span will accommodate a book of any length.

Re:What do you mean by "can"? (1)

Kjella (173770) | about a year ago | (#44807149)

In the case of a signed (and dated) statement, you still hold the controlling factor and would necessitate coercion on the behalf of the other party. If the other party (government or individual) is willing and able to bear sufficient coercion upon you to acquiesce to perjury, than the system fails. So, one should only implement such a model if one believes that the level of coercion is within the limits of one's conviction to resist - otherwise you're setting yourself and your "trusted" parties up for compromise.

Perjury is lying under oath, it's not lying in general. And the law (whichever nefarious one enables National Security Letters to exist) trumps whatever contractual obligations you may have made. They already actively demand you comply with their demands, not merely stand aside and let them do their business. Hidden in a bunch of technical mumbo-jumbo it basically comes down to "If you ask me if we've been compromised by the NSA, which is obviously a yes/no question I'm going to answer it with no but if I refuse to answer well draw your own conclusions." do you think you'll get away with that? All the rest is just a diversion.

Re:What do you mean by "can"? (3, Insightful)

mounthood (993037) | about a year ago | (#44806879)

As we should have learned, the government by large does not care if they "can" (in a legally sense), they just do it. But if necessary: Those rubber stamp courts will surely find a way to make it happen in a way which is legal on paper.

Techies never seem to understand this, even though they read it over-and-over: the law is not a set of rules you work with, "it's the chain I go get and beat you with 'til ya understand who's in ruttin' command here." If an NSL isn't the right excuse, they'll make another.

Re:What do you mean by "can"? (1)

interkin3tic (1469267) | about a year ago | (#44807217)

Perhaps they meant "do we know the government has already given itself the ability" to foil this method?

Focusing on specific known facts is useful if you're trying to be practical in designing something. You can't account for every potential scenario obviously. The government could authorize itself to kidnap your loved ones and threaten to flay them alive until you tell them your password, it's certainly within their capabilities. However, you can't design security around everything the government or other possible criminals COULD do.

If you are trying to make a secure alternative to lavabit, for example, hopefully there will be a lag while they get clearance to compensate for this method. In that lag, the trigger could be tripped. Government goons might go ahead and beat you until you update the site without clearance, however the chances of that are smaller: beating you would be a bigger story, and bigger stories tend to leak. Without approval, the people beating you would be the scapegoats and would end up in jail.

Clever Tricks (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44806571)

When it comes to prosecuting, it's entirely alright to punish people based on the spirit of the law. So whatever tricks they tried, as long as they're under a rule of nondisclosure, would land them in deep shit if they disclosed things they were barred from disclosing. However, the spirit of the law is rarely taken into consideration when it helps people, like the whistleblower laws. No one looked to see if the people who were blowing the whistle were exposing corruption or making the country a better place to live, all that mattered was that they violated the letter of the law and needed to be sorry for doing so.

Re:Clever Tricks (2)

plover (150551) | about a year ago | (#44806669)

all that mattered was that they violated the letter of the law and needed to be sorry for doing so.

Close. All that mattered was that they were hunted to the ends of the earth and punished mercilessly as an example to any other would-be whistleblowers.

Re:Clever Tricks (3, Insightful)

TWiTfan (2887093) | about a year ago | (#44806849)

I bet the employee orientation at the NSA and CIA includes the admonition "Yes, you're going to lie to Congress, The President, and the American people. You're going to do it every fucking day, and LIKE it. And if you DON'T like it, either head to Russia or we'll arrange a cell for you right next to Bradley Manning."

Re:Clever Tricks (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44807169)

What makes you think you'll be kept in a place as public as Leavenworth. I'm sure No Such Agency or The Company can put you somewhere that NOBODY has heard of. . . And that assumes you don't get a 9mm cerebral hemmorhage and an unmarked plot. . .

Re:Clever Tricks (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44806915)

It would have to be some secret deep shit though, or they'd just confirm the interference!

wall st (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44807361)

"When it comes to prosecuting, it's entirely alright to punish people based on the spirit of the law."

Lloyd Blankfein, Jon Corzine, Jamie Dimon & most of wall st just fell out of their chairs laughing...

Feds' First Move (2)

Anne_Nonymous (313852) | about a year ago | (#44806573)

>> ... until, of course, they were contacted and compromised.

So the Feds just contact everybody who does this, and we're right back where we started.

