back to article Silicon Valley's Congresswoman comes to the defense of Tor

Congresswoman Zoe Lofgren, who represents a big slice of Silicon Valley, has gone to bat for the anonymizing Tor service. In a letter [PDF] sent this week to the head of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), Lofgren has asked some pointed questions about the role that the DHS played in a recent high-profile case where a …

  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Well, everyone in the US knows

    If you are so low caliber that even the local small town police departments won't hire you, DHS will. All the real cops in the US piss on DHS for only playing cops & robbers, and this article shows why. But DHS controls a lot of money that local police departments want to tap into, so they have to humor DHS.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Well, everyone in the US knows

      Fsck the politicians and 9/11 victims for using pity and fear to push the bullshit bureaucracy that is DHS on us. In the future it will be as much a sign of the hysteria of the times as the House Un-American Activities Committee was only it will last even longer (DHS being executive branch and all) and spread around a lot more tax payer pork. Its never one of the three letter government agencies politicians mention they would like to get rid of.

    2. a_yank_lurker Silver badge

      Re: Well, everyone in the US knows

      And the caliber of the local yokels is generally abysmal. In some places it seems the only qualifications are you breathe and are not on parole.

      1. chivo243 Silver badge

        Re: Well, everyone in the US knows

        @a_yank_lurker

        or married to the sheriff's sister.

        1. chivo243 Silver badge
          Devil

          Re: Well, everyone in the US knows

          I see the Sheriff's sister reads El Reg!

    3. I. Aproveofitspendingonspecificprojects

      Re: Well, everyone in the US knows

      > If you are so low caliber that even the local small town police departments won't hire you,

      Low calibre means eminently suitable for the Sheriff of Youtube so there is no such creature. In fact the job description is for that of the lowest level aka KKK rejects.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        They WANT police not to be too smart

        They can refuse an application if you're too intelligent:

        http://articles.latimes.com/1997-06-08/business/fi-1265_1_test-score

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    BTW

    When is The Register going to start using https?

  3. tom dial Silver badge

    While I support, generally, what I take to be Representative Lofgren's position, her action is at least as overbearing as that of Special Agent Squire or any of the police officers. Her questions all are of the same pattern as "have you stopped beating your wife" and the second issues a demand that DHS develop and implement policies that deny employees basic and constitutionally guaranteed rights as citizens.

    Nothing any of them is reported to have done is illegal or even unreasonable. The library system's provision of a TOR exit node certainly will facilitate criminal activity, just as it will facilitate legal activity that users want to keep private. Police officers, and even DHS special agents, are citizens with the rest of us and may be denied the rights that go with that only to a very limited degree, as exemplified by the federal Hatch Act and various state laws that limit partisan political activity.

    Special Agent Squire's reported action is squarely within his rights as a citizen, and those of the police officials is within their rights as citizens as well as within the scope of their official duties. The officers made representations to library officers, who suspended node operation pending library board action. The library board, after hearing from both proponents and opponents, then reinstated the TOR node. Neither this article nor the Register's 22 September article on the same subject reports anything that constitutes unreasonable behaviour by anyone involved.

    1. Graham Marsden
      Childcatcher

      @tom dial

      > Nothing any of them is reported to have done is illegal or even unreasonable. The library system's provision of a TOR exit node certainly will facilitate criminal activity, just as it will facilitate legal activity that users want to keep private.

      And both just as law-abiding people use motor cars, so they also facilitate terrorists and drug dealers and child kidnappers being able to make a fast getaway, yet nobody calls for them to be banned.

      The DHS et al were trying the usual "Terrorist and paedophiles and drug dealers, oh my!" tactics and someone needs to stand up and say "No, we're not going to let your FUD-mongering override our liberties!"

      The sooner the DHS is held to account and its powers reined in, the better!

      1. RedneckMother

        Re: @tom dial

        I so wanted to chime in, and rant about the powers-that-be using "OMG - terrorists, child molesters, (insert popular criminal classes here)."

        I believe that if (supposedly) rational and law abiding people succumb to invasions of privacy to "stop the XXX's", then the XXX's have won.

        Your post sums up the situation eloquently.

      2. tom dial Silver badge

        Mea Culpa

        Tracking back beyond the Register articles to the FOIA document release and Julia Angwin's ProPublica report, I see that the issue indeed has the appearance of inappropriate DHS action. The tone of SA Squire's email is that of an informal personal message, but its origin from an official DHS email address would be likely to convey the impression of a DHS anti-TOR policy, and might have been intended to do so. That impression might be incorrect, but surely would have been amplified when Thomas Grella forwarded it with a mild endorsement to the Lebanon police who raised the issue with the library. The library board later met publicly, and after discussing the issues raised, decided to reopen the relay, as they should. There does not seem to have been any significant degree of pressure in the episode.

