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Senate Funding Bill For State Dept. Asks It To Figure Out Ways To Stop Bad People From Using Tor

---------- Forwarded message ----------
From: Jeremy Rand <biolizard89@gmail.com>
Date: Wed, 6 Jul 2016 12:17:24 -0500
Subject: [tor-talk] Senate Funding Bill For State Dept. Asks It To
Figure Out Ways To Stop Bad People From Using Tor

Well, this looks unfortunate.


I assume the Tor Project staff are aware of this language?

(Mis)Uses of Technology
by Mike Masnick
Wed, Jul 6th 2016 9:34am
(Feedbacks linked above)


Senate Funding Bill For State Dept. Asks It To Figure Out Ways To Stop
Bad People From Using Tor
from the good-luck-with-that dept
It would appear that Congress is not so happy that the State
Department is a major funding source for the Tor project. Tor, of
course, is the internet anonymyzing system that was originally
developed with support from the US government as a way to promote free
and safe access to the internet for people around the globe (mostly
focusing on those under threat in authoritarian countries). Of course,
other parts of our government aren't huge fans of Tor, because it
doesn't just help activists and dissidents in other countries avoid
detection, but also, well, just about anyone (except on days when the
FBI decides to hack their way in).

There has, of course, always been some tension there. There are always
the conspiracy theorists who believe that because Tor receives US
government funding it is by default compromised. Those tend to be
tinfoil hat wearing types, though. The folks who work on Tor are not
exactly recognized for being particularly friendly to intrusive
government surveillance. They tend to be the exact opposite of that.
And, of course, part of the Snowden revelations revealed that Tor was
one tool that still stymied the NSA in most cases.

But it appears that Congress may be quietly trying to undermine this.
On Friday, Politico had a tiny blurb in passing about how the latest
State Department appropriations bill making its way through Congress
includes some references to stopping "circumvention technologies" from
being used by bad people. The Politico report suggests this is
designed to apply more broadly to encryption, but reading the
specifics it appears to be targeted straight at Tor. Here's the Senate
report on the appropriations, where it discusses funding related to
"internet freedom."

That, of course, was the reasoning behind Tor in the first place, but
here Congress is now trying to put some limitations on what the State
Dept. can do with its funds, including demanding that it seek out ways
to stop bad guys from using technology like Tor. In the report, it's
described this way:

    ...the Committee requires that spend plans submitted by the
Department of State and BBG pursuant to section 7078(c) of the act
include a description of safeguards to ensure that circumvention
technologies are not used for illicit purposes, such as coordinating
terrorist activities or online sexual exploitation of children.

In the full bill, the key section notes that the funding shall only be
available for internet freedom after efforts are made to stop bad
people from using the tools.

    ... made available for the research and development of new tools
or techniques authorized in paragraph (A) only after the BBG CEO, in
consultation with the Secretary of State and other relevant United
States Government departments and agencies, evaluates the risks and
benefits of such new tools or techniques, and establishes safeguards
to minimize the use of such new tools or techniques for illicit

In case you're wondering, the "BBG CEO" is the CEO of the Broadcasting
Board of Governors, the US government agency that manages media
efforts around the globe, such as the Voice of America.

Make no mistake, this appears to be an attempt to sneak in an attack
on Tor via Congress into the State Dept. Tor has been developed to
provide the best absolute anonymity/privacy tools for people using the
internet -- with the acknowledgement that it can be misused, because
the people developing it recognize that the best way to protect the
vast majority of its users is to build a system that is truly secure
-- not one that artificially tries to limit its uses. Hopefully, this
provision is changed, or else it may be eventually leveraged as a way
to attack Tor, to attack Tor's funding and try to get the State
Department to stop supporting such useful projects.