[thechat] FWD: Viridian Note 00283: Geeks and Spooks

Joe Crawford joe at artlung.com
Thu Dec 6 06:00:32 CST 2001

I thought this was worth passing along. Thoughts?

	- Joe <http://artlung.com/>

-------- Original Message --------
Subject: Viridian Note 00283:  Geeks and Spooks
Date: 2 Dec 2001 23:23:09 -0000
From: Bruce Sterling <bruces at well.com>
To: joe at artlung.com

Key concepts: cryptography, information warfare,
imaginary products, American national security

Attention Conservation Notice:  Has nothing to do
with the Greenhouse Effect, but explains what the
Pope-Emperor has been up to this past week or so.

Made the Friday night beer bust at the Greenpeace
HQ in Washington's Chinatown. Time well spent!

Arquilla and Ronfeldt have edited a new netwar book,
just in time for serious mayhem.  The analysis of
Seattle 99 is the best I've ever seen.

Bill Tafoya, a true friend of the crypto "community,"
such as it is.

"Geeks and Spooks"

Speech at "Global Challenges, Trends and Best Practices in
Cryptography,"  the Information System Security and 
Education Center, Washington, DC

November 20, 2001

Hi, my name's Bruce Sterling, I'm a science fiction 
writer.  And a futurist.  You might also call me an 
industry observer.  If you were kind.

   The reason I showed up here is to listen to you guys, 
because I'm rather interested in what comes next for 
crypto, and you're standing a lot closer to that fire than 
I am.

   I myself don't do much 'best practice' for crypto, 
because personally, I don't have a dog in that race.  So, 
having so little to offer, and being so humbled by your 
technological brilliance and all, my feeling is that I 
should at least be frank. Like, very frank.  Like: 
painfully frank.

     So: flame on.   Here's the story as I see it.  The 
big story about crypto is a power struggle between two 
American tribes: geeks and spooks.  Occasionally innocent 
people blunder into this situation, but they get lost, 
either because they don't understand the technology  
(that's what geeks say) or they're not to pry any further 
into stuff beyond the reach of mere civilians (that's what 
the spooks say).

     There's the private crypto industry, which is a nice, 
young little industry, and there are also some 
intellectual property lawyers.  But they have so little 
clout in this remarkably illegal struggle that they are 
forced to cultivate either geeks and spooks, just to get 
some traction.

     Then there's the public interest in this matter.  The 
general public is not all that interested.  I don't count 
the EFF, and EPIC, and the GILC and the CDT, because they 
are *real* interested, but they are basically all the same 
twelve guys.  Very hardworking guys, but, you know, 

    The public has had plenty of chances to get interested 
in this serious and important and painfully technical  
story, and  really, they just don't wanna.  They think 
that geeks are repulsively geeky, and they think that 
spooks are scarily spooky, and they expect this unpleasant 
and complex matter to shake out on its own somehow. 

     So how are the geeks and spooks doing?  Well, I was 
touched and pleased to see here that they're no longer at 
daggers drawn, and rather inclined to let bygones be 
bygones; but society still has some big problems here. 

     I tend to be kind of pro-geek, myself, because geeks 
buy a lot of my novels.  I recently learned that people in 
the National Reconnaissance Office also buy my novels, but 
they never send me fan email.  Therefore we'll begin our 
story with the geeks.  

     Some time ago my friend and prominent industry 
journalist Steven Levy wrote this book in my hand here, 
which is called CRYPTO, and its subtitle is HOW CODE 
REBELS BEAT THE GOVERNMENT.  That's a good snappy 
subtitle, it makes the ol' product jump right off the 
shelf.  But code rebels did not in fact beat the 
government, unless you think that the National Bureau of 
Standards is the government.  

   The truer and sadder story of crypto was that the 
spooks and the geeks both beat the hell out of our 
democratic process, rendering lawyers, consumers, the 
Congress, the industry, and the Administration totally 
irrelevant, and leaving crypto as a blasted technical 
wasteland, in a kind of Afghan-style feud, where every 
single party was necessarily a crook, or a  scofflaw, or a 
deceiver, or weirdly suspect, and there was no legitimacy, 
and no common ground, and still, today, no good method to 
assemble any.

    Okay, so take these geeks.  Basically, the geeks had 
three good practices.  Number one, scientific research.  
Crypto is an interesting mathematical and algorithmic 
conundrum and all that, but it is not that hard a thing to 
research and study.  You don't need a supercollider or an 
Apollo rocket to get it about crypto.  Just because some 
people tell other people that crypto is wicked and they 
shouldn't even think about it, that doesn't mean that they 
stop.  They just get on the Internet, and fire up their 
computers, and practice practice practice.

