Tag Archives: internet

Barlow’s Legacy: A Declaration of the Independence of Cyberspace

(Dash Force News)

“Governments of the Industrial World, you weary giants of flesh and steel, I come from Cyberspace, the new home of Mind. On behalf of the future, I ask you of the past to leave us alone. You are not welcome among us. You have no sovereignty where we gather.”

So begins “A Declaration of the Independence of Cyberspace” by John Perry Barlow [1]. Fully intending to have the tonal ring of the US Declaration of Independence [2], Barlow threw a stake in the ground declaring that the Internet was ours (the public’s) and not yours (the government’s). It was written as a response to the passage of the Communication Decency Act of 1996 in the US, an act that put a great deal of power and control over the Internet into the hands of relatively few oligarchs [3].

…if you have not done so already, stop what you are doing and read his paper now (it’s short)…

The proclamation may have been focused on this piece of legislation, but its impact was far broader. Around the time of the initial explosion of the Internet in the late 80s and early 90s, civil-libertarians (and those simply concerned about government overreach) became increasingly vocal realizing a revolution in communication was unfolding. Governments, being governments, were, predictably, scrabbling to ensure this new medium was both regulated and economically funneled to blessed corporations.

Barlows declaration served as a voice to an expanding crowd of people who viewed their citizenship as empowered by this revolution and increasingly borderless; where governments no longer had jurisdiction. They were citizens of cyberspace [4], netizens, the digerati.

The paper galvanized a movement. At the center was Barlow and the organization he co-founded, the Electronic Frontier Foundation. It helped that Barlow had a high-profile, fascinating background ready made for internet stardom. Growing up and indeed later in his life, he was a cattle rancher —eloquent, charismatic, and articulate, but also a cowboy of sorts — salt of the Earth. One of his high school friends became a musician and through that connection, one thing led to another and Barlow became a lyricist for the Grateful Dead. Ahead of his time technologically (pre-internet), Barlow became involved in the WELL [5]where he met other like-minded cypherpunks in John Gilmore and Mitch Kapor who co-founded the EFF with him.

These cypherpunks were some of the more prominent the founding fathers [6] of an activist movement to keep online life free. This virtual universe expanded so rapidly that controlling powers did not have time to adapt. The cypherpunk community and the EFF strove to retain as much autonomy for participants as possible. They were a new and free global citizenry, who could communicate anywhere at the speed of the electron, only limited by access availability.

Activists associated to the cypherpunk movement included a lot of technical people as well, as you’d expect. Some became associated to the movement even if they did not directly identify with it. Ironically, western governments both encouraged this openness, while at the same time trying to control it. For example, the US government developed the original Internet and built tools to make encrypted computing more accessible (DES, etc). And even later, the US government developed two notable projects that greatly enhance security and privacy which were then subsequently released to the public as open source projects: The Onion Router (TOR) and Security Enhanced Linux (SELinux). The US governmental tech community was likely harboring plenty of cypherpunks as well, sympathetic to The Cause.

Over time, cryptography became more and more accessible to individuals, projects, and companies. Most notable were technologies and protocols built on top of Public Key Cryptography. Public key crypto was originally developed in the 70s, but brought to the common man by cypherpunk Phil Zimmermann and his famous package of tools and libraries called Pretty Good Privacy. Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) developed by Netscape ushered in the era of online commerce. The importance of public-key cryptography to today’s modern free Internet cannot be overstated.

At this time, governments, backed by legacy tech industry giants, started to fight back. Many governments classified encryption as munitions and criminalized distribution of PGP and any software that shipped libraries implementing strong encryption. After years of court cases and civil disobedience (the cryptography was well distributed anyway), governments gave up the fight and opened the flood gates on encryption instead focusing on backdoors, centralized services, ISP hacking, and spending enormous funds on collecting data and hiring as many security experts as possible.

Building on the ideals of the early cypherpunks, the Free Software Foundation (FSF) was born and published the GNU General Public License (GPL). The GPL built a workable framework for copyrighting software so that it could be distributed, modified, and consumed, but maintained as “free as in freedom”. The GPL encouraged code distribution and sharing. In fact, it demanded it. It took the industry time to adjust to this, but free software, now more commonly referred to as open source software, radically changed how software is developed and distributed and has led to unprecedented innovation.

Cypherpunk leaders in the open source movement included FSF founder Richard Stallmanand Eric S. Raymond, the author of probably the single most influential manifesto advocating open source that also spoke the corporate world, The Cathedral and the Bizarre. Linux, with all of its important components adopting open source licenses, it is now the most dominant operating system on the planet .

Even 100% open source companies sprang forth, led by Cygnus Solutions (also co-founded by John Gilmore) and then Red Hat which proved that you can build a Fortune 500 company and still release every line of your source code to the world.

The message carried through: Freedom is achievable, maintainable and necessary. World class legal scholars even joined the fight with the likes of Lawrence Lessig and Mark Webbinkwho counseled companies, organizations, and legislatures. They pioneered in new ways to leverage software patents yet remain ideologically ethical [7] and also helped refine existing open source copyright licenses in order to make them more powerful but less ambiguous so that they were more palatable to companies unfamiliar with them.

Throughout the years of governmental and corporate hand-wringing, John Perry Barlow ensured that a clear, rational, diplomatic approach to combating censorship, surveillance, and oppression, was maintained. The Electronic Frontier Foundation assumed the role of always being the adult in the debate who never compromised her ideals.

The Internet and the Web gave us a freer platform for building applications, sharing knowledge, and discussion. However, though much improved, commerce was still handicapped by a fraud-filled, error-prone, slow, unreliable legacy central-banking-system backend. Credit card companies and banks smoothed over some of the rough edges with high fees and interest to cover the rampant fraud. Many central banks began insuring retail bank deposits. There had to be a better way. A cypherpunk way. Commerce that promised greater sovereignty. Commerce that embraced the ideals promised by the Internet. Commerce which was borderless and censorship resistant.

As soon as the promise of the Internet became obvious (1988 for this author) cypherpunks started envisioning virtual currencies. In 1989, David Schaum created DigiCash. It was cryptographically sound, and distributed, but it was not decentralized. And it was a bit early. Too early. Ecommerce wouldn’t take hold for another 10 years. DigiCash was a great experiment, but it did not survive the dot-com bust (early 2000s). Others started experimenting with that idea though, most notably, Adam Back (proof of work) and Nick Szabo (smart contracts and research on Byzantine fault tolerance).

And then, in 2008, Satoshi Nakamoto published his famous whitepaper: “Bitcoin: A Peer-to-Peer Electronic Cash System” [8], followed up shortly thereafter with the implementation of the world’s first truly decentralized, trustless, censorship resistant, global store of value. The release of that whitepaper, much like Barlow’s Declaration of Independence though less bombastic, sent a chill down this author’s spine. It was again another eureka moment —Cryptocurrencies were another freedom-enabling innovation that would change the world.

