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Paranoia and Cypherpunks


It is inevitable that a group such as ours should have varying
opinions about the nature of the group, its role in society, its
approach to outsiders and journalists, and its basic attitude.

Recently, several people have expressed concern that the proper
message is not being conveyed, even that a subversive and seditious
message is often presented on this list. Some have cited discussion of
military cipher systems as being too dangerous for us to discuss,
while others have expressed some discomfort at the "anarchist" flavor
of some postings.

Well, folks, we all have different axes to grind. Since this is an
open, unmoderated list, little control of content can be expected.

* Some want "cryptography" downplayed, to be replaced with "privacy"
as an emphasis. Privacy is seen as more palatable to Americans, less
likely to upset them into cracking down on crypto methods. In other
words, privacy is an easier "sell" than secrecy. 

Perhaps, but why dilute our focus just to make a more digestable pill
for the masses of America, who typically don't think much about
abstractions anyway? Those who want to sell "privacy" are free to.
(BTW, the die was mostly cast when the name "Cypherpunks" was
adopted. That's already raised red flags, just by the name! If we want
to downplay this "crypto-cyber-punks outlaw" image, then a name change
to something more like the "Electronic Frontier Foundation" or the
CPSR, nice, safe-sounding names.)

* Others have expressed some concern that some minor details of how
U.S. cipher machines send out padded traffic were mentioned on this
list--the fear being that discussion of military matters will invite
the scrutiny of the government. Well, check out sci.military some time
and see the debate on such issues! Also, many details of the KG-36,
KWR-37, and Autodin cipher systems--just to cite the specific military
cipher machines that the posting on this list was probably referring
to--have already been published, and the Walker spy ring delivered the
complete specs to these and other machines in the early 1980s.

It's typically only the public who lacks knowledge on these matters.
The Soviets (May They Rest in Pieces) usually got the salient details
fairly quickly.  Since ours is a crypto education group--amongst other
things--what's wrong with discussing any of the gadgets and techniques
that numerous books and other postings have already dealt with?

(Surely John Gilmore's lawsuit to get some critical crypto papers
declassified has already "angered" the folks at NSA. Are we to censure
John for stirring up trouble? Of course not. We're free individuals,
able to say what we wish, meet in secret meetings without the
permission of the government, and learn anything we wish to. This, at
least, is the theory. Until told otherwise, I intend to act on this

* Some have argued persuasively for concentrating efforts on the more
palatable (to the public at large) aspects of crypto techniques, such
as authentication to reduce forgeries, privacy protection against
illegal eavesdroppers, and so on. This is the "selling our vision to
the public" point of view.

Fine, it is good for some folks to do this, to concentrate on the
areas that are unlikely to upset Middle America.

But some of us--and you've seen my postings--believe the _selling_ of
these ideas of authentication and privacy is a lost cause, or at least
is not our main interest (e.g, it's not _my_ interest).

* I favor technological solutions over political solutions. Don't call
it sedition, call it the natural trend of new technologies. The
printing press broke the power of medieval guilds in ways a political
approach could never have done. Same with steam engines, electric
motors, incandescent light, copying machines, computers,
modems...well, you get the point.

The things we talk about on this list, the things being developed and
deployed, will have revolutionary effects. I've written about these
effects over the past several years, and this wonderful list is
pursuing them all with gusto! The anonymous remailers alone will set
off alarms throughout the law enforcement community--you're kidding
yourself if you think otherwise. Are we to stop working on anonymous
remailers? What about digital cash? 

Face it, what we're doing will have major implications. To not talk
about these effects, to not speculate on the possible consequences, is
to bury our heads in the sand for fear that someone reading this list
will order this list shut down or have us arrested! 

Yes, it's true some journalists are reading this list. Yes, it's
fairly likely someone is forwarding this list to various agencies
(this isn't paranoia...they'd be fools to not know about this list by
now, given the publicity, the reputations of some of us, etc.). I know
that some of the recipients of the list are gatewaying to other
systems, or are forwarding specific articles to much wider audiences
(I know this partly from e-mail I get). But these are all consequences
of having a public list.

Anyone uncomfortable with the free discussion of ideas and
technologies on this list, anyone who fears personal or professional
liability for views expressed by _others_ on this list, should
probably unsubscribe from the list.

I certainly don't intend to stop writing about the areas that interest



Timothy C. May | Crypto Anarchy: encryption, digital money,
[email protected] | anonymous networks, digital pseudonyms, zero
408-688-5409 | knowledge, reputations, information markets,
W.A.S.T.E.: Aptos, CA | black markets, collapse of governments.
Higher Power: 2^756839 | PGP Public Key: by arrangement.