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Oct 20th SF C'punks meeting: at the ITAR Constitutional trial court
We're having a "Cypherpunks Dress-Up Day" on Friday, October 20th.
Meet at the Federal Building in San Francisco, 450 Golden Gate Avenue,
at 10:15AM. Hey, I've seen Tim May in a suit once, why not again?
The first "oral arguments" in the Bernstein crypto export case will
happen there, starting at 10:30, in Judge Patel's courtroom upstairs.
We've been fedexing legalese back and forth for months; now we get to
explain the case in person. You can meet our intrepid lawyers, who
are slaving away without pay, in durance vile, to protect our rights!
Shake hands with an NSA lawyer specially flown in for the occasion!
Meet some local journalists! And watch the wheels of justice grindin'
as the judge first explores our case. We will follow the hearing with
a group lunch at Max's Opera Plaza, a block away, and break up at
12:30 or 1PM.
In this case, Dan Bernstein, ex-grad-student from UC Berkeley, is
suing the State Department, NSA, and other agencies, with help from
the EFF. Our main argument is that the export controls on crypto
software are a "prior restraint on publication" which is
unconstitutional under the First Amendment unless handled very
delicately by a court (not just by an agency acting on its own).
These agencies restrained Dan's ability to publish a paper, as well as
source code, for the crypto algorithm that he invented. There are
additional arguments along the lines that the State Department and NSA
take a lot more liberties during the export process than their own
regulations and laws really permit. Full background and details on
the case are in the EFF Web/FTP archives at:
Like Phil Karn's case, this lawsuit really has the potential to outlaw
the whole NSA crypto export scam. We could make your right to publish
and export crypto software as well-protected by the courts as your
right to publish and export books. Of course, the government would
appeal any such decision, and it will take years and probably an
eventual Supreme Court decision to make it stick. But you can be
there at the very beginning!
Please make a positive impression on the judge. Show her -- by
showing up -- that this case matters to more people than just the
plaintiff and defendant. That how it gets decided will make a
difference to society. That the public and the press are watching,
and really do care that it gets handled well. We'll have to be quiet
and orderly while we're in the courthouse. There will be no questions
from the audience (that's us), but the session will be tape-recorded,
and you can take notes if you like.
The judge is Marilyn Hall Patel, who used to be on the board of
directors of the ACLU. I haven't met her, but I hear that she's not
afraid to tell the government where to stuff it, when they deserve it.
Our lawyers met with her once before, but this will be your first
chance to meet the judge in person.
The particular issue in front of the judge on the 20th is whether the
case should be thrown out. The government is arguing that it should.
It's a mess of legal details about whether the Judicial Branch has the
right to decide questions like this, and over whether we have really
properly claimed a Constitutional rights violation. It will teach
most c'punks something about how the courts work, and how the NSA and
State Dept use bureaucratic tricks to avoid facing the real issues.
We have managed to drag in some of these issues, like whether there is
sufficient "expression" in software that the First Amendment should
protect publishers of software. It's possible, but unlikely, that the
judge will decide then-and-there. We will get some clues to how
she is leaning, based on her questions and comments. Her written
decision will come out some days or weeks later.
Don't bring any interesting devices unless you're willing to check
them with the lobby guards for the duration. They seem to want to
hold onto guns, "munitions", and even small pocketknives, before
they'll let you go upstairs to the courtrooms.
So, here's your excuse to put on a nice costume, take an early lunch,
and pay a call on the inner sanctum of our civil rights. See you there!