Although I have written about the problems of Tor and its ethics-free coders and developers, and have an entire e-book on the subject of Snowden and his hacker helpers and the issues of Tor, Yasha Levine continues not to link to me and merely to poach from me.
I have an entire e-book, published in January 2014, called Privacy for Me and Not for Thee: The Movement for Invincible Personal Encryption, Radical State Transparency, and the Snowden Hack.
The second part of the title is exactly the problem: Tor advocates demand invincible personal encryption, which they can use as anarchists to overthrow the state and remain blind to criminal use by child pornographers, money-launderers, drug-dealers or the assassins that accompany these businesses.
I have written for years about the problems of Tor:
Yasha Levine is one of those Russians who never criticizes the Kremlin -- he's one of those Soviet emigres with something like nostalgia for the good old days, and believes evil capitalists and Yeltsin ruined Russia in the 1990s, and Putin "restored order." When I tried to place him and his sidekick Mark Ames of the old Exile, I call them "techno-Stalinists" because "techno-communists" doesn't even begin to describe their rabid hatred for America, the West, capitalism and corporations, and their vague utopian communist ideals that they never quite admit but viciously defend against all perceived enemies.
Levine has done several scathing articles on Tor, blasting it merely because it is funded by the US government, and never examining the real issues of crime and lack of ethics in this software -- which is a weapon. For Levine, the discovery -- that everyone else in the encryption business or watching Snowden was long since aware of -- that Tor was developed by the Navy and funded by the Department of Defense was somehow "news."
After slamming Tor merely for its association with the US government, his latest piece whines that he is smeared by the Tor staff, all of whom are on Uncle Sam's payroll even as the claim to be fighting The Man.
The Tor staff has behaved as badly as they always do, writing nasty slams and making preposterous claims for their coders' cult.
When I published my critiques ,I had threats of law suits, harassment, hordes of Anonymous creeps bombarding my Twitter feed with porn links, freezing of my blog with the comments bombarded, etc., doxing -- all the usual bullshit from this bunch -- merely because I questioned their ethics -- something that Yasha Levine never does, because for him, the mere association with the US government is enough to damn them.
Levine seems incapable of realizing that anarchists are happy to take over the state when it is weak and do what they want, and exploit it even for undoing that state. The problem isn't the state, the most liberal in history. The problem is the ethical anarchists.
Why? Because I come to the conclusion that the problem is unethical hackers, that the government per se is not evil. And that flies in the face of his effort here, which is to tie Tor to the government, and by that link alone prove that it is evil. This is childish and myopic.
Levine ignores my main thesis, which is that Tor itself is unethical by nature because it is built on the premise that it is okay for the military to make a weapon, then take human shields to use it. THAT is the core problem.
The reason Levine ignores this is he wants to reserve the weapon of code for his favourite political movements, anti-American hackers and activists, and doesn't want to concede that code is a weapon, because to do so would mean repudiating his claim -- and the claim of hackers -- that code is neutral or code is good or that the code-weapon should be given to his favourite political groups.
But code isn't neutral, because developers weld into their code their life views, and in this case, not only the idea of taking humans as shields is wrong, the idea that we can remain neutral to criminal use of Tor "for the sake of the cause" is also a Bolshevik-style notion of "the end justifies the means."
There are other solutions here. The Navy can make their own white-label circumvention software, and if they are worried about showing up in that capacity as "white-label Navy thing" on servers, they can use various cutaways of their own, either contractors or nonprofits or volunteers in their own network. As I've said time and again, you can have Iowa corn farmers run Tor nodes, not anarchists with purple hair and nose-rings. Then the Navy themselves can monitor the system for misuse by anyone from Russia to child pornographers.
And another solution -- one I would favour -- is to turn Tor over to another ethical nonprofit group -- that would not be the existing Tor Project team! -- and have it built on the premise that in order for the network to succeed, its members MUST trust some stewards to spot-check, monitor, and remove criminals. I would replace the "zebra stripes" theory -- anyone should be allowed to use it to make all the stripes hide the zebras you want to hide -- by saying that some people get to monitor for some stripes.
This notion is abhorrent to the extremists currently running it, who turn a blind eye to drug dealers and child pornographers and hackers stealing NSA documents like Snowden, because they think they "can't" monitor the system as that would defeat the notion of privacy. Nonsense. Nothing online is every really private in the end, as Syverson himself, the original Navy developer has proven, as have other researchers. Without enough watching of the exit nodes, any hostile party can figure out what's up. So the users community itself should try to reduce hostile and criminal use by monitoring, with key word searches, investigation of heightened activity in some "hidden servers" and so on. They should monitor not only for drug dealers but for hostile governments, such as Russia, which has already penetrated the system -- a glaring fact Yasha, soft on the Kremlin, never mentions in any of his rants against Tor.
Any online community has monitors, and there's no reason that the community of Tor users can democratically and transparently chose their monitors.
Andrea Shepherd quit Linden Lab, the maker of Second Life because the CEO at the time refused to concede her demand that users should have absolute encryption and the company be kept out of user communications. The company, however, insisted on being able to monitor the entire system, through key word searches, random inspections and of course response to user abuse reports, to make sure Second Life wasn't used for criminal purposes whether child pornography, drug sales, terrorism or any money-laundering.
Shepherd thought that user communications should be absolutely encrypted and impervious to the platform provider's inspection. This is anarchist extremism and there is no reason we should accept it in the miniature prototype of the Internet that is Second Life, nor accept it in real life on the Internet. Indeed, the iPhone6 encryption is just this challenge which Congress should address.
Jacob Appelbaum in his speech at the 29th Chaos Communication Congress in Germany openly called on NSA and other intelligence agency systems administrators to sabotage the system, to "get the ball and bring it out" when it comes to secret documents.
He did this even more at the 30th CCC when he called for sabotaging and leaking and referenced the NSA's gadget catalogue, which he also published at the same time in Der Spiegel -- not a document taken by Snowden.
This kind of radicalism isn't acceptable in a liberal democratic state under the rule of law. Even the most liberal state needs espionage against enemies that are all too real and secret documents. It's not up to anarchists to undemocratically define and decide this for us all. Andrea Shepherd's ideas are so radical that she thinks "mathematics" -- encryption -- makes the state obsolete. These are people who have advanced the "code as law" concept -- and in their hands especially code is a weapon.
Tor Project should be suspended, then reformed, and we should not be paying for anarchist sabotage with our tax dollars. The issue isn't that this project is run by the US -- which Levine thinks alone discredits it because in his mind, the US is the evil country and opppressive regimes like Russia, Syria, Sudan, Iran, etc. just don't exist in his universe except as victims.
There is a wide variety of circumvention and encryption software that can be used for the purpose of maintaining privacy for those who have legitimate use for it. And it's more than fine to have communities of users monitor themselves so that the software is not used for crime. No one needs to have a child abused in order to keep a victim of domestic abuse safe; no one needs to have illegal drugs sold and addiction to spread in order for someone in Iran to oppose their government. It is possible to do good and prevent evil, but first, you have to discard these caricatures of black-and-white binary 0/1 thinking and realize some ethical and reasonable method is possible.