    Number two, the fait accompli.  Since making crypto is 
kind of semilegal and it's an ITAR munition and all that, 
I'll just quietly make some crypto software and let it go 
in the public domain.  Then when you show up to bust me, 
I'll say that a giant, distributed network did it.  And 
they did it in Norway.  And they're all underage.  No: 
it's even better than that.  Go ahead, bust me!  I'll get 
all my running buddies to make angry T-shirts and bumper 
stickers, and then we can laugh in the New York Times and 
Washington Post about how you're even stupider than the 

    And number three, the big one, the commercial momentum 
factor.  Follow the money, that is the pitch.  Never mind 
that corny security crap from the Cold War, this is the 
dotcom boom, we geeks have all the cash and all the 
culture cred, and we're rich and sexy and cool, while you 
spooks are a bunch of gray, snivelling, alcoholic, Aldrich 
Ames lookalikes driving around in your rusty Toyotas.   
Ha!  If you even dare to stop us from establishing our 
giant booming international  personal crypto market, the 
Danes and the Finns and the Swedes will do it instead, and 
boy will you look stupid.  Even the Republican Party 
fundraisers will hate you.  They'd cut your budget, if 
they knew you had a budget.

    So, with these three best geek practices, you'd figure 
by now we'd be in the heady glamour days of total crypto-
liberation.   Or crypto-anarchy, even.   Back in 1992, the 
cypherpunks list was a very happening thing.  They used to 
quote from my cyberpunk novels about how the 21st century 
was sure to see a lot of offshore digital terrorist action 
from broken-down outlaw nation-states.  

    That is the ISLANDS IN THE NET scenario: where the 
sinister digital underground takes over some penny-ante 
country like Grenada, and we make every form of piracy 
locally legal there, and then we just run up our black 
skull-and-crossbones on the website, and we start selling 
WINDOWS for nine dollars ninety-five cents.  We'll encrypt 
every bit of data going in and out, so nobody will even 
know what we're up to!   We'll have these key-sharing 
digital networks of trust, where all the cool people will 
have our crypto power-handshake, and it'll be like it was 
when we were selling pot to each other in the dorm in 
Berkeley, only, like, on a cosmic scale.

    And this is where it just *starts* to get good, 
because we rebel crypto-fiends will be  exchanging 
messages, and conducting all kinds of business, and 
negotiating electronic contracts, with people we don't 
even know and who we're even *never gonna* know.  If we 
need a hundred kilos of black tar opium, we just hit the 
F1 function key, and some guy from Sinaloa or Medellin or 
the Northern Alliance, whom we know only as QX5773 at 
blacknet dot org, he accepts our anonymous electronic 
funny money, and he ships the drugs to us to a dead drop 
in a giant freight container, along with some illegal 
refugees, and some pirated Gucci handbags, and all the 
stolen UNIX code we can eat!  It's crypto paradise!  For 
we have created a  totally  liquid market for any and all 
material which can be put into words  and pictures:  
books, movies, computer games, trade secrets, government 
secrets, business software; it'll all be sucked down into 
the black hole of the churning crypto mill, and the State 
will wither away.  Wow!

     Well,  ladies and gentlemen, I happen to be a science 
fiction writer, so I have to say I have the warmest and 
kindliest feelings for this kind of fantasy writing.  As 
sci-fi, that stuff was dynamite.  Back in 1992, good old 
Tim May's CRYPTO ANARCHIST MANIFESTO, a work I recommend 
highly to every interested party, almost sounded kind of, 
sort of, plausible.  


    In 1995, I wrote a very dark novel called HEAVY 
WEATHER which was cram-full of outlaw crypto stuff.  But 
it is now almost 2002, and we naturally have to ask 
ourselves, where is the anarchist beef?  

    And the answer is that the frame of mind that can 
produce a wondrous document like Tim's ANARCHIST MANIFESTO 
is entirely different from the kind that can support a 
stable civil society.   That is a pirate utopia! It lacks 
any means of production!  It is parasitic and cannot earn 
a living.  There's no constitution, no civil order, no 
checks and balances and no rule of law there.   The guys 
who are into this nutty schema couldn't run a lemonade 
stand, much less establish a world-changing pirate 
republic.  We're not talking Oz; we are talking like five 
soggy hackers sitting in SEALAND, eating sardines and 
powdered scrambled eggs on a rusty gun emplacement.


    It's not that islands don't exist in our Net == 
Afghanistan is a huge one.   But if you're a geek and you 
airdrop in with your Linux box to set up an outlaw pirate 
website in the liberated Pashtun tribal lands, it'll be 
about a week before you're shot.   They'll shoot you for 
your shoelaces, much less your Pentium.