Re:Feds' First Move (1)

lionchild (581331) | about a year ago | (#44806955)

Then it falls back on the consumer to stop using the service. Unused services go away and the point becomes moot. New services pop up which are 'clean' and thus the cycle starts all over again.

I like the idea of the dead-man switch. However, if the consumer does what they're supposed to, ultimately they don't win, because they have to keep switching services in this cat-and-mouse game.

exact dupe, and bad idea (1)

raymorris (2726007) | about a year ago | (#44806577)

A) this exact story was on Slashdot a couple months ago.
B) judges don't like smartasses who play word games with the law. You can only hope the judge dislikes the NSA even more.

Re:exact dupe, and bad idea (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44806651)

The NSA plays word games all the time... Take for instance the statement "We don't search and store data on 10's of 1000's of Americans".

That statement is factually true if the NSA searches and stores data on the other 330 million Americans. If they exclude their buddies, federal judges, anyone in the FBI, CIA and other three letter government agencies, that would be your 10's of 1000's Americans.

Re:exact dupe, and bad idea (1)

Shavano (2541114) | about a year ago | (#44806775)

<quote><p>The NSA plays word games all the time... Take for instance the statement "We don't search and store data on 10's of 1000's of Americans".</p><p>That statement is factually true if the NSA searches and stores data on the other 330 million Americans. If they exclude their buddies, federal judges, anyone in the FBI, CIA and other three letter government agencies, that would be your 10's of 1000's Americans.</p></quote>

No it's not. 330 million is 33,000 tens of thousands.

Re:exact dupe, and bad idea (4, Insightful)

Dins (2538550) | about a year ago | (#44806845)

Yes, but say there are only 30,000 people in the entire country who AREN'T being tracked, then "we don't search and store data on 10's of 1,000's of Americans" is true.

The converse statement is, "We DO search and store data on 329,970,000 Americans"...

Re:exact dupe, and bad idea (2)

Zappy (7013) | about a year ago | (#44806891)

It is probably factually true, there are most likely 10's of 1000's of whom they do not have any data stored or searched.

Either comply, change the law, or emigrate. (1)

ehack (115197) | about a year ago | (#44806587)

If you like the law, or do not disagree with it, comply.
If you don't like the law, use the democratic process and try and get it changed.
If you don't trust your government, elect another.
And if all else fails, emigrate to China or Russia :)

Re:Either comply, change the law, or emigrate. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44806705)

are you on the moon?

because you are in non-compliance, and I don't care what piece of Earth, you are standing on.

further more, in celebration of your moronic advice, for your crime of non-compliance, you should be made to disappear.

Re:Either comply, change the law, or emigrate. (3, Insightful)

ciderbrew (1860166) | about a year ago | (#44806713)

If you like the law, or do not disagree with it, comply.
If you don't like the law, comply.
If you don't trust your government, comply.
And if all else fails, comply.

Re:Either comply, change the law, or emigrate. (4, Insightful)

Trepidity (597) | about a year ago | (#44806739)

Most people cannot legally emigrate, so that isn't really an option. If you have dual citizenship, or unique in-demand skills, this may be more feasible, but China is not going to accept random American citizens who want to move there, especially not people who want to move there due to political disgruntlement.

Re:Either comply, change the law, or emigrate. (1)

Lumpy (12016) | about a year ago | (#44806887)

If you want freedom look at Iceland and greenland. They at least are still young enough countries to be honest.

Re:Either comply, change the law, or emigrate. (2)

Trepidity (597) | about a year ago | (#44806903)

Iceland and Greenland both heavily restrict immigration, so unless you were born there, you probably cannot move there.

Re:Either comply, change the law, or emigrate. (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44806787)

It is the moral responsibility of every single person to disobey unjust laws.

Re:Either comply, change the law, or emigrate. (2)

TWiTfan (2887093) | about a year ago | (#44806877)

If you don't like the law, use the democratic process and try and get it changed.

You mean the democratic process where the corporations tell Congress what to do? Because that's the only one I'm familiar with.

If you don't trust your government, elect another.

Yeah, next time we can all vote for Kodos instead!

Re:Either comply, change the law, or emigrate. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44806881)

What democratic process?

Good luck with this (4, Insightful)

schwit1 (797399) | about a year ago | (#44806597)

Don't expect a prosecutor to buy this argument. Anything you do that alerts others to a gag order will be treated as a violation. You may win in court, but you will be thousands of dollars in debt defending yourself.

Re:Good luck with this (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44806835)

Anything you do that alerts others to a gag order will be treated as a violation.