        Should the library employee have shut down the node before the board meeting? Probably not, since the board had approved it at a previous meeting.

        Were the police out of line to raise the issue? I do not think so; their range of official action certainly would extend to making officials of the library and other public organizations aware of risks associated with their operations.

        Did Tom Grella act inappropriately? Maybe; in choosing to forward Squire's email to the Lebanon police he probably should have provided more information than "this could become an issue."

        SA Squire, however, should be counselled and possibly disciplined for one of two things. If he acted as a private citizen, he should have made that clear in the text of the message and sent it from a personal email account rather than his official DHS account, to avoid giving an incorrect impression that he was acting in his official capacity. Done that way he would have been entirely within his rights as a citizen. Hillary Clinton was criticised for using a private server to conduct public buisness; using public servers for private action is equally inappropriate. Alternatively, if Mr. Squire was expressing DHS policy, he should have worded his message more formally and referenced the specific policy.

        Absent prior history of similar behavior, either offense warrants supervisory counselling, a review of the applicable laws and DHS policies and procedures, and possibly a temporary flag in is personnel record, to be removed after a year or so with no further issues of the type. In view of Lofgren's letter, however, they might be tempted to do more: federal agencies really hate to receive Congressional letters, and this event also brought them a good deal of bad PR.

        Is Lofgren's letter a bit over the top? I think so, for the reasons I stated earlier, as modified above. It is not clear that either the DHS employee or the Lebanon, NH police actions constitute "interference," and whether or not by design, SA Squire separated himself, and DHS, from the actual conversations. While counselling certainly is in order for SA Squire, and clarification of the boundaries between official duties and private actions a good idea for all DHS (and other government) employees, Squire's only error probably was failing to state that he was acting as a private citizen, not as a DHS employee. Lofgren's letter suggests that she wants DHS to direct, or at least advise, employees to limit exercise of their constitutional rights, something that would be quite illegal.

        -

        1. tom dial Silver badge

          Mea Culpa (continued)

          While agencies dislike Congressionals, Representative Lofgren was quite right to ask DHS for information about this unfortunate incident. My objection was to what I think an unnecessarily accusatory tone and the implicit suggestion that DHS employment should limit fundamental civil rights. I hope she will publicize DHS's answer.

          1. localzuk Silver badge

            Re: Mea Culpa (continued)

            @tim dial - when you are employed as an agent of a government agency, and are using their resources (eg. uniform, ID, email addresses etc...), your rights are limited. You cannot make statements or representations that do not reflect the policies of said agency without the agency's permission. The same goes for any job - your rights are limited slightly when you are acting in an official capacity. Your personal, civil, rights do not extend into the workplace in the way you seem to be saying. I, for example, can't go around wearing a mankini at work as there is a dress code, but outside of work I can.

            So, yes, it is not an unnecessary accusatory tone. It is absolutely necessary, as this could either be an official policy of the DHS, in which case the country needs to know, or there is someone acting beyond their powers at the DHS, in which case they need to be told off for doing so.

        2. Sirius Lee

          Re: Mea Culpa

          Your post rests on the assumption that SA Squire was communicating as a private citizen. Do you know this for certain? If so, perhaps you can provide the source of information that allows you to arrive at such a certain conclusion. Are you in fact SA Squire?

        3. This post has been deleted by its author

    2. Ole Juul

      where you been man?

      Nothing any of them is reported to have done is illegal or even unreasonable.

      If not illegal, it should be for them to put pressure on people like that. In any case it is unreasonable.

    3. I. Aproveofitspendingonspecificprojects

      So...

      When is The Register going to start using https?

      1. phil dude
        Joke

        ads...

        Ads...mumble..mumble...tracking..mumble..mumble...think of the children...etc..

        That's enuff.

        P.

    4. Adam 1

      > Special Agent Squire's reported action is squarely within his rights as a citizen

      Completely agree (to his right of free speech, not his opinion on this matter).

      When he raised concerns with the library, did he mention his concern was being raised in his capacity as a private citizen? If he used his dhs uniform/letterhead/email then it has to be within their policy and remit.

    5. NotBob

      It's not that it's illegal to try to get it stopped as a citizen, it's the looking like someone official while doing it bit.

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    A pol who gets the Net

    Nice to see a politician who actually gets the net, and realize's you don't throw away freedoms to fight barbarians.

  5. Gene Cash Silver badge
    Go

    To hell with Trump & Clinton...

    Zoe Lofgren for president!

    1. Warm Braw Silver badge

      Re: To hell with Trump & Clinton...

      Now, if only they could somehow combine Trump and Clinton, perhaps you could have a world where politics was run from an elaborate tower by an old man with strange headgear while still leaving room for consultation with elderly professional ladies who spin alarmingly from left to right.

      1. Stoneshop Silver badge
        Mushroom

        Re: To hell with Trump & Clinton...