      So where are these imaginary earthshaking geek 
outlaws who laugh in derision at mere government?  Well, 
they do exist, and they're in Redmond.   The big time in 
modern outlaw geekdom is definitely Microsoft.  The 
Justice Department can round up all the Al Qaeda guys they 
can wiretap, but when they went to round up Redmond, they 
went home limping and sobbing, and without a job.   That 
is a geek fait accompli, it's a true geek lock-in.   In 
2001, Microsoft has got its semi-legal code in every box 
that matters.   They make those brown-shoe IBM monopolists 
of the 1950s look like model public citizens. 

     I mean, think about this; consider the historical 
record.  Back in 1974, when IBM was building its embedded 
crypto chip for online banking, the NSA oozed up and said 
why don't you IBM guys  throttle that back to 56-bit DES?  
And IBM didn't fuss,  IBM was all groovy about it.  They 
didn't say, you government dorks, get lost, we'll protect 
our freedom to non-innovate by throwing wads of cash and 
crushing you until we can buy ourselves a nicer President.  
They were IBM, and they just, you know, knuckled.

      So:  we don't have any crypto anarchy in computers 
in 2001.  What  we have  is a feudal empire.  Innovation 
is not bursting out of pirate utopias run by the mentally 
liberated.   No, innovation has slowed to a crawl; no, 
it's actually crawling in full reverse.   You can buy a 
top-end Wintel machine now: say 512 meg of ram, 400 
megaherz ==  with every rational expectation that machine 
will last you ten solid years.   Maybe longer.    Good 
luck finding any broadband for it, but as far as the 
machine itself goes, it'll sit on a shelf like a lump of 
putty, running Windows.  Moore's Law, to hell with that.  
There's nothing new and fancy for a bigger chip to run.   
Nobody's thought that up.   It's even worse than Detroit 
before the Japanese.  It's all chrome tail-fins and 
creeping featuritis: it's unsafe at any speed.

     As soon as any digital innovation comes up out of the 
mud and gasps for market oxygen, it'll be folded into the 
operating system, along with several thousand viruses 
invented by kids in the Philippines.   And is the Justice 
Department going to do anything about that?  No, I don't 
think so.  They don't dare.

     So tech is in the dumps today, and the geeks sure 
miss all their excitement, where'd it go... Maybe it's 
hiding in the broadband!  And what is broadband about?  Is 
it about the Al Gore Info Superhighway bringing the 
blessings of democracy to the seven-year-olds in every 
elementary school?  No, it turns out that broadband is 
about moving television, telephones, radio, and the movie 
industry into the operating system.  

     "Oops!  Look at this cool thing we geeks built while 
you weren't looking!  We geeks accidentally ate your 
industry!"  The boys from Redmond are just crouching there 
behind their consoles... licking their thumbs and counting 
that movie-ticket money, all those cable subscriptions...   
Gosh, too bad about our overwhelming technological 
imperative, Mr Redstone, Mr Ted Turner, Mr Prime Minister 
Berlusconi...  You're part of our steamroller or you're 
part of the road.

      That's geek argument number three, you see; the 
techno-imperative market.  Which, in a stagnant monopoly, 
makes no sense any more, if it ever did.  Because the 
steamroller is not moving.  It's just burning through 
other people's cash.   What if the phone companies don't 
want to sell the people broadband, and the FCC is too weak 
and febrile to make 'em?  Is there any *reason* that some 
geek with a Windows box should get to tear the music 
industry apart like a cook de-boning a chicken?  Yes, 
there are three traditional geek reasons:  (1) because we 
thought it up!  (2) Because we already did it while you 
weren't looking! (3) Because it is techno-destiny that 
will make us all rich!  

     Well, forget about all that.

     "Why don't you geeks just sit down with your cheap, 
crappy plastic boxes, and shut up?  Here in the TV biz, 
our boxes look nicer anyway!" 

     This would be a pretty good argument for the music 
industry, and the cable industry, and the movie industry, 
and the telephone industry, to make,  if they weren't 
shameful oligarchies themselves.  They don't innovate 
either.   Not a bit of it!   They are  trying very hard to 
use intellectual property law to get a stifling hammerlock 
on the culture industry,  much the same hammerlock that 
Microsoft has on the computer industry.    Nothing much 
will ever happen after they get full control == but that's 
okay, because they'll be the only guys selling it!

     Now, I'm not making this strange story up == Lawrence 
Lessig is the guy making this story up.  Professor Lessig 
wrote a book called THE FUTURE OF IDEAS. 