Since then, Bitcoin has been improved and has gained in market value. More importantly, innovation in the general cryptocurrency space has continued at breakneck speed. Dramatic improvements have been layered on top of the original idea. Dash is leading this charge. Dash took the original innovation of a new programmable money (store of value and unit of account) and addressed the payments gap [9] making Dash a viable medium of exchange —the first cryptocurrency that is truly a currency. Dash continues to innovate, but plenty of other projects are also experimenting with a many ideas.

“First they ignore you; then they laugh at you; then they fight you; then you win.” —Mahatma Gandhi (apocryphal)

And much like the Internet, the Web, ecommerce, and even more loudly, open source were initially maligned… Cryptocurrencies have been dismissed, then mocked [10]. They are now openly fought by governments and banking institutions in some region of the world, though it seems many world governments have learned from their past failed encryption and speech battles and are taking a more prudent and cautious approach with cryptocurrencies.

There will be more setbacks. There will be more successes. In 1996, John Perry Barlow, with intelligence and wit, thumbed his nose at draconian state authorities and in the process rallied an army of technophiles to join the cypherpunk community. His dedication to Principle for the last 30 years went a long way towards building a formidable ideological foundation where respect for civil liberties are now expected by even the most casual netizens …globally! Today, cryptocurrencies offer the promise of breaking governmental monopolies on our financial lives, allowing citizens of cyberspace (all of us) to have even more sovereign control over their lives.

“We will create a civilization of the Mind in Cyberspace. May it be more humane and fair than the world your governments have made before.” [1]

John Perry Barlow died on Wednesday, February 7, 2018.

Thank you, Mr. Barlow. May you rest in peace with the knowledge that the torch you lit in 1996 continues to light our way forward in the neverending fight for a freer world.


[1] John Perry Barlow, “A Declaration of the Independence of Cyberspace”, February 8, 1996 — Wikipedia article.

[2] Thomas Jefferson et al., “United States Declaration of Independence”, July 4, 1776 (adopted). It’s purpose was to clearly proclaim the independence of the American colonies from British rule. Wikipedia article.

[3] “Telecommunication Act of 1996”, aka the Communication Decency Act. Enacted January 3, 1996. As described in the Wikipedia article, “The original intent of the Act was to provide more competition but the bill actually did the reverse. The implementation of the Act led to a complete reversal of the growth of the telecommunications sector.”

[4] Cyberspace, coined by Gibson and once in common parlance by net-dweebs, has now been coopted by the US government. Oh, the irony.

[5] The WELL, or The Whole Earth ‘Lectronic Link, a pre-internet virtual community that has attracted many early free thinkers and pioneers of cyberspace. It still exists today.

[6] “founding fathers” because they were all mostly male. There are exceptions though, of course. Jude Milhon, who coined the term cypherpunk immediately comes to mind.

[7] Mark Webbink (original primary author), the Red Hat “Patent Promise”, — In 2002(?), Red Hat’s Patent Promise introduced the concept of “defensive only” patents. Red Hat counsel at the time (Webbink) acknowledged the illogical and destructive nature of software patents, but instead of caving to the system, per ce, he cleverly turned patents on their head, declaring that Red Hat would begin aggressively patenting software, giving free license to other projects, communities, and even companies, and only using them in court defensively in case of attack. And thus, Red Hat preserved her cypherpunk ideology within the confines of a broken system.

[8] This author has a sneaking suspicion that Satoshi Nakamoto identity is closely linked to Schaum, Back, and Szabo. It would be a bit surprising if Satoshi turned out to not be one of them, all of them, or others plus one or more of them. Let’s hope we never know. Life needs its mysteries.

[9] t0dd, “Dash and the Cryto Confidence Gap”, Dash Force News, January 30, 2018. Dash fulfills the requirement to be a currency by enabling rapid execution of trades without fear of doublespend. But that is merely one of Dash’s many improvements to the baseline Bitcoin codebase. Learn more at Dash.org.

[10] t0dd, Cue the Naysayers, Dash Force News, February 9, 2018.


Written by t0dd. You can find him at: t0dd @ Dash Nation | toddwarner @ keybase

BROZE: Privacy Advocates Prepare For Battle Over Cybersecurity Bill

The Cybersecurity Information Sharing Act (CISA), which is designed to allow private companies to easily share threat intelligence with government agencies, is facing resistance from privacy advocates who fear that the provisions will only increase the indiscriminate monitoring of legal activity.

CISA is seen as the “cousin” of another controversial cybersecurity bill, the Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act (CISPA), which was defeated by mass opposition in 2012.

In early August the White House gave the CISA a boost through an official endorsement. The Hill reported:
“Cybersecurity is an important national security issue and the Senate should take up this bill as soon as possible and pass it,” said White House spokesman Eric Schultz in a statement.
“The endorsement will increase pressure on Senate leaders to reach an agreement to limit floor debate and come to a final vote on the bill — which would increase the data shared on hackers between companies and the government — before the month-long break”.

The National Journal also released new information related to CISA. On August 26, the Journal reported on 22 proposed amendments to CISA. When the bill is eventually debated the Senators will have to work their way through each amendment.

According to the Journal, the amendments deal with liability protections, more narrow definitions of cyber threats, qualifications for removing personal identity information, cyber crime penalties, and the voluntary nature of information sharing.

It is exactly this alleged “voluntary” information sharing that has come under fire. Recently Wired reported on the possibility that the programs are not exactly as voluntary as supporters of CISA would have you believe.

Wired mentions a previous “information sharing” program for defense contractors which was falsely advertised as “voluntary”. Wired wrote:

“However, key parts of documents obtained and released to the Electronic Privacy Information Center pursuant to the Freedom of Information Act reveal a different story.

In order to receive information as part of the program, entities were required to sign contracts as program ‘participants.’ This would not have been so bad, except that a precondition for being a participant was the requirement that the entity file reports with the government on a regular basis. In fact, the Defense Industrial Base Pilot Cybersecurity Plan definitively showed that participants were required to agree to transfer information about their private network traffic to the government.”

Although at least one of the amendments to be debated deals with establishing narrower definitions of terms like “voluntary”, at this point there is nothing in the bill which would prevent Department of Homeland Security from taking a similar route while calling the program a voluntary interaction.

The DHS also has its own issues with CISA. In late July, the agency sent a letter to Sen. Al Franken, the ranking member of the Senate Subcommittee on Privacy, Technology, and Law, discussing a number of problems with the bill.

The DHS said that if the bill does not mandate the removal of personal information the agency will be forced to “contribute to the compromise of personally identifiable information by spreading it further.” The letter also stated that the bills vague language and broad definitions could lead to “receiv[ing] large amounts of information with dubious value.”

