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Evil Prosecutors on the List

At 1:30 AM 12/4/95, Brian Davis wrote:

>I feel slighted.  No one accused me of lacking principles because I
>haven't quit my job with the Justice Department based on its, and the
>Administration's, position.

Speaking for myself, I simply assumed you were a prosecutor handling the
"legitimate" cases, as the OJ prosecutors were (granted, different types of
cases). Despite my libertarian leanings, I suppose many or even most
prosecutions actually involve real crimes of fraud, theft, embezzlement,
etc., at least based on what I read of pending court cases. Though there
are probably a lot of "crimes" prosecuted that I don't think of as real

A college friend of mine is married to a woman who's a prosecutor in
Brooklyn, and one of her cases involved prosecuting some poor shlub who was
caught committing the dastardly crime of _smuggling his own money_ out of
the country! (Tens of thousands of dollars, not the millions that a drug
case would involve, not that it matters to me, but it might to some.) My
point? I did not insult her when she mentioned this, just said something
like "Well, I don't view it as a crime." She of course understood, as her
husband is a libertarian like me.

(I could never be a prosecutor, or even a successful defense attorney, as I
would feel it necessary to decide on each case whether prosecution/defense
is justified.)

I suppose I don't impute evil to very many people at all. I view some
_institutions_ as counterproductive and at odds with the principles of free
association and non-agression that this country was founded on, and it is
the _institutions_ I think need changing. Fortunately, strong crypto is the
right kind of tool at the right time. (I think my hero Tom Jefferson would
really have gotten a kick out of this stuff, especially considering that he
invented his own ciphers for private communication....not a lot of doubt
what he'd have thought about a scheme for the government to have access to
all business transactions, all conference calls, all private e-mail, and
all international letters.)

But I don't think of Dorothy Denning, for example, as an "evil" person,
just as someone whose assessment of the tradeoffs, and whose political
power of course (she having the ear of the leadership), is much different
from mine.

And I've met Stewart Baker, former chief counsel of the NSA (and
past/present advocate of restrictions on strong crypto use), and he's quite
knowledgeable and reasonable. (I hope readers will spare us the usual
responses along the lines of "They say Hitler was very charming." Monsters
can indeed be deceptively charming, but I don't think for a nanosecond that
Stewart Baker, Louis Freeh, Dorothy Denning, or Jim Clark fit into this
picture. My point is that reasonable people can have disagreements, even
disagreements which they cannot compromise about, without any requirement
that one or the other be "evil.")

Getting back to Baker, it is clear we disagree. He may even think me
irresponsible for advocating "anarcho-capitalist" views (*), but we were
able to communicate civilly at the last CFP and even shared a panel. I
think he understands my libertarian positions, and I think I understand his
concerns. As it happens, I'm just not convinced that stopping some number
of crimes is sufficient reward for outlawing privacy. Mounting cameras in
all homes and hotel rooms would undeniably stop some number of crimes, or
allow the perps to be caught and convicted, but it is too high a price to
pay by orders of magnitude.

(* I call my position "crypto anarchy," for reasons I've explained, but it
is actually the fairly well-respected position of laissez-fair capitalism,
aka anarcho-capitalism, aka freedom. Since it is instantiated on the Net,
perhaps a better name would be "arachno-capitalism," not to be confused
with the "narco-capitalism" practiced, it is said, by the CIA and various

>Nevertheless, I won't think less of Jeff if he doesn't quit.  He appears
>to be fighting what most here believe is the good fight.  Refusing to
>take his ball and go home does not mean, to me, that he lacks
>principles.  Perhaps it means that he thinks he can do more from within.
>Gee, and Tim May didn't get a new ISP when his current PC-ISP canceled
>his Usenet access because of his protected speech and then gave it back
>only if he included a disclaimer on his messages.  Fire away, Cypherpunks!!!

Indeed, we all make compromises.

The calls for Jeff to quit Netscape are especially pointless, I think.
First, he can do more for "our" cause than if he quits and his voice is no
longer heard. Second, it's far too early to know how things are going and
whether Netscape will in fact become the "munitions supplier" to the
Surveillance State. Third, the element of hypocrisy. I didn't see a single
one of our AT&T list members resign from AT&T over the Clipper flap.

This is why I'm concerned about the Netscape position, and why I'm probing
for details and explanations, but it is also why I'm trying the best I can
not to be rude or insulting to Jeff Weinstein. If we drive him off the list
with insults and cheap shots, it is quite possible that our views will no
longer have any impact within Netscape (or other companies, for that
matter) and that we'll just be dismissed as a bunch of crazies.

Your mileage may vary.

--Tim May

Views here are not the views of my Internet Service Provider or Government.
Timothy C. May              | Crypto Anarchy: encryption, digital money,
[email protected]  408-728-0152 | anonymous networks, digital pseudonyms, zero
Corralitos, CA              | knowledge, reputations, information markets,
Higher Power: 2^756839      | black markets, collapse of governments.
"National borders are just speed bumps on the information superhighway."