     If Lawrence were merely some kind of delightful wacky 
crank like Tim May, I guess that would be okay and it 
might even be great material; but unfortunately, Lawrence 
Lessig is an American Justice Department lawyer who had 
his head handed to him in court by Microsoft, and that 
made him really mad.  And he's a pretty good lawyer too.  
He's a better lawyer than Bill Gates is a programmer.  I 
like reading Lawrence Lessig.  He doesn't read very much 
like science fiction, but you know, we don't actually 
govern with that stuff.

     The future of cyber anarchy is cyberfeudalism.  It's 
Politics 301.  We had a lot of booming cyberanarchy in the 
USA for 20 years, and now we are looking at several years 
of stagnant feudal nothingness.  I would guess about maybe 
one Presidential administration worth of nothing.  About 
one Presidential Administration, and maybe a severe 
economic setback's worth of nothing.   Then people are 
gonna start wondering why nothing important is happening 
any more in computer technology, and when they look at 
that technology, all they are going to see is Microsoft.  
Because that is all there is.  If you want to guess what 
happens after that, you probably shouldn't even ask me.  
You should probably ask Lawrence Lessig.

    So let's forget the geeks.  For the moment, these 
culture heroes are a spent force.  Let's look at the other 
major players.  The spooks. That's the other good reason 
nothing sane and sensible ever happened in crypto: because 
that the NSA wouldn't let it.  Everybody knew this, but 
nobody was ever allowed to say it.  It's really a 
fantastic situation, a thing to marvel at, unless you're 
French or something.   In which case the American spooks 
get to spy on your faxes and phone calls at will, while 
your own spooks are reduced to pathetic penny-ante stuff 
like blowing up Greenpeace boats.  

    I imagine that must hurt their feelings.  Imagine if 
the shoe were on the other foot.    Imagine that somebody 
else's country, like, say, Finland or Pakistan, invented 
some kind of neutrino-powered super X-ray machine that 
could spy on unsuspecting Americans around the clock.  If 
we Americans found out about that, of course America would 
go completely ape with paranoia and start launching the 
cruise missiles.  I mean: why wouldn't we?   

    That is the big political problem with signals 
intelligence.   The NSA and ECHELON, they've become the 
world's most visible, invisible enterprise.   


     And what is their future?  Well, the NSA nobly thinks 
that their future is Double Cross and Purple Code, because 
hey, breaking codes is how the US wins wars.  But a 
likelier future is all kinds of American spooks hastily 
dumping the rulebook and running loose all over the map.  
And that is not World War II.  That would be Iran-Contra.


    It's amazing how much the post September 11 situation 
already looks like Iran-Contra.  Mostly because so many of 
the same guys are still on the scene.  I mean, the 
Ayatollah is dead now, thank goodness, but we're still 
baking cakes for detente with the Iranians, and Daniel 
Ortega == you might remember when he was a serious 
national security menace == Daniel Ortega just lost an 
election in Nicaragua. 

    The problem with spooks is, when you give them their 
heads, they never have any common sense.  They're weird 
little naive underworld creatures, and when they hang out 
with terrorists, they get Stockholm Syndrome.

    You know, I could stand here all day and talk about 
the symbiotic relationship of spooks and terrorists, but I 
really shouldn't, because I'm just a novelist, and when we 
get into our full Tom Clancy spook freak mode, it gets 
kind of tedious.  So let me just offer you a few 
suggestive leads for your own researches.   

    First, remember Oliver North, okay?   Imagine Attorney 
General Ashcroft on TV doing the next Attorney General 
Meese thing, two, or three, or five years from now;  he's 
outing the next Oliver North.  Why?  Because Ollie forgot 
that his email got backed-up automatically on the PROFS 
system.  The guy's got a serious geek problem.  And what 
was Lieutenant Colonel North's other serious problem?  
Well, Congressional oversight.  It's a real drag kowtowing 
to the Congress when you're trying to secretly kill the 
undeclared enemies of the United States.

     The difficulty here is that when you've made up your 
mind to ignore the US Congress, it's really hard to stop.  
The US Congress is not the kind of enterprise you can 
ignore just once!   Nobody ever ignores civilian oversight 
just once.  Ollie North isn't the best example of this, 
because when it came to fighting Moslem terrorists, Ollie 
was a weekend amateur.  If you want to look at serious 
institutional corruption in the War on Terror, you've got 
to look at some spooks who've been fighting Moslem 
terrorists for decades now.