The bill has also been opposed by a number of leading security experts, and privacy organizations such as the Electronic Frontier Foundation. The EFF opposes CISA in its current form because it does not require companies to remove unrelated personal information prior to sharing it with the government.

For Americans who value privacy and liberty, CISA is a looming threat. As is the case with most legislation passed under the guise of protecting the people, it will, in fact, only further erode the peoples freedom and empower the State. We should also take a moment to recognize that this growing Surveillance State could not happen without a compliant partner, the corporations that provide our personal data to the government.

Keep an eye on the CISA saga throughout the coming months. An endorsement from the White House is a sure sign that President Obama wants the “cybersecurity” measure to be a part of his legacy before he leaves office.

What are your thoughts on CISA? Is it necessary to protect your data from hackers? Or is this another government ploy to spy on your activity?

U.S. Senate Wants to Censor “Terrorist Activity” on Social Media Sites

The Senate Intelligence Committee has approved a new measure which would force social media sites such as Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube to report content that is believed to be connected to “terrorist activity”.

The Washington Post reported that the measure will be included as part of the Intelligence Authorization Act of 2016. The Senate Intelligence Committee approved the measure in a closed session on Wednesday July 1st. The measure is supposed to help intelligence and law enforcement officials detect terror threats.

The Post reports:

“It would not require companies to monitor their sites if they do not already do so, said a committee aide, who requested anonymity because the bill has not yet been filed. The measure applies to “electronic communication service providers,” which includes e-mail services such as Google and Yahoo.”

The bill would require any online company that “obtains actual knowledge of any terrorist activity . . . shall provide to the appropriate authorities the facts or circumstances of the alleged terrorist activity.”

Google, Facebook and Twitter declined to comment to The Post, however, “anonymous industry officials” reportedly called the measure a bad idea.

Gregory Nojeim, senior counsel for the Center for Democracy and Technology, told The Post he believed the measure would erode privacy in the name of fighting terrorism.

“If it becomes law, their natural tendency will be to err on the side of reporting anything that might be characterized as ‘terrorist activity’ even if it is not. And their duty to report will chill speech on the Internet that relates to terrorism.”

The U.S. government already maintains a massive surveillance state, including a number of programs that gather internet user data. This latest measure would only further codify the government’s ability to force private companies to hand over sensitive information.

FCC reclassifies the internet, approves net neutrality rules

The Federal Communications Commission has just approved their plan for net neutrality, which also reclassifies broadband Internet as a public utility.

Under Title II of the 1934 Communications Act, the reclassification of the internet as a public utility allows the FCC to place regulations on Internet service providers (ISPs) such as Comcast and Verizon. These regulations would mandate these service providers to transmit all Internet content at the same speed, regardless of what interests are involved, according to Newsweek.

According to engadget, the FCC chairman, Tom Wheeler, said, “It [the internet] is our printing press; it is our town square; it is our individual soap box and our shared platform for opportunity… That is why open internet policies matter. That is why I support network neutrality.”

Net neutrality, also known as open Internet, is an idea which says all Internet networks and content are equally available to all legal content generators, according to USA Today. Therefore, a practice called “paid prioritization” which results in ISPs showing preference towards companies who pay more for higher transmission speed of content, would be illegal.

The new reclassification also affects wireless data providers. The new plan places similar regulations on phone companies as those placed on other ISPs.

However, some people have spoken out against the new net neutrality plan.

Jim Cicconi, AT&T’s senior executive vice president-external and legislative affairs, said, “What doesn’t make sense, and has never made sense, is to take a regulatory framework developed for Ma Bell in the 1930s and make her great grandchildren, with technologies and options undreamed of eighty years ago, live under it.”

Republican Commissioner Ajit Pai said, according to FOX News, the plan represents a shift of power to allow the government to control the internet. Pai also warned the new plan would result in intended and unintended consequences, such as rate regulations. “The order explicitly opens the door to billions of dollars in new taxes… Read my lips: More new taxes are coming. It’s just a matter of when.”

The FCC has said the new regulations will be posted online soon and will be published in the Federal Register. The new regulations will also go into affect 60 days after their publication.

President Obama signs cyber-security executive order

While visiting Stanford University on Friday, President Obama announced he was signing an executive order meant to encourage the sharing of information, regarding cyberthreats, between private sector companies and the government.

The order was signed at the first summit on Cybersecurity and Consumer Protection, which focused on consumer protection and private-public partnerships against cyberthreats.

While at the summit, the president likened the internet to the “Wild West,” and said the public are looking to the government for protection against cyber attacks. President Obama also called these cyber attacks one of the greatest threats to national security, safety, and economic issues.

“Everybody is online, and everybody is vulnerable,” said President Obama, according to NBC News. “The business leaders here want their privacy and their children protected, just like the consumer and privacy advocates here want America to keep leading the world in technology and be safe from attacks.”

However, groups in Silicon Valley are not jumping on board with the president’s push for new digital securities.

Ben Desjardins, the director of security solutions with the cyber-security firm Radware, said, “The new proposals face significant headwinds, both legislatively from Congress and cooperatively from heavyweights in the tech sector.”  Desjardins also said many companies in Silicon Valley already feel “burned” by the government after the companies learned of the various government surveillance programs through the Snowden leaks.

Scott Algeier, the executive director of the nonprofit organization Information Sharing and Analysis Center, also said this new executive order sounds like a federal takeover of information sharing among people and companies in the private-sector.

The White House has said the executive order is only a framework, and with it the White House aims to allow private companies access to otherwise classified cyber-threat information and ensure information sharing is strongly secure, all while protecting the civil liberties of citizens.

The text of the executive order can be found here for more details.

South Korea to teach anti-ISIS classes in schools

The government of South Korea is in the works to present a curriculum to elementary, middle, and high school students which is meant to inform and prevent students from joining the terrorist organization ISIS.

This new curriculum comes as a Korean teenager, whose surname is Kim, crossed the border from Turkey to Syria in order to join ISIS last month. Kim reportedly learned about ISIS through their various ISIS propaganda campaigns online and through people he contacted about the group.

According to the Korea Times, Kim, 18, was on a trip to Turkey when he met an unidentified man in the town of Besiriye near the Syrian border. The man in question is believed to be a member of ISIS.

“We are introducing the lessons because ISIS uses social networking services (SNS) to conduct propaganda activities and attract people to join it,” said a Ministry of Education official. “Kim’s case showed that Koreans are no longer safe from the ISIS activities… Elementary, middle and high school students will learn the truth about ISIS.”

This official also said material about ISIS has been in development by the ministry and would be completed and distributed to schools soon.

Government officials are worried however that presenting their students with too much information on ISIS would only pique some student’s interest. Because of this, the lessons would not only inform the students about the terrorist group, but also discuss in detail the dangers of joining such groups.