That's not vaguely true. As we've already seen with various companies closing down, they are allowed to say "I can't provide any details because of a gag order". They can't discuss _WHAT_ they are being prevented from saying but they can most certainly say that they aren't allowed to say something.

Re:Good luck with this (2)

interkin3tic (1469267) | about a year ago | (#44807253)

Do prosecutors buy any arguments aside from "Alright, I'll plead guilty if you promise not to fuck me as hard as you say you're going to"?

Anyway, no one said standing up for freedom against the government would be fun, cheap, or easy. This just potentially makes it slightly less costly, slightly easier... and is at least fun to some people to think about in theory.

Re:Good luck with this (1)

Taibhsear (1286214) | about a year ago | (#44807315)

Assuming they haven't just shipped you off to gitmo for poking the bear.

Service plus leaks (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44806599)

In the day and age of services and leaks, a service provided by a company in a country out of reach of said agencies plus a small leak about the NSL-status sounds like a good combo.

Watch out what occurs to Lavabit (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44806607)

I would wait to see to how far the government will crack down on the owner of Lavabit. It's not the same as a regular update but of course the closure of that service sent a distinct message. Perhaps in the end willingly closing your website is the best form of protest you have. I'm curious to know what the result would be if the big players such as Google tried this strategy, if only for a limited time.

Re:Watch out what occurs to Lavabit (2)

AHuxley (892839) | about a year ago | (#44806641)

It would be a good PR event, some form of a privacy education day?
Recalling the online protests against SOPA and PIPA?

Re:Watch out what occurs to Lavabit (4, Interesting)

plover (150551) | about a year ago | (#44806733)

Closing your website as a form of protest simply accomplishes the goals of the administration. If they can prevent your servicing a hundred other bad guys, they may happily choose to sacrifice chasing the one bad guy through your system. (Besides, it's not like there aren't other clues or trails out there.)

Of course, such an act is visible, noble, and it gets people talking; and you're seen as a good person for doing so. But those effects are all transient, and little more than a flap in today's breeze. The administration knows the negativity will fade over time. So over the long term, the closings provide the chilling effect the administration desires.

Re:Watch out what occurs to Lavabit (1)

Shavano (2541114) | about a year ago | (#44806817)

No it doesn't. They want the communications of the people they're looking for to be findable. If terrorists start communication with plain old fashioned handwritten letters that the mark with fake return addresses and drop them in public mailboxes, the NSA is never going to find them without opening every letter, which they can't do.

Re:Watch out what occurs to Lavabit (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44806945)

Of course they don't open them, they scan them through the envelope. Use tin-foill guys.

Re:Watch out what occurs to Lavabit (1)

EvilDroid (705289) | about a year ago | (#44807005)

You don't think they can x-ray and OCR handwritten letters?

Re:Watch out what occurs to Lavabit (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44807213)

You don't think they can x-ray and OCR handwritten letters?

They can, but it's not practical. It's a manpower issue. Why do you think the government is desperately trying to bankrupt the postal service? To force people into using a compromised service such as EMail where snooping is easily automated.

Re:Watch out what occurs to Lavabit (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44807231)

If they really can OCR my handwriting they'd be so rich selling it they wouldn't need public funding at all. I usually have hard time reading it myself.

Re:Watch out what occurs to Lavabit (3, Interesting)

cayenne8 (626475) | about a year ago | (#44806773)

I'm curious, as that I've not played around with them in years, but are the nym servers [wikipedia.org] , and the mixmaster [wikipedia.org] and other anonymous remailers out there still functioning and useful?

Er, obstruction...? (3, Interesting)

beaverdownunder (1822050) | about a year ago | (#44806627)

Although cute, this 'idea' is irrelevant. Even if you made the case that you weren't contravening the letter of the request, you could still be charged with obstruction of justice, should your behaviour alter the conduct of the subject(s) under scrutiny. This puts the onus on you to lie.

In short, good luck with that. They're already way ahead of you. Way, way ahead.

Re:Er, obstruction...? (5, Insightful)

Trepidity (597) | about a year ago | (#44806747)

I don't think the intent is to argue that it isn't contravening the intent of the gag order due to a technicality, but rather to set up a constitutional challenge to the gag order. Compelled speech is reviewed at a higher level of scrutiny, so if the gag order actually requires you to affirmatively state things that you neither believe in nor are true, that would be a basis for challenging the gag order. You may still lose, but it would require violating a constitutional rule that thus far has been respected.

