Sunday, May 19, 2013

Governments Shouldn't Prevent Citizens from Having Secure Software Solutions

It has always seen obvious to me if you force a system to be designed to have a backdoor (to allow spying) that you have created a security hole. It seems to me these security holes are being misused all over the world by governments and others. How the FBI’s online wiretapping plan could get your computer hacked
They make it easier for the U.S. government to spy on the bad guys. But they also make it easier for the bad guys to hack our computers and spy on us. And, the researchers say, the Internet’s decentralized architecture makes it particularly hard to build effective and secure wiretapping capabilities online.
The track record of governments worldwide using these backdoors properly seems very poor to me. They make up tiny exceptions for when they will supposedly spy and then use the backdoor they created far more often. Then you have funny situations where the different governments expect their spying to be respected by everyone but don't like it if other governments want to have backdoors to allow spying themselves.

Certainly in the USA I can't see any reason why we should accept insecure software solutions because the government wants to be able to spy more readily. If they governments track record showed a respect for citizens rights maybe I would consider the tradeoff worth debating but given the realities of how poorly the government has explained their spying so far I don't see any reason to even consider crippling the security of USA citizens.

I am not as familiar with other countries - if their constitution have liberty as secondary and authoritarianism is accepted then sure crippling citizens security to make the state have an easier time of spying would be consistent. I don't see how it is arguably consistent with the US constitution.

I said, after 9-11, that if the government actually believes terrorism is a critical threat they had to extremely careful to not use fear as an excuse for non-terrorist related restrictions on liberty. Human history has shown governments abuse power. The US Constitution was created with this in mind. If you want to have citizens except restrictions on liberty their is an huge duty to provide evidence you are not just going to be like almost every other instance where government abused the power. Failing to do so, would mean people have to restrict government abuse, even at the risk of security.

The obligation was on government to show how seriously they took the risk to behave differently and not abuse the power they had. Instead the last two administration have been worse than any other (with the possible exception of the Nixon administration) with respect to abusing the liberty of citizens. This is a very sad state of affairs. They have chosen to rely on the ability of fear mongering, hiding behind false claims of "necessary secrecy" and the ability so many previous governments have had to take away liberty and get away with it (McCarthyism, KGB, all sorts of dictators that either the USA supported or apposed over the last 50 years and many many more). The problem with this option is that the citizens suffer while the bureaucracies get what they want. This isn't a good model. And it means thinking people should appose the government as they attempt to impose such models on their country.

Both administrations have done an absolutely atrocious job of making the case they would avoid political and authoritarian abuse while claiming terrorist justify the governments actions (Orwellian "Free Speech Zones" violate the constitution, Systemic SWAT RAID Failures, Watching the Watchmen, 2/3rd of USA Population Lives in Limited Constitutional Rights Zone According the Obama Administration - the DoJ is secretly enabling AT&T and others to evade wiretapping laws, Bikinis For Liberty, Our Internet Surveillance State, Justice Department Subpoena of AP Journalists Shows Need to Protect Calling Records). They consistently abuse liberty, using fear mongering and have lost any reasonable claim that their claims should treated as trust-worthly without much more evidence than they have been providing. Sadly it is not surprising that neither administration could put the security of the country before their personal interests, but the evidence is clear that they did not do so.

That evidence means we risk further losses to liberty without any evidence that security (rather than politics and the frequent tendency for bureaucracies to desire absolute power) will be enhanced.

I do think lots of great things are done to fight real threats. And those had been done for decades prior to 9-11. Some of the additional measures after 9-11 were wise. Huge amounts of the efforts are mainly about security theatre and gaining bureaucrats power at the expense of the liberty of citizens. This path is not one we should continue to reward. Sadly we currently are mainly going along with the politicians who have a long track record of being anti-liberty.

Relying on demagoguery and people accepting the government taking away their liberty does have a long history of working for governments. Relying on that risks the citizens getting so tired of government abuse of liberty that the citizens react by not only taking away the governments power to judiciously use power but take away significant sensible powers from government also. I fear that is where we are headed. This is the result of two administrations failing to take security seriously and instead just behaving as so many governments have in the past to amass bureaucratic power at the expense of citizens and the country.

It is a lot to ask those in government to put the well being of the country above the human nature to abuse power. It has certainly been far too much for the last two administrations to make it a priority to prevent abuse because the risks of doing so were so high.

The anti-liberty side is definitely winning. I hope we turn it around before I have to see how people must have felt as they experienced similar failures of will in the past (such as McCarthyism). But I think we may well have already past that point. It is just a matter of time before we have the distance of time to acknowledge and accept how horribly we have failed yet again to prevent abuse of power to go to extremes that are nearly incomprehensible looking back on them later. I remember thinking how unbelievably pitiful it was that the USA allowed McCarthyism to take place, yet not much later we are well on our way to repeating the same types of failures (though, as always, the exact clothing the abuse of power takes is somewhat different).

Related: Librarians Standing Up to the Madness - Preaching False Ideas to Men Known to be Idiots - Freedom Increasingly at Risk - Liberty Again Denied, It is Sad How Little We Seem to Care

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