     Consider a guy named Abdullah Catli.  That's C-A-T-L-
I for you folks who use Google.   Mr Catli was a Turkish 
spook who made a career of fighting Kurdish terrorists, 
and Armenian terrorists.  He worked for the Turkish secret 
service as a terrorist-killer.  He got killed in a car 
wreck in 1996, but  if Mr Catli were alive today, he'd 
definitely be one of our primary assets in our global war 
on Moslem terror.   Because he was a NATO Moslem, and very 
pro-American, and on the best of terms with the CIA.  He 
was also a member of the Turkish Gray Wolves movement, who 
are terrorists, and he was a multiply-convicted heroin 
smuggler, and he's also the guy who gave Mehmet Ali Agca 
the handgun that shot the Pope.  He was a really busy guy.

    Under normal circumstances, pre-Internet, Mr Catli 
would have remained a really secret guy.  Nowadays, 
however, if you look up Mr Catli on Google, you will find 
a whole lot of terrible secret news about him that was 
carefully collected and archived by Kurds and Greeks, the 
arch enemies of the Turks.  And oh my goodness Mr Catli 
did some remarkable things, like taking over oil companies 
by force and violence, and shooting owners of casinos, and 
kidnapping the owners of television stations....  And the 
best part is == this part kills me == Abdullah Catli has 
got his own website now.  It's Catli dot com.


   It's all in Turkish, but it's run by his daughter, who 
wrote his biography and is eager to exhonerate her dad.  
She's doing a kind of Ollie North talk-show rehabilitation 
thing for Mr Catli, she's got the book, she's got the 
website, and wow, when it came down to extralegal 
executions of terrorists,  maybe Dad was just ahead of his 
time, huh?  Wow!

    Then there's Arkan.   Another really secret guy.   
Arkan is also stone dead now, and he also got his start as 
an extra-legal anti-terrorist.  In particular, Arkan shot 
exiled Croatian terrorists in Europe  in the 1970s.  Then 
he branched out into killing Moslems inside Bosnia 
Hercegovina.  Arkan was a Serbian paramilitary warlord, 
and a robber baron, and a smuggler, and a gangster, but he 
definitely started as a big anti-terrorist secret.  
Nowadays Serbs rarely tire of telling us that the 
Albanians and Bosnians liked to hang out with Osama bin 
Laden.  And yeah ==  as long as Arkan was around, the 
Moslems in Yugoslavia were really glad to see Osama bin 

      Arkan got his brains blown out by some off-duty 
cops, but Arkan was an off-duty cop himself, so that makes 
sense.   Arkan always sold himself as a secret anti-
terrorist and the friend of law and order.  That was 
always his pitch, even when he was hauling wounded 
prisoners out of hospitals and shooting them in cold 
blood.  He was in the business of secretly and heroically 
protecting people from menace.   He was Mr Croat Menace, 
and then Mr Bosnian Menace, and then Mr Moslem Menace, and 
he ended up as Mr NATO Menace and Mr American Menace; as 
long as the Serbian people were paying him and giving him 
guns, he would give them all the menace they could eat.  
Finally the Serbs had a coalition of 19 separate countries 
blowing them up and it was *still* everybody else's fault.

      You can go to Serbia right now and walk around, and 
it's all about how great Arkan was, and how it was all 
some terrible misunderstanding. Serbia was and still is a 
police state, where the police are the spies, and the 
spies are the mafia,  and everything is always a secret, 
and the people are always innocent, because nobody ever 
tells them anything, because it's a dangerous world out 
there, and people have to be protected from the truth.

      Mossad gets a lot of good press these days.  
Consider the Olympic killings of the Israeli athletes back 
in the 1970s.  That was a very malignant and gruesome 
terrorist act that shocked the whole world, and  it's 
often compared to the 9.11 catastrophe.   Mossad made it 
their business to patiently track down that multinational 
terror group, year after year, nation after nation, and 
relentlessly wipe them out.   And it was hard and 
dangerous work, and I give them some credit for that, 
except for the slip-ups.  

     Like the day in 1973 when Sylvia Raphael, and Avraham 
Behmer, and Mike Harari went up to Norway and 
acccidentally executed the wrong guy.  They meant to kill 
this malignant terrorist named Ali Hassan Salameh, and 
instead they shot this harmless Moroccan waiter named 
Achmed Bauchiki.   The Norwegian police arrested them for 
it, because they hadn't been let-on about Mossad's global 
war on terror.  The Norwegian police naturally assumed 
that it was just some sneaky-looking people killing 


      Now, it's not like Mike Harari, and Avraham Behmer,  
and Sylvia Raphael ever did any hard time for killing that 
waiter; they managed to pull some diplomatic strings and 
they got off.  Most Americans have never heard of Mossad 
killing the wrong guy in Lillehammer in 1973.  But when 
you're running around in neutral third countries with 
crack teams of armed super-agents blowing people away, 
stuff like this happens.  