Re:Er, obstruction...? (3, Interesting)

AHuxley (892839) | about a year ago | (#44806875)

Yes the East German protesters had a nice hint about that "require violating a constitutional rule" aspect.
Stand in front of an East German Church with a protest sign quoting the East German constitution.
You would go to jail and face the full force of the system but the need for the State to act was seen in public.

Re:Er, obstruction...? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44807353)

And in any event, it will likely be weeks before you were compelled to continue posting the canary. By which time, it will already have served its purpose.

Re:Er, obstruction...? (1)

Therefore I am (1284262) | about a year ago | (#44806973)

Although cute, this 'idea' is irrelevant. Even if you made the case that you weren't contravening the letter of the request, you could still be charged with obstruction of justice, should your behaviour alter the conduct of the subject(s) under scrutiny.

Fight fire with fire. Set an industry cut-off date to blackball all specialists, technicians and contractors working in these agencies from future employment in the wider commercial IT world. This will quickly remove many thousands of specialists from the surveillance field and eventually bleed it dry. The same technique will work equally well in all countries that have abusive governments...

Declaration (4, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44806655)

When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.

That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security. ...
He has erected a multitude of New Offices, and sent hither swarms of Officers to harass our people and eat out their substance.

Re: Declaration (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44806911)

of Nature's God entitle them ... they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights

See, that is the problem with arguing for the Founding Fathers to a modern audience. Their entire conception of government and rights was based on the existence of a Creator, and nowadays it's pretty clear there is none.

It's not the 18th century anymore, natural right theory doesn't hold water once the world has moved past a magical sky fairy. Modern societies are much more comfortable with some form of utilitarianism, where rights are just a convenient fiction to ensure general welfare and can be revoked from individuals when need be. Yes, it's not ideal that the USA continues to work from these old documents instead of starting again from scratch, but quoting Jefferson's superstition (his Deism was less superstitious than most religions, but still superstitution) just makes you look like a fool.

Re: Declaration (0)

BrokenHalo (565198) | about a year ago | (#44807089)

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights...

...in which case you'll have no difficulty in believing in the Tooth Fairy or Santa Claus.

Seriously? (3, Insightful)

argStyopa (232550) | about a year ago | (#44806677)

We're talking about the government doing just about anything they want, and we're wondering if they'd restrain themselves according to something as little as the "letter" of the law?

+2 Funny.
+4 Sad.

Canary, not dead man's switch (2)

Cow Jones (615566) | about a year ago | (#44806695)

A dead man's switch automatically triggers an action when the person in charge can no longer prevent it, because he's dead, detained, or otherwise disabled. (Examples: let go of a hand grenade's handle, send out documents if the person don't check in at least once a week, etc). What this article is talking about is more appropriately called a "canary" (referring to the canary in a coal mine). It does the exact opposite. CJ

Re:Canary, not dead man's switch (5, Informative)

Gibgezr (2025238) | about a year ago | (#44806755)

If you read TFA, the method suggested by Corey is actually a dead man's switch: when the user fails to respond with a signed version of a random number generated by a website on time, the website notifies all subscribers of the event.

If your sites that interesting (1)

AHuxley (892839) | about a year ago | (#44806699)

http://www.slate.com/blogs/future_tense/2013/09/09/shifting_shadow_stormbrew_flying_pig_new_snowden_documents_show_nsa_deemed.html [slate.com]
Why just watch, track or redirected targeted traffic?
Your site might just have a slight pause in updating as a new crew takes over for a few years.
If they have been watching your 'style' for a few years your internet persona might just become a contractor and your site a front.
Drop or add the message every April Fools' Day?

obligitory xkcd reference (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44806737)

http://xkcd.com/538/

Amazing (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44806741)

I'm amazed at the level of sabotage coming from people in the tech community. What if revealing the existence of the investigation compromises the investigation? What if the person being investigated is performing espionage against the U.S.? It seems Mr. Doctorow likes to encourage obstruction of justice, and it doesn't surprise me he wrote about it in The Guardian.

Re:Amazing (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44807233)

I'm amazed at the level of sabotage coming from people in the tech community. What if revealing the existence of the investigation compromises the investigation? What if the person being investigated is performing espionage against the U.S.? It seems Mr. Doctorow likes to encourage obstruction of justice, and it doesn't surprise me he wrote about it in The Guardian.

And what if, it is obviously nothing more than a fishing expedition? With 100sKs of laws, and millions of administrative regulations that have been made law because Congress was, pick a phrase, too stupid to object, too lazy to discuss, too naive to understand the complications,...., to focused on the lobbying job awaiting them, etc; EVERYONE in the country is on the wrong side of the "law" in some way on a daily basis.