        Now, if only they could somehow combine Trump and Clinton,

        At high speed, like in the LHC.

        1. Vic

          Re: To hell with Trump & Clinton...

          At high speed, like in the LHC.

          The Loon / Hilary Collider?

          Vic.

          1. phil dude
            Pint

            Re: To hell with Trump & Clinton...

            @Vic: brilliant ;-)

            THC (The Hilary Collider).

            My brain auto-inserted Tetra-hydra....

            P.

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Guns don't kill people, Tor exit nodes do

    Or something like that.

  7. I. Aproveofitspendingonspecificprojects

    Food for my mania

    I am taking as much of this article as I can paraphrase and will probably steal some of the comments too for my religious blog.

    http://weatherlawyer.altervista.org/part-of-the-solution-or-part-of-the-problem/

    Like Daniel the Prophet I am waiting a certain time frame to publicly expire. It it the story about the statue of empires that gets hit by a boulder not cut by men and it destroys feet that are made of a mixture of iron and clay. What empire would possibly consider iron and clay for a building material and allow it so much credit that it would hope to balance the political world on it.

    And what possible weapon could be cut out of a mountain not by men?

    I think you have just resolved an amazingly simple puzzle. Thanks,

    By the way in Britain you are allowed to copy something indiscriminately if it for the public good at not profit and only part of the material available.

    I'll bookmark this post so I can come back to provide a link for anyone who wants to know the future. (In the time I have been forecasting stuff that means no one.)

  8. Suricou Raven

    Someone is going to be made an example of.

    I'm not sure who, but if anyone of importance at the DHS wants to put an end to Tor, the means by which they could do so is obvious:

    1. Wait until they pick up some sufficiently juicy material from a Tor exit. Ideally child abuse imagery.

    2. SWAT down the operators door, haul him off publicly, confiscate everything with a battery that he owns.

    3. Make sure there is some media coverage. But don't let the Tor thing slip yet - you just want the whole world to know he is a dirty filthy pedo. You don't want an actual trial though, not yet.

    4. Once the interest is fading, then release the Tor connection. That'll be ignored by most of the media, but noticed anyone who might consider running an exit node themselves.

    5. Have enough charges ready to jail him for a century. Still no trial, but use those to get a plea bargain. I don't know quite what for, there must be some suitable charge.

    6. Threw the destroyed man back out - hated by his community, unemployable, with crippling legal costs that he'll never be able to pay off.

    7. Allow the story to circulate a bit. Job done: Everyone else in the country will be too terrified to consider running an exit node in future.

    If I were a DHS overlord bent on destroying Tor, that's how I'd go about it.

    1. art guerrilla

      Re: Someone is going to be made an example of.

      'wait' for someone to post something sufficiently salacious out of the tor node ? ? ?

      like the cartoon of two vultures sitting in a tree watching a dying man, 'wait, hell...'

      no, these human vultures will doubtless seed some smut themselves just to make sure they have something to bust...

      if the feebs and other anti-American slimeballs didn't invent crimes, would there be any ? ? ?

      factoid: property losses from actual theft were about 3.9 billion, kops seized over 4 billion in so-called 'civil forteiture', WHO are the 'bad guys' again ? ? ?

  9. cbars

    Just a thought

    Tor with a blacklist.

    Can't one of these law enforcement agencies publish a blacklist of domains/IP addresses for the seriously bad sites? Don't make it a mandatory inclusion for a Tor exit node, just make it available.

    I realise this hands over a nice (look over here) to the paedoterrorists, but it would also enable a fair minded and democratically interested party to set up a Tor node with some protection. Sure you can browse anonymously through my connection - but I don't want you looking at that shit.

    Granted, if you're trying to avoid censorship then that is not the perfect solution. But if the censorship you are trying to avoid is on BBC news, or to whistle blow etc, then that should work pretty well.

    You should still be able to set up an unfiltered version, but then yes, you'd probably have the old bill round and have to waste your time answering the inevitable questions.

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    "the node would assist child abusers, drug dealers, and terrorists."

    I'm so sick of this crap. Yes, the assertion above is true, but it completely ignores the positive aspects of the Tor node!

    You know, earlier this year I was reading some article about the dangers of advancing technology, and this article contained some extracts from an old newspaper article, from early in the 20th century. This article rattled on about the dangers of the motor car, and how it would facilitate an epidemic of bank robbery now that criminals could just drive from town to town at unheard-of speeds like 20 miles per hour. And of course this was intolerable!, and something had to be done!!

    I can't remember exactly where I saw the article I mentioned, I wish I could, for I would link it here.

    Yes, criminals will use Tor, but probably not at the same time they are in a high-speed getaway from their last heist. The car thing worked out fairly well for the good ol' US-of-A, and I think that in 100 years our descendants will look back on newstories like this and chuckle about what bumpkins and nattering control freaks some people were in the early 21st century.

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