The government has also said they will strengthen monitoring programs of internet activity with the hopes of deterring discussions online about ISIS.

Lawmaker Proposes Bill to Protect Journalists’ Electronic Information

A bill introduced in Montana’s House Judiciary Committee on Thursday would prevent state government agencies from using companies such as Google and Yahoo to obtain a Journalist’s sources and information.

The Associated Press reported that “no one spoke in opposition to the bill,” which would prohibit all state government officials from “asking for a member of the media’s emails or other electronic communications from companies that store that information.”

Representative Daniel Zolnikov, a Republican from Billings, Montana, proposed the bill. He claimed he is not looking to change the existing law; rather he wants to close a loophole in the current law.

“My bill does not change existing law, but adds to it based on a new age of digital communications,” said Zolnikov. He explained that the existing media shield law does not protect a reporter’s emails or other electronic information that might be stored on the servers of Gmail, Yahoo or Outlook.

According to Courthouse News, after proposing a bill in 2013 that was later labeled “anti-business,” but would have “given consumers control over their personal data and prevented companies from reselling it behind their backs,” Zolnikov is “no stranger to privacy issues.”

The Associated Press reported that this bill is one of several Zolnikov is sponsoring to “protect privacy rights in the state.” His other proposed bills would secure privacy for the citizens of Montana by banning license plate readers in the state and by prohibiting state officials from gathering electronic data without a warrant.

On his website, Zolnikov wrote that after seeing “unprecedented attacks on the rights of the press in recent years at the federal level,” he felt it was best to show support for reporters by starting at the state level.

Freedom of the press is one of the most crucial rights contained in the First Amendment,” wrote Zolnikov. “We can’t change the Federal Government’s attitude towards the important of the reporter’s privilege, but we can strengthen Montana’s shield laws.

Journalist Barrett Brown Sentenced to 63 Months in Federal Prison

After more than two years behind bars, journalist Barrett Brown was given a sentence of 63 months in federal prison.

Brown was also ordered to pay $890,000 in restitution fees to a number of companies that were hacked in 2011. Brown was arrested in September 2012 during an FBI investigation into his role in the hacking of the servers of HB Gary Federal and Stratfor by the decentralized hacker collective Anonymous.

Judge Sam Lindsay also ruled that fifty percent of all gifts or awards will go to Stratfor and Combined Security, two of the companies involved in the hack. Upon release Brown cannot handle credit cards, checks, or bank accounts. He will be on parole for at least 2 years and will only be allowed to use an approved computer which will monitor all of his activity.

All the way until the very end of the hearing prosecutor Candina Heath attempted to persuade the government to enhance the charges. Heath wanted to upgrade the level of offense which would have increased the possible sentence up to 71 months. Judge Lindsay denied this final request from the prosecution.

Much of the mornings proceedings focused, once again, on whether Brown was a journalist performing protected activities or a former journalist who crossed the line into cyber terror. Brown has been an activist, and a journalist. His articles and blogs have been featured in numerous publications including the GuardianVanity Fair, and the Huffington Post.  Judge Lindsay sided with the government in their argument that “Brown’s role was more than merely reporting on the hacked account.” He considered himself a member of the hacker collective Anonymous, collaborated with them, identified targets, and provided advice, the Judge stated. Barrett Brown himself would admit that he crossed a line from journalist into supporter of Anonymous.

Despite Barrett Brown having no direct connection to the Stratfor hack, he was previously  facing a century in prison for sharing a link to the leaked documents with a chat room. Jeremy Hammond would later receive ten years for that leak. 

When Brown signed the plea deal in March 2014 the hyperlink charges were dropped. However, the prosecution was able to bring the dismissed charges to the forefront in an attempt to sway the judges ruling towards the maximum sentence. Brown’s own defense noted that this was a perfectly acceptable and legal practice but felt the government had previously been unable to make its case on the hyperlink charge and was now attempting to recharge him.

These accusations lead to a debate on whether or not Brown had trafficked in stolen data by simply reposting a hyperlink to the hacked documents. Heath at one point referenced a case dealing with child pornography and accused Brown of “furthering the accessibility” to the documents. Brown’s defense would argue that reposting a link to the information is not the same as promoting the stolen information. They stated that the prosecution was conflating the issue and argued that telling someone where a website is that offers child pornography is not the same as trafficking in that porn. Ms. Heath then moved to describing Brown as a drug dealer who knowingly gives others a key to a house full of drugs. You don’t have to actually touch information to have trafficked in it, she would claim. Judge Lindsay agreed and allowed the claims to stand on the record.

It is this “relevant conduct” that has many journalists and advocacy groups fearing the ruling. Despite fears that allowing this to stand could “chill journalists to the bone”, Judge Lindsay stated that “the totality of the conduct” must be considered. He attempted to reassure the defense and nervous onlookers from the press that “what took place is not going to chill any 1st amendment expression by journalists”. Judge Sam Lindsay may feel confident from his viewpoint but exactly how courts in the future will interpret this ruling remains to be seen.

The exact charges Barrett Brown plead guilty to include  (1) transmitting a threat in interstate commerce (2) accessory after the fact in the unauthorized access to a protected computer and (3) interference with the execution of a search warrant and aid and abet. Brown apologized for the threats he made in a YouTube video, however Judge Lindsay noted that it was this charge that carried the heaviest punishment.

The second charge comes from Brown offering to be a mediator for hacker Jeremy Hammond following the hack of Strafor. During his allocution statement to the judge, Brown offered some background on why he made the decision to mediate for Hammond.

And with regard to the accessory after the fact charge relating to my efforts to redact sensitive emails after the Stratfor hack, I’ve explained to Your Honor that I do not want to be a hypocrite. If I criticize the government for breaking the law but then break the law myself in an effort to reveal their wrongdoing, I should expect to be punished just as I’ve called for the criminals at government-linked firms, like HBGary and Palantir, to be punished. When we start fighting crime by any means necessary, we become guilty of the same hypocrisy as law enforcement agencies throughout history that break the rules to get the villains, and so become villains themselves.”

Brown also discussed how contributors to his think tank, Project PM, have been declared criminals by the government.

” So now the dozens of people who have given their time and expertise to what has been hailed by journalists and advocacy groups as a crucial journalistic enterprise are now at risk of being indicted under the same sort of spurious charges that I was facing not long ago, when the government exposed me to decades of prison time for copying and pasting a link to a publicly available file that other journalists were also linking to without being prosecuted. “

On his decision to reject an earlier plea deal that included fraud charges:

 Last year, when the government offered me a plea bargain whereby I would plead to just one of the eleven fraud charges related to the linking, and told me it was final, I turned it down. To have accepted that plea, with a two-year sentence, would have been convenient—Your Honor will note that I actually did eventually plead to an accessory charge carrying potentially more prison time—but it would have been wrong. Even aside from the obvious fact that I did not commit fraud, and thus couldn’t sign to any such thing, to do so would have also constituted a dangerous precedent, and it would have endangered my colleagues, each of whom could now have been depicted as a former associate of a convicted fraudster. And it would have given the government, and particularly the FBI, one more tool by which to persecute journalists and activists whose views they find to be dangerous or undesirable.