     And what are the consequences?  Well, this time, 
people are gonna talk on the Internet.   The net is 
swarming with NGO guys, and Amnesty guys, and activist 
guys, and enemy guys, and psychological warfare guys, who 
do nothing but point these things out, all day, every day.

      Now, since I'm a novelist, I think that Sylvia 
Raphael, who was a comely Mossad female assassin from 
South Africa, is a really interesting subject.  And if you 
go to Israel and ask around about her, it's like "Who? 
Huh?  They serve in secret silence, God bless 'em!"  And 
if you go to the USA it's rather like "Whaaah?  Huh?"   
But if you happen to be hanging around on the websites of 
the *enemies* of Israel, you'll hear quite a lot about 
Mossad personnel.  

      When I predict that spooks are not to be trusted and 
will end up doing themselves big, ugly, scandalous harm, 
it's not that I don't trust the President.  On the 
contrary;  I come from Texas, I've been living under a 
Bush regime for years now.  He strolled off with the 
elections in Texas, nobody ever accused him of stealing 
them.  If he was some kind of malignant power-crazed 
lunatic, we'd know  all that by now.  I had a pretty good 
time in the years when George W. Bush was my Governor.  
Laura Bush is a librarian.  We novelists have very warm, 
affirmative feelings towards librarians.  

     I'm just declaring that rule by spooks does not work 
because of civics.   Spooks have no checks and balances.  
You don't get to sue them.  They're never held 
accountable.  They're not elected.  They don't worry about 
return on investment and they don't answer to the 
stockholders.  They don't even have to bury their own 
mistakes; they usually get the diplomats to do that for 
them.  Do you think they're any smarter now than they were 
during Iran Contra?  Or any less reckless?

     Let me put it this way: if you're running around 
dropping domestic wiretaps for national security, you're 
always gonna get around to wiretapping the President's 
real problem: the opposition party.   And that's kind of 
conspicuous.  For instance: what are three Cuban-American 
guys doing wiretapping the Watergate hotel?  Well, you 
know, we spooks were supposed to worry a lot about Cuba, 
so we had some spare Cubans around! 

     So our two power groups, geeks and spooks, may have 
resolved some of their ugly quarrels from ten years ago, 
but they have both failed us politically.  We have had 
arrogant secrecy versus arrogant technocracy, and they 
have both failed the people. Now the geeks are inert and 
the spooks are going bonkers.  That leaves... I dunno.... 
businessmen.  Intellectual property people.  And it's 
pretty interesting to see them wade in.

     This Dmitri Sklyarov guy... Why anybody thinks e-
books are worth even one lousy lawsuit, that is beyond me.  
I guess they had to show they had some kind of teeth in 
their big pink intellectual gums, so they collared this 
Russian guy instead of that Finnish juvenile, and off we 
go on the bloody-shirt parade.  Abducting foreign guys at 
the hacker conference, that was kind of their spook 


       Then we've got their geek approach: the invisible 
dongle business.  We're gonna make some CDs and DVDs and 
such, except they won't play inside computers.  Better 
yet, we won't tell anybody that they don't do that.   That 
is an impressively geeky little move.   Hire some geeks 
and sneakily ruin the hardware so it suits your business 
interests!  If it were up to me, I'd actually *promote* it 
that way == "This virginal Britney Spears CD guaranteed 
free of the evil clutches of Bill Gates" == but they 
prefer to try the geeky, sneaky way.  And why not?   If 
it's okay for geeks to invent some crypto and leave it 
lying around on the ground, then it ought to be okay for 
the MPAA or the WIPO to invent some kind of software 
landmine that makes computer pirates blow right up!  If 
it's sauce for the geek goose, it's sauce for the geek 


     Everybody knows that Mickey Mouse has a permanent 
hammerlock on the public domain.  Every time the Mouse is 
about to slide out of copyright, Disney runs back to 
hustle Congress and pump some more air into his mummy.   
It's a scam and a ridiculous scandal, but at this moment 
intellectual property is probably *farther* away from a 
sane resolution than it's been in many years.  It has 
degenerated into cloak-and-dagger inside the box.

     If there's hope, frankly, I think it's offshore.  I 
have come to suspect that the American polity has 
foundered here.  We Yankees just may not be up for the 
necessary leadership.  The public interest has vanished 
into a welter of panic-stricken cartels.  We don't get 
good security, we don't get innovative technology, least 
of all do we get some cleverly designed and genuinely 
useful cryptography.  We get a computer industry in abject 
monopolist collapse, as a smorgasbord of newly-minted 
spooks trample the landscape!