So the Feds arrive with a FISA letter complete with gag order and ask for all electronic communications, for all your customers, all your business records and oh by the way, tell you to install a snooping box and redirect all traffic it through it, which sends a copy directly to the NSA..

I'd say that's a fishing expedition and a violation of everyone's 4th amendment rights.

Post Employment Ad for "legal expert" (5, Interesting)

tlk nnr (449342) | about a year ago | (#44806749)

The rsync canary is a good idea, another standard approach for delicate communications are job advertisements.

In this case:
A large ad in a suitable newspaper that you are searching for a lawyer.

Re:Post Employment Ad for "legal expert" (1)

AHuxley (892839) | about a year ago | (#44806985)

To paraphrase a quote in support of NDAA (National Defense Authorization Act):
‘Shut up. You don’t get a lawyer.'"
Somewhere a lawyer is searching for you.... will you be listed as "inoperative" "excised" "completed"?

Why lump everything in one category? (4, Insightful)

Shavano (2541114) | about a year ago | (#44806753)

There are different ways you might be contacted by the government.

For example, maybe somebody who uses your website stole something. Suppose for example the FBI suspects that person of having sold it to someone else who uses your website and is looking for evidence of the same. So they get a warrant and go throught is one person's email, don't find the evidence they were looking for leave.

In another example, maybe one person who uses your website had his car washed by a guy who got an email from a dude who was seen in a cafe with a suspected terrorist. They issue a National Security Letter that threatens you with horrible consequences if you divulge anything, seize a copy of every record on your site going back to 2005, discover another 50 people who got messages from the guy whose car was washed and by the associative property of terrorism, they're terrorists, you're a terrorist and everybody who uses your site is a terrorist.

See the difference? It's not about being contacted by the government. It's about being swept up in a potentially vast and unwarranted (literally) investigation when you didn't do anything wrong.

Re:Why lump everything in one category? (1)

AHuxley (892839) | about a year ago | (#44807099)

Interesting point about the car wash and a vision of a "massive network chart" and been in the ~3 hops..
http://www.foreignpolicy.com/articles/2013/09/08/the_cowboy_of_the_nsa_keith_alexander [foreignpolicy.com] had some insight into just that on page 4:
""Later, we had a chance to review the information. It turns out that all [that] those guys were connected to were pizza shops.""

Not likely to work for large companies (0)

arobatino (46791) | about a year ago | (#44806785)

Of course, this is dependent on the company's honesty. Large companies will probably just lie (by continuing to update their "not contacted" statement), and if necessary be given retroactive immunity for doing it.

Really? (1)

Grizzley9 (1407005) | about a year ago | (#44806843)

Some elaborate dead man switch about a gag order? No judge will take kindly to such shenanigans. Just make it simple, contact a trusted news reporter/Wikileaks securely or via an anonymous 3rd/4th party you have arranged ahead of time and have them publish.

Re:Really? (2)

Lumpy (12016) | about a year ago | (#44806943)

This actually is the right path. Give all the information to a third party that has the ability to publish all your finding and information that will get it out.

But honestly, just get it out as soon as you get it and do it quietly then erase all evidence that you ever had it. And the key is to STFU about it. Get the info, release it to a group without anything tying back to you, destroy all evidence in your possession, and keep your mouth shut about it for the rest of your life.

Re:Really? (1)

swillden (191260) | about a year ago | (#44807307)

Some elaborate dead man switch about a gag order? No judge will take kindly to such shenanigans. Just make it simple, contact a trusted news reporter/Wikileaks securely or via an anonymous 3rd/4th party you have arranged ahead of time and have them publish.

Or... just publicly state that you have received some number of requests, but can't talk about them due to a gag order. That's what all of the Internet companies have done. Lavabits explicitly said that it was legally unable to discuss the issues.

There don't appear to be any consequences to publicly admitting that you can't say anything.