Brown also challenged the governments assertion that he is a member of Anonymous and not a journalist.

“There you have it. Deny being a spokesperson for Anonymous hundreds of times, and you’re still a spokesperson for Anonymous. Deny being a journalist once or twice, and you’re not a journalist. What conclusion can one draw from this sort of reasoning other than that you are whatever the FBI finds it convenient for you to be at any given moment. This is not the rule of law, Your Honor, it is the rule of Law Enforcement, and it is very dangerous.”

Again, the danger of government sanctioning who and what exactly a journalist is was up for debate.

 The government asserts that I am not a journalist and thus unable to claim the First Amendment protections guaranteed to those engaged in information-gathering activities. Your Honor, I’ve been employed as a journalist for much of my adult life, I’ve written for dozens of magazines and newspapers, and I’m the author of two published and critically-acclaimed books of expository non-fiction. Your Honor has received letters from editors who have published my journalistic work, as well as from award-winning journalists such as Glenn Greenwald, who note that they have used that work in their own articles. If I am not a journalist, then there are many, many people out there who are also not journalists, without being aware of it, and who are thus as much at risk as I am.”

Before the judge handed down the verdict, prosecutor Heath argued that Barrett was still displaying a lack of respect for the rule of law. She claimed Brown had little respect for the law, or abiding by the law. She said he believed in retaliation against corporations who commit crimes and was a “vigilante” attempting to find justice outside the law. She argued that the sentence must show “that an individual must respect the law”.

We have to ask ourselves if “following the law”, or “just following orders” automatically makes an action moral or just. Throughout history individuals who have recognized the failures and corruption of government have done what they could to call attention to these crimes. Time and time again the state demonizes and imprisons those who dare question the authenticity and relevance of laws that allow criminals in the corporate world and governments to continue to walk free while journalists working to expose the crimes lose days, months, and years from their lives. What will it take for the people of the world to actively stand against injustice?

Following the sentencing Brown released the following statement full of his usual panache.

“Good news! — The U.S. government decided today that because I did such a good job investigating the cyber-industrial complex, they’re now going to send me to investigate the prison-industrial complex. For the next 35 months, I’ll be provided with free food, clothes, and housing as I seek to expose wrondgoing by Bureau of Prisons officials and staff and otherwise report on news and culture in the world’s greatest prison system. I want to thank the Department of Justice for having put so much time and energy into advocating on my behalf; rather than holding a grudge against me for the two years of work I put into in bringing attention to a DOJ-linked campaign to harass and discredit journalists like Glenn Greenwald, the agency instead labored tirelessly to ensure that I received this very prestigious assignment. — Wish me luck!”

For a full rundown of the proceedings leading up to today please check here.

President Obama wants more competition amongst broadband providers

Many people, when in the market for broadband subscriptions, can only pick from telephone or cable providers, but President Obama wants local governments to be able to provide broadband services to citizens too.

A report released by the White House says the president wants to “end laws that harm broadband service competition,” and this would seemingly start in 19 states which restrict their governments from offering broadband to citizens.

“Laws in 19 states—some specifically written by special interests trying to stifle new competitors—have held back broadband access and, with it, economic opportunity,” the report reads. “Today President Obama is announcing a new effort to support local choice in broadband, formally opposing measures that limit the range of options to available to communities to spur expanded local broadband infrastructure… the Administration is filing a letter with the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) urging it to join this effort…”

While big tech companies, such as Comcast, will surely fight this as they have in the past, this new push by the president is lawful. According to the New York Times, the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia stated the FCC had the power to strike down state laws which could hinder the ability to invest in the state’s infrastructure, which includes Internet infrastructure.

Two states have already filed complaints to the FCC on similar grounds.

Tennessee and North Carolina have petitioned the FCC to preempt state laws which forbid those state’s local governments the ability to construct their own broadband networks and provide their citizens with the Internet. According to Recode, Tom Wheeler, the chairman of the FCC, is expected to make a ruling on these two cases soon.

The new push from the president does not stop at allowing local governments to provide their own broadband services to the community.

The report also says the president wants to establish a “Broadband Opportunity Council” which will have the “singular goal of speeding up broadband deployment and promoting adoptions,” for all citizens. The public will also be able to bring grievances related to “unnecessary regulatory barriers” with concern to their broadband, before the council, which will address the issues.

According to ARS Techinca, President Obama believes the community-based broadband services could boost the competition and ultimately help Internet users. “In markets where private competition is anemic,” said the president, “towns and cities can build their own middle-mile networks and offer competitive access to the private sector… municipalities are creating more choices for consumers, fostering competition and creating opportunities for economic growth.”

New sanctions to be placed on North Korean organizations

While the origins of the Sony hack is still a point of contention, with some people claiming it was a company insider named Linda and many claiming it was North Korea, President Obama has put up new sanctions against three North Korean organizations as well as 10 individuals.

These sanctions, according to the BBC,  are believed to be the first time the U.S. has punished a country over cyber-attacks against a company based in the U.S.

While all the new sanctions are believed to not be against those directly involved with the Sony hack, White House officials are saying the sanctions are meant to isolate North Korea’s defense industry to prevent future cyber-attacks.

“This is really an example of where you’ve had a country really cross a threshold in terms of its attack due to its destructive and coercive nature,” said an official according to Politico.

The sanctions are mostly centered on North Korea’s military intelligence agencies, while the 10 individuals who are affected by the sanctions are, according to Reuters, involved in the sale and proliferation of weapons.

In a letter written by President Obama to House Speaker John Boehner and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, the president wrote, according to ABC News, “The order is not targeted at the people of North Korea, but rather is aimed at the Government of North Korea and its activities that threaten the United States and others.”

Whether or not these sanctions will have the desired results the White House hopes for is still unknown. However, given the U.S. placed sanctions on North Korea’s nuclear program in 2008, 2010, and 2011, all of which North Korea ignored, one can assume these sanctions will not be taken seriously by the government of North Korea.

Obama says Sony made a ‘mistake’ after canceling film release

President Obama, in his final press release for 2014, has said the cancellation of the film “The Interview” by Sony Pictures was a “mistake,” and the company should have talked to him before moving forward with their plans.

