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News & Editorials

Preparing for the Revolution

by Kurt Amesbury, J.D.

As our civil rights continue their slide down the razor blade of unconstitutional Federal excess, it appears ever more likely that there will come a day when, if we cherish our freedom, we will be compelled to take up arms and kill our Federal masters.

Shocked? Appalled?

Good. I don't want to have to do that either. But as Churchill said,

"...if you will not fight for the right when you can easily win without bloodshed, if you will not fight when your victory will be sure and not so costly, you may come to the moment when you will have to fight with all the odds against you and only a precarious chance for survival. There may be a worse case. You may have to fight when there is no chance of victory, because it is better to perish than to live as slaves."

The choice is clear. You can buy freedom cheaply now, or later find it impossible to buy at any price. Assuming you are interested in protecting your freedom, albeit, at the lowest possible personal cost to yourself, there are some very simple things you can do to slow the erosion of your rights. Here's the first:

Use encryption in your e-mail communications.

One of the most underutilized tools we have to combat Federal invasion of our lives is text encryption. You should use it wherever possible.

You've probably heard of Carnivore, the FBI's tool for grabbing all the e-mail that moves through a server? You don't have to be the target of an FBI probe. Your e-mail is probably being read and filtered anyway. But Carnivore has a little trouble with encrypted files. The filtering process is primarily a matter of matching words. Carnivore can't filter what it cannot read.

Does that mean your encrypted files cannot be read? Not at all.

Encryption is a numbers game. There has yet to be an encryption method that cannot be broken. What differentiates the strength of an encryption algorithm is the effort necessary to break the message and read its contents. Remember the simple substitution ciphers you probably used as kids? Substitute an 'A' for a 'B' and so on? The amount of effort to break that kind of cipher is relatively minimal. In fact, many newspapers offer those types of "encrypted" messages as brain teasers akin to crossword puzzles. Today's dual-key public encryption algorithms are a far cry from those elementary ciphers, but decryption by the government of an individual message is not a question of "if" -- it's a question of "when."

So, if the government, with all its super-computers can break the encryption and read my mail any time it wants, what good does it do to encrypt?

Encryption is a numbers game.

If you are the only one using encryption, there is virtually no benefit to using it. While a plain text file might take the Feds only a few thousandths of a second to process on a fast computer, the same file encrypted would take days or weeks to read. Breaking the encryption is a numbers game. Remember?

So imagine that instead of just one person encrypting their e-mail, you are able to persuade a few of your friends to follow suit. If it takes the government a day or two per message to decrypt the e-mails, it has a problem on its hands. And the more e-mail the Feds have to sort through, the bigger the problem. Let's say that a Carnivore unit can process 100,000 plain text e-mails a day. If just 10% of those e-mails are encrypted, "daily" processing becomes over 20,000 years of computer time.

Of course, computers will get faster, and the Feds can always put more computers on the problem. By putting 10,000 computers on the case, they can shorten the processing time to a little over two years, and if the computers are 10 times faster, they might be able to read all the e-mails in as little as 2-3 months.

But in the meantime, they've accumulated another 2-3 months worth of e-mail

Encryption is a numbers game.

How important is it to have surveillance-free communications? You decide. If you wanted to control someone, how much would it help you to be able to read their e-mail?

Will this impair the FBI's ability to fight crime? Not at all. If the FBI suspects an individual of a crime, they can still easily break his encrypted messages. But if a large portion of e-mail through a server is encrypted, what they cannot do is spy on people at random by reading all of their e-mail.

So if you really want to jam up Federal surveillance of your Internet communications, get yourself a copy of PGP (Pretty Good Privacy - it's free for personal use!), and start sending bowling league stats, weather observations, love letters and shooting tips to everyone you know! Obviously, heavily encrypted cake recipes aren't the sort of thing the Feds will be hoping to find when they troll through your e-mail. But that's their problem, isn't it?

By the way, my public key is below. Once you get PGP, cut and paste will get you started.

If you are among the group of patriots who wants to slow down and reverse the Federal government's encroachment on your freedom, but aren't ready to start shooting (isn't that all of us, really?), get PGP and send me a note today!

Keep your powder dry!

Version: PGPfreeware 7.0.3 for non-commercial use

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