     It's not that the problems posed by crypto are any 
less pressing ==  they're much *more* pressing, because we 
have some deadly security threats == but  they've been 
left in the underworld so long that they've fossilized.  
It's as if we'd all just discovered prostitution.  "Gosh,  
do men and women have sex for money?  That's a big AIDS 
risk, isn't it? I should call my Congressman and lobby to 
have something done."  Did you ever wonder *why* there are 
so many demimondaines and courtesans in centers of 
government? It's the world's second-oldest profession, 

     You know something?  I blame society!   Maybe those 
dismal Americans should no longer be trusted with crypto!  
Of course, nobody ever *did* trust us with it, or 
somebody, somewhere, somehow would have bought a Clipper 
Chip.  We were willing to settle for technical faits 
accompli and secrecy, and their global political 
consequences have caught up with us.  We never made an 
open, public case for the global benefits of a global 
sensory network.  Although they clearly must be pretty 
extensive. Instead, we forced ECHELON on the rest of the 
world == because we have bigger satellites and nicer 
microwave antennas than they do. 

    Whenever the truth about that lurches up == that 
wrecked Chinese spyplane, the *Pueblo* in North Korea, the 
USS *Liberty* and such == we just trip over it, dust 
ourselves off and pretend it never happened.   Now we're a 
nation that has just had its military nerve center and 
4,000 people blown up in a gruesome atrocity, and we are 
carrying out a land war in a sump infested with landmines, 
and heroin, and fanatics, and torturers, and war 
criminals, and anti-terrorist terrorists that we once used 
to finance ourselves, who feed at will off our giant lust 
for narcotics....  Hoo-ah! 

     It's a global war, and there's an interesting aside 
here: this is the first global war to come along where 
it's not all the fault of Europeans.  How refreshing!

     So maybe Europeans can think this issue through and 
take some useful and constructive steps, while the rest of 
us are busy killing evildoers.  Really, at this point, in 
all humility, we should seek the aid and counsel of our 
allies.  World Wide Web, that was Swiss, and Linux, that 
was Finnish; so if they think really hard and they make 
sure to pay no attention whatsoever to the British, maybe 
the Europeans could bring some fresh perspective to 
surveillance and cryptography.

    Now, I've delivered a pretty severe excoriation to the 
crypto circus here, and one might even call it crabby and 
ill-tempered.  But I've been watching this mess develop 
for years and years on end, and really, my hair has gone 
all gray, and I've adapted bifocals watching the crypto 
scandals.  It's not getting better.  It was "the Bosnia of 
Telecommunications," and even Bosnia looks better by now.  
I've earned a right to some crypto cynicism.  The record 
speaks for itself.  

     But nevertheless, I can't leave you without a 
positive vision.  A couple of hopeful, off-the-wall 
suggestions, maybe.

    So.  What might we do with crypto, if we were smart 
and constructive about it, and let bygones be bygones,  
and if we could pacify the brawling among dysfunctional 
interest groups who clearly are not mature enough to 
handle it?   Well, my first suggestion would be crypto in 
passports.  Because passports suck.  It's time we dumped 
these ludicrously insecure and easily forgeable paper 
passports, and went for something a lot chippier.  

     You know what I want?  I don't want a National ID 
Card.  I want a Global Coalition Visa.

     Like it or not,  we've got a huge global diaspora 
now.  It is a fact of life.   Nations with stupid and 
corrupt politics have seen their clever people brain-
drained away, to places where the cops don't shake you 
down twice a day.  And jet-setters go everywhere.  And 
properly so.   If you're in a true global society,  then 
you spend a lot of your time among aliens. Quite often you 
are the alien.   You might notice that even Al Qaeda is a 
genuinely multinational group.  They gravitated to wicked, 
lawless places like Sudan, Chechnya and Afghanistan, where 
the locals shoot you if you ask for a badge.   
      But what about all us bright, shiny, world-trading 
jet setters, huh?  There are thirty percent fewer Yankees 
in Europe this Christmas, and that is bad.  Let me pose 
the problem this way.   If I am going into a Japanese 
restaurant in Japan, I would rather like to be able to 
haul out some gizmo and flash it at my fellow civilians, 
and have these kindly people understand with a high degree 
of likelihood that I am not a mass murderer.  On the 
contrary, I am quite civilized, and I should be brought a 
beer immediately.  