The president said he was sympathetic towards Sony, and all the employees who were threatened after the recent cyber attacks against the company, and understands their desire for safety.  However, he then went on to say, according to ABC News, “I think they made a mistake,” with concern to the companies decision to cancel the release of the comedy movie.

Afterwards, the president stated, according to RT, “I wish they would’ve spoken with me first. I would have told them: do not get into a pattern in which you’re intimidated by these kinds of criminal attacks.

The Sony hacks and cancellation of the film though, were also said to be an example of how the U.S. needs to pass a cybersecurity bill by Congress.

“In this interconnected digital world, there are going to be opportunities for hackers to engage in cyber-assaults both in the private sector and in the public sector… We need more rules about how the internet should operate,” the president said according to Boing Boing.

Representative Mike Rogers (R-Michigan) and Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-California) echoed the president’s for more regulation over the internet.

“This is only the latest example of the need for serious legislation to improve the sharing of information between the private sector and the government to help companies strengthen cybersecurity,” said Sen. Feinstein.  “We must pass an information sharing bill as quickly as possible next .”

Is the internet protected by the First Amendment? The Supreme Court will decide

The Supreme Court is set to hear a case which could settle if the First Amendment guarantee of freedom of speech extends to the internet and social media.

The case is Elonis vs. United States, where Anthony Elonis will argue posts he made on Facebook were made in jest and not meant to be taken seriously.  Elonis was previously convicted by a federal court for these posts, saying they were of a threatening nature and therefore not protected.

All of the posts in question were viewed by Elonis’ ex-wife who said she felt threatened by them and by Elonis.

One such post reads, according to the Huffington Post, “There’s one way to love you but a thousand ways to kill you. I’m not going to rest until your body is a mess, soaked in blood and dying from all the little cuts.”

The LA Times also says other posts made by Elonis mentioned killing an FBI agent, as well as massacring a kindergarten class.  Elonis testified his posts were never meant to frighten anyone, and he also said his posts were a spontaneous form of expression similar to rap lyrics.

John Elwood, Elonis’ attorney, told CNN he agreed the posts were cathartic for Elonis.  “There’s a reason why all these graphic songs were written when Eminem wrote these things and he hasn’t been prosecuted for a felony for writing these songs which are virtually indistinguishable about his ex-wife,” said Elwood.

Solicitor General Donald Verrilli Jr. is representing the government in the case and disagrees, saying, “A bomb threat that appears to be serious is equally harmful regardless of the speaker’s private state of mind.”

The Justice Department weighed in on the situation saying no matter what the speaker believes about his comments, if someone feels threatened by the comments, those comments are not protected speech.

Some civil liberties groups such as the ACLU, are siding with Elonis, saying “A statute that proscribes speech without regard to the speaker’s intended meaning runs the risk of punishing protected First Amendment expression simply because it is crudely or zealously expressed.”

Arguments from both sides will begin Monday.

President Obama wants internet to be considered a utility

After months of plans to create “high-speed” and “slow-speed” broadband connections at different costs, President Obama has come forward urging the FCC to reclassify the internet as a public utility.

“The time has come for the FCC to recognize that broadband service is of the same importance [as the traditional telephone system] and must carry the same obligations as so many of the other vital services do,” President Obama wrote in a statement released on the White House’s website.  “To do that, I believe the FCC should reclassify consumer broadband service under Title II of the Telecommunications Act…”

The internet usage described by the president is not exclusive to laptop and desktop computers however.  Internet usage across mobile devices, such as cell phones, would also be covered.

[T]he rules also have to reflect the way people use the Internet today, which increasingly means on a mobile device,” the statement continued.  “I believe the FCC should make these rules fully applicable to mobile broadband as well, while recognizing the special challenges that come with managing wireless networks.”

As part of the call for reclassification, ARS Technica writes some basic rules would need to be implemented.  Some of these rules include not blocking particular websites, internet speeds should not be throttled, and there should not be a difference in a services speed based on what they pay.

President Obama said, according to the Hill, making two different speeds for internet service would “undermine the level playing field essential to the Internet’s growth…”  

This is not the first time President Obama has spoke out against internet “fast-lanes” either.  In October, the president spoke at a town hall meeting in California where he called for a ban on “fast-lanes” but offered no plan on how to do so.

FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler said he agrees the internet should not be advantage to some and not others, but at the same time said he and the FCC were working on a “hybrid” plan which would regulate transactions between websites and internet service providers.

The new FCC plan is expected to be unveiled by year’s end.

FBI cut off internet and posed as repairmen to gain entry into hotel rooms

A case in Las Vegas is being undermined by claims that FBI agents intentionally cut off internet service to three luxury suites at Caesar’s Palace in order to pose as internet repairmen so they could gain entry into the suites.

The initial case is against Chinese gamblers who were supposedly running an illegal sportsbooking operation out of their suites.

What raised suspicions at first was when the people in the suites asked for an unusually large amount of computer and technical equipment to be delivered to them.  An electrical engineer employed by the hotel told management about his suspicions, and the Nevada Gaming Commission and FBI were brought into the picture.

From here things get messy on the FBI’s part.

While the NGC and FBI were suspicious of illegal acts, suspicions are not enough for a search warrant to be issued.  So agents began formulating plans in order to gain entry undetected and gather enough evidence for a search warrant.

The first plan, according to NPR, was to deliver a set of laptops to the suites and ask for entry in order to make sure the laptops were able to properly connect to the internet.  This plan failed when the butler at Caesar’s refused to allow entry to the agents.

With the thoughts of the internet still fresh on their minds, agents decided to simply cut off the internet to the suites, pose as repairmen, and gain entry into the suites to carry out their warrant-less investigation.

When the agents gained entry under this false pretense, they began to take pictures of the room and videos commenting on what the agents saw.  The agents on the video seemed happy with what they found, saying on film, “Yeah, we see what we need to see… very cool,” before leaving the rooms.

It is important to note the FBI would have never been implicated on these videos if it were not for a slip-up one agent made while recording when the agent mentioned the FBI and cutting off the internet on purpose.

Whatever evidence found on the tapes which made the agents happy, however, cannot be entered into a legal case as they were gained through deceptive or ambiguous means.  This also means any evidence found after a warrant was issued may be moot in the case.

George Washington University law professor Stephen Saltzburg said this case shows the FBI can cut off a person’s internet or create some other situation where outside help is required, and then gain entry into your home through a ruse, all in order to gain a search warrant.  Saltzburg, who also worked for the Justice Department also said unless the FBI is going to “push the law of consent beyond where it’s ever been before,” the evidence will have to be thrown out.

Former federal prosecutor Mark Rasch said, according to CNBC, “Police are allowed to use a certain kind of subterfuge, but what they can’t do is create a certain kind of circumstance.”  

The Justice Department and FBI have not commented on the matter.

