DHS Now Detaining Anti-surveillance App Developers


The Department of Homeland Security has stepped up its assault on programers who are developing state pf the art encryption technologies to prevent government spying.

Brandon Turbeville
Activist Post

In yet another example of the ever growing reach of the American Homeland Security state, Cryptocat developer Nadim Kobeissi, who is Canadian, claims to have been detained on four separate occasions at the US/Canadian border by the Department of Homeland Security in the last three weeks.

While detention and harassment at the border by DHS is unfortunately nothing new, what is interesting is the major topic of Kobeissi’s interrogations. In this case, it was Kobeissi’s open source chat app, Cryptocat that seems to have raised the eyebrows of someone in the upper reaches of DHS.

As Jon Matonis of Forbes states, DHS interrogators were curious about which encryption algorithms are deployed by Cryptocat as well as the level of censorship resistance held by the program.

Cryptocat is an app that establishes a secure, encrypted chat session that is allegedly not subject to government or commercial surveillance. As Matonis writes:

It uses client-side JavaScript to implement 256-bit Advanced Encryption Standard for message encryption and Elliptic curve Diffie-Hellman for key agreement. Similar to the Off-the-record Messaging (OTR) cryptographic protocol available via plugin, Cryptocat generates new key pairs for every chat implementing a form of perfect forward secrecy and deniable encryption. However, the web-based Cryptocat can also accommodate multiple parties to an encrypted chat session.

Cryptocat is different from other programs using cryptography that produce a record and identities of the users along with the ability for verification. This is because Kobeissi’s new app uses “perfect forward secrecy” which allegedly leaves no trace.

The potential effects of this new development on privacy are startling, particularly for activists and journalists wishing to keep sources confidential. The technology, if it works as claimed, is essentially able to shield communications between individuals engaging in online chats.

Yet some go even further. For instance, in a presentation by RT regarding Cryptocat, the new app was even referred to as CISPA’s kryptonite “because it’s a service that denies third-party access to private conversations online thereby making the Cyber Intelligence Sharing Protection Act largely irrelevant.”

The Cyber Intelligence Sharing Protection Act (CISPA) could change the way we use the Internet. Congress is attempting to pass legislation the legislation, which in turn would infringe on online users’ freedoms. CISPA is being pushed as a necessity to help protect national security and would allow companies and the government to spy on whoever they wish, but should the masses lose their privacy for the potential wrong-doings of a few? Fear not, one individual has developed CryptoCat, a service which denies third-party access to private conversations online. Nadim Kobeissi, computer security researcher and the creator of the software, joins us to discuss why he developed CryptoCat.

Of course, Cryptocrat is an impressive development. However, one should be very careful about assuming that those involved in the creation of the digital control grid have been outdone by any new introduction of technology. After all, agencies like DARPA and the more secretive agencies are generally light years ahead of anything released to the general public.

In a world where total surveillance is not only possible but has actually been realized, it is not wise to assume that one app will produce a chink in the armor of the overarching control system. This type of technological development most likely has been anticipated long ago.

Indeed, instead of fearing the potential of activists utilizing the system for revolution, it seems much more logical that it would be government agencies who would take the most advantage of the technology than anything or anyone else.

For instance, one should keep in mind that, while “flash mobs” organized to protest the Federal Reserve were immediately crushed as a result of government surveillance, the Arab Spring, which is mentioned by Matinos of Forbes, was actually facilitated by western/NATO governments using digital methods like Twitter and Facebook.

It is also suspect that Kobeissi was detained at the border in an attempt by government agents to understand his technology. It is much more realistic to assume that the repeated interrogations were being used in order to discourage both Kobeissi and other developers from attempting to create any form of anti-surveillance technology that isn’t produced and subsequently introduced at the pre-determined time all the way from the top. Such technology will obviously have built-in surveillance backdoors even as it touts secrecy and security.

If Cryptocrat is, however, an actual method of shielding private conversations, then the need of the Homeland Security state to confound and dismantle it as soon as possible should be obvious to anyone.

Interestingly enough, Kobeissi is not the only developer to be harassed by US government agents upon entering the country. Last year, a Chinese Bitcoin developer was interrogated for hours by US Customs agents about how Bitcoin worked, where he got them, and how he traded them for actual money. Eventually, he was denied entry into the country.

Programmer and activist, David House, co-founder of the Bradley Manning Support Network, even had his electronics confiscated upon reentering the country. House was also grilled about his political activities, even though those activities are clearly protected under the law and the Constitution.

All three of these individuals were caught in the SSSS (Secondary Security Screening Selection) designation that Muslims have been subjected to for years since the false flag attacks of 9/11. These SSSS designations result in the unfortunate individual receiving extensive searches and interrogations which can last for hours on end.

At the very least, however, such obnoxious border “security” has drawn the ire of the ACLU which is now questioning some of the authorities claimed by the government at ports of entry. The Massachussetts ACLU is even suing the Department of Homeland Security for the treatment of David House.

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