Obligatory Code (4, Informative)

hacker (14635) | about a year ago | (#44806851)

...aaaand, here's some code to use to make your own (which I just posted about only yesterday [gnu-designs.com]


#!/usr/bin/perl

use warnings;
use strict;
use LWP::Simple;
use XML::RSS;
use HTML::Strip;
use File::Slurp;

my $url = 'http://feeds.bbci.co.uk/news/world/rss.xml';

binmode(STDOUT, ":utf8");

my $hs = HTML::Strip->new();
my @newscanary = '';

my $rss = XML::RSS->new();
my $data = get( $url );
$rss->parse( $data );

my $channel = $rss->{channel};

foreach my $item ( @{ $rss->{items} } ) {
        my $title = $item->{title};
        my $date = $item->{pubDate};
        my $desc = $hs->parse($item->{description});

        # Word wrap the output at 70 characters
        $desc =~ s/(.{70}[^\s]*)\s+/$1\n/xg;

        push @newscanary, "$title\n$date\n" . "-"x70 . "\n$desc\n\n\n";
}

write_file('canary.txt', @newscanary) ;

my $boilerplate = read_file('boilerplate.txt', {binmode => ':raw'});
my $newscanary = read_file('canary.txt', {binmode => ':raw'});

print $boilerplate, $newscanary;

$hs->eof;

Pre-emptive tweet? (3, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44806861)

At what point does a gag-order come into force? Just send a tweet "A government official has just entered the building with an envelope I haven't opened yet. Updates to follow...", followed by no updates.

Useless (1)

sociocapitalist (2471722) | about a year ago | (#44806897)

IANAL but IMHO words are only one form of communication and any action that communicates, regardless of the actual mechanism of communication, could be considered a willful violation of a gag order.

Wouldn't it be better ... (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44806899)

Wouldn't it be better to always have a message saying that you are collaborating with the NSA / currently being gaged. If that siuation does ever occur, you then remove the message because otherwise you will be breaking the law...

Author (1)

fulldecent (598482) | about a year ago | (#44806929)

Hello original author here:

>> http://slashdot.org/comments.pl?sid=4108553&cid=44622087 [slashdot.org]

Re:Author (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44807119)

Hello original author here:

>> http://slashdot.org/comments.pl?sid=4108553&cid=44622087 [slashdot.org]

I'd pat you on the back; but, your arm is in the way.

Re:Author (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44807431)

Haha, I'm stealing this line

You really think you're that important? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44806933)

You really think you're that important?

Bwa ha ha!

Re:You really think you're that important? (1)

AHuxley (892839) | about a year ago | (#44807173)

Did we ever think email service would be that important?

always find a way (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44806967)

men with guns and secret courts and secret laws and secret interpretations of those laws always find a way

inevitable (1)

PopeRatzo (965947) | about a year ago | (#44806989)

The fighting back against the police state has just begun. That the police state will be defeated is a foregone conclusion. The only question is, how many people are going to suffer and maybe die?

I'm convinced that wanting freedom is in our genetic code. Certainly, wanting privacy is. Fighting for it is how we're made.

A lot of us didn't want to think it was this bad, but now that we're finding out, the fight is on, and the outcome certain.

How about sound feed? (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44807009)

CEO has constant sound feed from office sent to remote non US server not under their control.

Prominent signs in office warn of sound recording (typically legally required).

When the last thing on the sound feed is the CEO being ordered to shut it off and asking to see the relevant authority, everyone knows the company's service is probably compromised.

Or a poster for your library (3, Informative)

daffmeister (602502) | about a year ago | (#44807019)

The librarian Jessamyn West [wikipedia.org] has had a similar idea [librarian.net] for years.

Re:Or a poster for your library (1)

oneiros27 (46144) | about a year ago | (#44807129)

This was my first thought when I saw the summary -- it's been done before; by librarians. (I just couldn't remember the name and/or library system that started it).

Dear US Citizens, (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44807025)

For years you have defended your gun rights with the reasoning it was "to defend against the government", and not just to satisfy your control fetish.

So where is your revolution?

Can't you fight this with corporation status? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44807035)

Form a new corporation ( S or C ), transfer your IP and employees to the new corporation, disclose the exact details about the NSA involvement publically.
Declare bankruptcy on the original company.

Probably wouldn't be this simple in practice ( or even possible ) but it would allow people to be patriots instead of shills.

iPhone (0)

fulldecent (598482) | about a year ago | (#44807101)

... and with Apple's iPhone announcement today, we will show you how 2014 is not going to be like 1984.

Re:iPhone (1)

AHuxley (892839) | about a year ago | (#44807207)

In 1984 you knew the gov was in your networked tv :)

Start with free software, move to freer hardware, (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44807133)

fund free software projects, and monitor them. Speak up if there is an issue not being addressed.

Put your money where your mouth is? Are you donating 10% of your income? Because if the religious nut jobs can do it so can you.

berbagi info (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44807183)

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