The New CISPA: Cybersecurity bill passes through Senate Committee

The Cyber Information Security Act (CISA) has passed through the Senate Select Committee on Tuesday by a vote of 12-3, pushing the bill one step further to reaching the Senate floor.

CISA is the latest reincarnation of internet-security based bills to be voted on by the government.  Last year, a similar bill called the Cyber Information Sharing and Protection Act (CISPA) passed the House, but was met with controversy over what opponents of the bill called a lack of privacy protections.

“The Cybersecurity Information Sharing Act (CISA),” reports Julian Hattem from the Hill, “makes it possible for companies and government agencies to share information about possible hackers and security weaknesses with each other, which advocates say is critical to make sure that blind spots aren’t left untended for long.”

Senate Intelligence Chairwoman Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), one of the people responsible for the creation of CISA, argues the bill would allow businesses and government agencies to more easily exchange information with regards to cyber-attacks.

Feinstein said, according to VPN Creative, “Every week, we hear about the theft of personal information from retailers and trade secrets from innovative businesses, as well as ongoing efforts by foreign nations to hack government networks…this bill is an important step toward curbing these dangerous cyberattacks.”

Opponents to this bill and similar bills have used the Edward Snowden leaks as evidence of the government and NSA abusing cybersecurity flaws in the name of national security.

Senators Ron Wyden (D-OR) and Mark Udall (D-CO) both voted against the bill, saying in a joint-statement, they agree cyber-attacks are a serious threat to American infrastructure, but they have also seen “how the federal government has exploited loopholes to collect Americans’ private information in the name of security.”

The Center for Democracy and Technology also found faults with the bill, saying on the groups website, the bill fails to recognize and address “recently-disclosed cybersecurity-related conduct of the National Security Agency (NSA), some of which undermines cybersecurity.”  The CDF also says the bill would allow law enforcement agencies to wiretap individuals in the name of cybersecurity.

The bill will be heard next by the whole Senate and will be voted on in the coming months.

Startup Could Stop Feds from Controlling the Web

With the use of mesh networks, Internet users could create their own networks, bypassing government-controlled or government-spied on ones.

A startup called Open Garden is looking to use people’s own cellular phones.

According to Forbes, over the last two years, five million people have downloaded the company’s free Android app Open Garden to create wireless hotspots, and its FireChat app for iPhones and Droids to chat anonymously with other users “off the grid.”

The FireChat app isn’t perfect, but what’s tantalizing about both services is that they need no WiFi connection or carrier plan to get connected. Just another person with the app, within a 70-meter radius, reported Forbes.

A “mesh network” refers to the creation of a peer-to-peer “mesh” of smartphones that form their own separate network. If at least one smartphone is online, the rest of the network can not only talk to one another, but connect to the web too.

This has caught on in places where the government could try to censor its people like in Taiwan where around 100,000 activists in Taipei had taken to the streets to protest a trade agreement with China, and local blogs urged them to download FireChat — just in case the government shut down web access.

There’s been similar interest for FireChat in Iran. Users in the country have started 1,800 FireChat groups, making Iran the second biggest user of the app after the United States.

“People can grow their own Internet,” said FireChat founder Micha Benoliel.

Atty. Gen. Holder Announces “Homegrown” Terrorist Task Force

Washington, D.C.– On Monday, Attorney General Eric Holder announced the formation of a Department of Justice task force to combat “escalating danger” from “homegrown” terrorists in the United States.

In a video statement posted on the DOJ website, Holder claimed it was time to focus on terrorism here in the U.S. The video has since been removed.

“We face an escalating danger from self-radicalized individuals within our own borders,” said Holder.

He went on to cite the Fort Hood shootings in 2009 and the Boston Marathon bombings in 2013 as examples of “the danger we face from these homegrown threats.”

This newly minted task force, the “Domestic Terrorism Executive Committee,” is in essence a reconstituted version of a now defunct task force created by former Atty. Gen. Janet Reno after the Oklahoma City bombing in 1995. The task force will consist of leaders from the FBI, the Justice Department’s National Security Division and U.S. attorneys.

The task force under Reno focused mainly on right-wing extremism, while Holder’s version will reportedly focus on Internet radicalization.

“As the nature of the threat we face evolves to include the possibility of individual radicalization via the Internet, it is critical that we return our focus to potential extremists here at home,” said Holder.

With the recent characterization of the Bundy supporters as “domestic terrorists,” by Senator Harry Reid, and the revelation that President Obama considered using military force against those that stood in support of the Bundy Ranch under a Department of Defense directive, it begs the question as to who will actually be targeted by this task force.

As previously reported here at BenSwann.com, last month the FBI began an investigation into the militia and supporters that stood with Cliven Bundy during the standoff at his ranch.

Could this task force simply be the continuation and culmination of a narrative that has been forwarded by the government for a number of years?

First there was the MIAC report, which claimed that potential terrorists include people who own gold, Ron Paul supporters, libertarians, and even people who fly the U.S. flag.

Then in 2012, there was a leaked Homeland Security study that claimed Americans who are “reverent of individual liberty,” and “suspicious of centralized federal authority” are possible “extreme right-wing” terrorists.

More recently, there is a Department of Defense training manual, obtained by Judicial Watch, using a FOIA request, which lists people who embrace “individual liberties” and honor “states’ rights,” among other characteristics, as potential “extremists” who are likely to be members of “hate groups.”

This document goes on to call the Founding Fathers extremists, stating, “In U.S. history, there are many examples of extremist ideologies and movements, “ including, “The colonists who sought to free themselves from British rule.”

With the continual militarization of executive agencies and local law enforcement, and the refocusing on “domestic threats,” it seems that the nebulous term of “extremist” can be applied to virtually anyone that questions the status quo or stands up against authoritarian systems of power.


Follow Jay on Facebook and on Twitter @SirMetropolis

‘Reset the Net’ day of action Thursday

The campaign to combat spying programs like those used by the NSA, Reset the Net is calling for a day of action this Thursday, June 5, and some popular websites are heeding the call.

Sites such as Reddit and Imgur will feature splash screens on their sites similar to those used to protest SOPA.  According to the Guardian, these splash screens will differ from the SOPA protests sites by encouraging users to download encryption and privacy tools rather than call their congressmen.

The Reset the Net campaign is offering a privacy pack of privacy software compatible with computers, tablets, and mobile phones everywhere.  Part of the pack includes software to use The Onion Router, or TOR, for web browsers, and the apps Textsecure and Redphone which enable private SMS messages and calls.

Apart from websites and citizens of the internet, the ACLU, Libertarian Party, and Amnesty International are amongst many real world organizations helping to sponsor this day of action.

Michael Kieschink, CEO of CREDO Mobile, one of the sponsor companies of Reset the Net, told Wired, “until we win real reform, we will encourage users to adopt encryption tools to protect their personal communications from government abuse of the 1st and 4th amendment.”