     A platinum VISA card and a five-hundred-dollar suit 
will almost do that, but those are too easy to forge and 
steal, plus they are not very democratic.   The UN should 
get together on this. We should have a high level summit 
about digital hardware support for  the crippled tourist 
economy.   Fear and ill treatment shut down tourism faster 
than anything short of open warfare.  That is bad for all 
of us.  Killing off tourism harms our civilization and 
impoverishes our cultures.   People in civilized states 
shouldn't routinely treat one another as criminal 
suspects.   I don't want to get done-over for three hours 
every time I get off a plane in London.   When I go to 
London, I go with empty suitcases.  I don't plan to stay, 
but I am better news for the London economy than a lot of 
the people who live there.  

     They should know all that that *before* I get off the 
plane.  My arrival is excellent news for Britain, so I 
should be treated that way.   If this is a new kind of 
war, I don't want to be the evil guy hunkered down in the 
bunker; I want to fly with the boys from Air Assault.  I 
want one of those handy crypto-style Friend-or-Foe IDs.  
    These people who normally meet me whenever I am an 
alien, they don't need to know my nationality, my home 
address or my shoe size.  They just need to know that, 
despite being alien, I'm sort-of okay.  

    I want a democratic, citizen-to-citizen device that 
will bridge those social barriers and language barriers.  
I think we could invent devices and means of verification 
that would strengthen the global social fabric that 
terrorism wants to rip.  It wouldn't be easy or simple, 
but it's not beyond our ingenuity.  Our social capital 
sustains all civilized societies, and it is all about 
trust.  So let's invent new methods of trust.

     If you look at what happened on September 11, you 
find one American victory in that first skirmish of the 
war.  That was the flight in which the passenger revolted 
against the hijackers.  Why? Because of their cellphones. 
That was a battle of civilian cellphones versus terrorist 
boxcutters.   I suspect that episode will turn out to be 
the rehearsal of the whole war.   The good news here is 
that boxcutters are not capable of much military 
improvement, while cellphones could improve by leaps and 

    This suggests the invention of the weaponized and 
ruggedized GI cellphone.  You could think of it as the 
"wingless angel," as they liked to call them after 
September 11; and as a kind of personal black-box recorder 
for the endangered citizen.   This cellphone would be 
federally manufactured, and distributed en masse as a 
general-issue security device.   The point of this device 
would be to arm the population in surveilling and 
recording acts of unconventional warfare.  You don't shoot 
anybody with it; but if you see anything weird, suspicious 
and asymmetric going on, you formally act as a mediated 
witness: you  hold this device up, and you start looking 
and talking.  And all this safety data is instantly 
streamed off and stored in Fort Knox and Fort Meade.

      Now, if you turn the entire population into 
anonymous snoops and peeping Toms, it's a nation of 
snitches, which is very destabilizing.  I'm not suggesting 
that. I am suggesting secure, accountable devices with 
digital signatures built in.  They're cryptographically 
time-stamped, their voice signals and photographs are 
cryptographically overwritten, proving their source.   
They are tamperproofed, and very sternly verifiable, and 
usable as proven evidence in courts of law.  They're not 
civilian toys, they are genuine weapons of information 
warfare, in much the same way that an unarmed Predator 
surveillance aircraft is a weapon.  They are people's 
media weapons.   Their proper use requires some training 
and discretion; it's like a citizen's audiovisual arrest.   

    This is the civilian militia Minuteman version of 
surveillance.   The omnipresense of this kind of civilian-
owned and civilian-deployed surveillance would not make 
anyone's society kinder and happier.  But it certainly 
would make that society a very dangerous place for urban 
guerrillas.  And it would not centralize the great power 
of surveillance in the unstable hands of unelected 

      That's my futuristic suggestion; maybe it's somewhat 
far-fetched and impractical, but this seems like the kind 
of audience with whom one ought to broach the subject.   

     In conclusion, I must say that although I am by no 
means a happy man this season, I think that in five or six 
years, we may look back at this time of confusion and 
sorrow with some sense of real satisfaction.   The 
President was right to say that our society had been 
challenged by a serious act of terror, and it's a genuine 
and sober challenge, and we could blow it.  It isn't 
written on tablets of gold that we pampered Yankee mall 
rats are destined to rule the universe.   There are times 
in life when people are required to measure up and show 
some mettle.

     It's alarming when our Congress does dumb things and 
our institutions look like they're caught all flat-footed, 
but you know, we don't have some extra, better Congress 
stashed away in an attic; this is Washington, and this is 
it.   We don't have an extra American population, either; 
dumb, pampered, red-white-and-blue, whatever, we are them.  
Adversity has its uses.  We're learning a lot about 
ourselves by going through this.  If we can just manage to 
make some fresh mistakes, we may end up in some place 
really interesting, better than we had, not all damp, 
crooked, and muddled, but clearer and more sensible.  We 
should hope for that, and work for that.

     That's all I have to say, thanks for your attention.

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