The Future of Internet Alternatives

This article was submitted by guest contributor Derrick Broze.

In the wake of leaked documents detailing extensive, indiscriminate monitoring of the internet a number of solutions have appeared. These new alternatives to the traditional world wide web could completely alter the way we access information. But can they stop a nosy government? Is it possible to have a truly secure network that cannot be undermined by overreaching authorities?

Last Summer the name Edward Snowden went viral as we learned about the former National Security Agency contractors leak of documents related to massive spying and surveillance operations taking place in the United States and abroad. We learned that nearly all digital communications are catalogued and stored in a database. We learned that internet giants such as Microsoft, Google, Yahoo and others work with the government to share your personal information. These revelations have prompted a wave of internet users to begin looking for a way to safely, securely and privately share information.

Total Information Sharing

One of the latest ideas to spring forth is a bold initiative called the Outernet. The Media Development Investment Fund is planning to launch hundreds of miniature satellites around the earth to create a wireless internet that anyone can access for free. The miniature satellite, or cubesat, will receive data from ground antennas around the globe and broadcast the content in the same manner as a television broadcast.

Not only could the Outernet revolutionize the cost of internet service, but MDIF is hoping to bypass internet censorship laws. The Outernet’s website states, “Access to knowledge and information is a human right, and Outernet will guarantee this right by taking a practical approach to information delivery. Lack of an Internet connection should not prevent anyone from learning about current events, trending topics and innovative ideas.”

MDIF has plans to have prototype satellites by June and working towards permission to use NASA’s International Space Station as a testing ground for the technology. If all goes well the Outernet could be functional by 2015.

Decentralizing the Internet

David Irvine is the founder of MaidSafe, Massive Array of Internet Disks, Secure Access For Everyone. The idea behind MaidSafe is to create a decentralized, distributed, secure and private network. Irvine and his team have worked for seven years to develop the algorithms that will allow the network to be self-regulating by borrowing users free hard drive space and in return offering an anonymous, high speed internet.

When a user logs into the MaidSafe network their data is split into many pieces and distributed to computers on several different continents. Those pieces of data are then encrypted with a level of encryption higher than the military. According to Irvine, MaidSafe “creates security by logic and mathematics. It operates autonomously and does not rely on intermediaries”

The MaidSafe platform also hopes to allow for ease of creation of applications for phones and computers. Since there is no API key to be purchased or infrastructure, there is little financial risk for developers. This level playing field will change the amount of independent start up applications available. MaidSafe also promises an uninterrupted internet experience. By maintaining a distributed network dependent upon many users around the globe (rather than on a centralized network subject to attack or power failure) the network will be able to maintain a constant connection.

Moving Past Dot-Com

Another brilliant idea is the Namecoin plug-in. Namecoin works similar to the crypto currency Bitcoin in the sense that it allows users to register names and information into a public blockchain. Currently, the Domain Name System (DNS) that most websites are registered with

allows for removal of a site by a central authority. With Namecoin however, users can register domain names without depending on hierarchical government institutions.

One of the developers of Namecoin are already working on a beta test of a plug-in called

FreeSpeechMe.com This plug-in allows users to view dot-bit (.bit) sites. Viral Electron Chaos Laboratories has launched tutorials with the plug-in to show webmasters how to set up Dot Bit versions of their Dot-Com sites. The Dot-bit sites are then registered into the public Namecoin blockchain. This decentralized network allows users to type Benswann.bit or Benswann.com and arrive at the same destination. The difference is that the Dot-com sites can be easily censored by governments and corporations.

The Namecoin plug-in is free and available for Windows and Linux. The code for the site is also open so anyone can create newer versions of the idea.

A European Only Internet?

Edward Snowden’s leaks not only exposed the spying of government’s on their own citizens but also highlighted how the NSA is intent on keeping tabs on its perceived enemies and even closest allies. In response to the revelations on inter-governmental spying German Chancellor Angela Merkel has discussed the possibility of creating a separate European internet.

Merkel said Germany and France have been discussing the possibility of a network that would bypass the United States’ networks and servers completely, allowing Europeans to send emails, and surf the internet freely. French President François Hollande confirmed the discussion, stating that France believes, “It is important that we take up the initiative together.”
Unlikely to Stop the NSA
Unfortunately it is unclear whether a European communications network would be effective in stopping the NSA and other surveillance organisations from accessing private data. Edward Snowden himself has said the idea of national internets would not likely the stop NSA’s efforts.

Speaking to Germany’s ARD, Snowden stated, “If the NSA can pull text messages out of telecommunication networks in China, they can probably manage to get Facebook messages out of Germany.”

The irony of the situation is that the majority of Western nations, including Germany and France, have their own version of the NSA’s spying programs. In November 2013 a trove of Snowden documents revealed that Britain’s GCHQ, Spain, Germany, France and others all work together to monitor their own people. Snowden told ARD, “They not only share information – the reporting of results from intelligence – but they actually share the tools and the infrastructure when they work together against joint targets and services.”

Knowing that most major players in the Geopolitical landscape are already spying on their people, is it wise to trust Angela Merkel when she says Germany hopes to create a private secure network safe from the prying eyes of the NSA? Chancellor Merkel made no mention of her country’s surveillance programs while discussing the possibility of a European only internet.

Decentralization Is The Answer

Edward Snowden has promised the release of more documents pertaining to surveillance in public, on the internet, and cellular networks. It is highly likely there will be more revelations on how easily the government can access your private information. While the majority of internet users opt for the “mainstream” world wide web and communication systems, there are obvious reasons to pursue open source solutions. The old systems rely on centralized networks and authorities. By utilizing, supporting, and creating decentralized peer to peer networks we help maintain the idea of the internet as a safe and secure place to share information and educate oneself.

Ideas like the Outernet, MaidSafe, NameCoin, and more will stretch the boundaries of what the internet can be. These ideas will be the ones that eliminate the effectiveness of any government regulation anyways. They will also render any silly corporate takeover of communications largely pointless.

Instead of expecting the United States government of 2014 to hear our cries and curtail spying programs, we should see this as an opportunity to create new ways of using the infrastructure of the internet and broadband services. Sure, the mainstream World Wide Web may be completely monitored and eventually censored, dull, and irrelevant, but that does not mean innovation will cease. With the open source technological revolution growing daily it is likely that some genius out there has already created the answer to our problems.


Derrick Broze is an investigative journalist, community activist, gardener and promoter from Houston, Texas. He is the co-founder of The Houston Free Thinkers, and co-host of Free Thinker Radio. Broze also hosts and produces a weekly podcast under the name the Conscious Resistance Live. His writing can be found on TheConsciousResistance.com , The Liberty Beat, the Anti-Media, Activist Post, and Ben Swann.com