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CryptoCat Developer Questioned At US-Canadian Border 271

Posted by timothy
from the algorithms-please dept.
Dangerous_Minds writes "ZeroPaid is documenting some comments made by an encrypted chat developer who was interrogated at the U.S. border recently. According to the CryptoCat developer, border guards confiscated his passport and interrogated him about the application he developed. Most notably, he commented, "The interrogator (who claimed 22 years of computer experience) asked me which algorithms Cryptocat used and about its censorship resistance.""
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CryptoCat Developer Questioned At US-Canadian Border

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  • by eldavojohn (898314) * <eldavojohnNO@SPAMgmail.com> on Thursday June 07, 2012 @07:46AM (#40243023) Journal

    According to the CryptoCat developer, border guards confiscated his passport

    Maybe I'm the only one that was confused by that but the phrasing of this in the summary lead me to believe that they confiscated his passport indefinitely in some sort of draconian move to prevent him from leaving the country or traveling in general. But, luckily, I read the article:

    This [twitter.com]: “Also worth noting: my passport was confiscated for around an hour.”

    I'm not saying it's okay but I've been pulled into secondary coming back from the Caribbean and, the customs official had my passport for about 45-60 minutes while he asked me the stupidest of questions (far more mundane and pointless than what algorithms I develop).

  • Re:DHS CS Expert. (Score:0, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday June 07, 2012 @08:00AM (#40243151)

    Exactly, which makes these claims highly dubious.

  • by JaredOfEuropa (526365) on Thursday June 07, 2012 @08:04AM (#40243191) Journal
    I've been pulled aside as well, took about 30 minutes of answering pointless questions. That was a random check though, or maybe the guy just didn't like my face. The question here is: was this guy singled out because of his work on CryptoCat, or was he randomly pulled out of line, with the questions arriving at some point at the work he's doing? "Why are you here? Where did you depart from? Was the trip for business or pleasure? What line of work are you in?" At this point, the guy might have brought up the crypto stuff, after which the interviewer focussed on that.
  • Re:DHS CS Expert. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by BlueMonk (101716) <BlueMonkMN@gmail.com> on Thursday June 07, 2012 @08:06AM (#40243201) Homepage

    Yeah, and if a government rep. spent just 30 seconds on Google to find an article accusing this person of espionage due to Trojans embedded in his software, which led to his arrest and imprisonment as he crossed the border, even though his software has no such defect, would your comment be, "Just talk to the guy and let him defend himself! Not everything one reads on the internet is fact, government idiots."?

  • by PolygamousRanchKid (1290638) on Thursday June 07, 2012 @08:09AM (#40243245)

    Did they question him, because he was a crypto developer? Or did they stop him for some other reason, and ask about his profession?

    FTFA:

    A developer of an encrypted chat program is making some dramatic claims. Nadim Kobeissi, developer of Cryptocat which “lets you instantly set up secure conversations.

    There is your answer right there.

  • Re:DHS CS Expert. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Rostin (691447) on Thursday June 07, 2012 @08:10AM (#40243259)
    The purpose of the interrogation wasn't to obtain information. It was intimidation. The DHS is delighted that it's receiving so much attention, too. It puts foreigners on notice that if they create software, protocols, or whatever which the US government finds inconvenient, they risk retaliatory harassment at the border should they choose to visit.

    So, while I agree that a lot of what the DHS (and many other three-letter government agencies) does is a waste of money, I think it's also much worse than that.
  • Re:DHS CS Expert. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Hatta (162192) on Thursday June 07, 2012 @08:17AM (#40243305) Journal

    They were probably just stalling while DHS installed keyloggers on any electronics he may have been carrying.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday June 07, 2012 @08:19AM (#40243331)

    We just mace them instead.

  • by eldavojohn (898314) * <eldavojohnNO@SPAMgmail.com> on Thursday June 07, 2012 @08:21AM (#40243345) Journal

    People need to realize that the United States has a very brutal regime in charge at the moment.

    In my opinion and from experience it's not about brutality, it's about money. Sure, if they find something on you that links you to Al-Queda, you're in trouble. They'll treat you like any Allied nation would treat a Nazi war criminal. But the secondary that you're often pulled into has the primary purpose of tariffs and taxes that you might owe the government. Next on their list is export/import control of stuff like Cuban cigars or controlled substances.

    So I used to be in a band and this band told me a story about how they were crossing the US-Canada border to play one show at a bar. Well, they were in their van, they had weed on them and they had all their guitars and crap and the side of their van said their band name. Well, they made up some excuse about how they were just "passing through" and after an hour of googling, the border guards determined that their intent was to play a show at a bar. They didn't have work permits and, as such, were denied entry. The weed wasn't a problem. The problem was that they were trying to go "work" at a bar and, as a result, a bar owner became very very upset with them. Guess which country's border guards did this to them? Canada's. Is Canada a "very brutal regime"? No.

    What happened with the CryptoCat guy is that they asked him what he did for work and he got too specific. One of the guards apparently knows that there is export control on levels of encryption [wikipedia.org]. There was a very very famous case about this involving Phil Zimmerman and PGP [wikipedia.org] that I think has since been dropped. Of course, the guards came to the conclusion that this guy wasn't purposefully exporting high level encryption software to enemy entities. So nothing came of it after they googled for an hour.

    Just because Russian border guards are lax or corrupt doesn't mean "the United States has a very brutal regime in charge at the moment." 'Brutal' means savagely violent, vicious, ruthless, or cruel ... I think the words you were looking for are arcane, ignorant, laughable, annoying, etc. If you cry wolf at the stupid stuff, nobody's going to listen to you about the genuinely bad stuff.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday June 07, 2012 @08:59AM (#40243741)

    Protesters are routinely rounded up in Russia!?
    Oh wait, ever read or heard about occupy movement in US?
    I'm European and think that many govs here, like ITaly are more brutal in rounding up protesters than Russia.
      Russia is always nice scapegoat, like China et al. When people in Western world need distractioon from their own problems, Russia et al are invoked.

  • Re:DHS CS Expert. (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday June 07, 2012 @09:03AM (#40243823)

    it sounds more like a routine stop

    And they just happened to have a senior IT investigator with over two decades of experience at hand, at some random checkpoint? Riiiiight.

  • by qbast (1265706) on Thursday June 07, 2012 @09:08AM (#40243881)
    My guess is that as soon as they asked even slightly related question, the guy just could not stop himself from bragging about how he helps poor oppressed citizens keep their conversations private from teh evil regime. Of course they would focus on that.
  • by Lazy Jones (8403) on Thursday June 07, 2012 @09:27AM (#40244157) Homepage Journal

    In my opinion and from experience it's not about brutality, it's about money

    Since you mentioned Nazis: money was one of the factors that drove the Nazi regime too. The question in both cases is: at what point do the insane ideologists take over (look at the Republican candiates for 2012...)? So it's not like it being about money at this time means we're not going in an entirely wrong direction. Regarding "brutal" - what would you call gitmo, all the secret CIA prisons, mass killing of suspects (as ordered by the president)? It's not something that affects us at the border controls, but it's the regime's brutality nevertheless.

  • by TheSpoom (715771) <slashdot@NOSpAM.uberm00.net> on Thursday June 07, 2012 @10:08AM (#40244735) Homepage Journal

    Some things in your story don't pass my BS test as an immigrant from Canada preparing to Naturalize in a year or so...

    naturalized, but not US citizens

    Naturalization [wikipedia.org] means to become a citizen of a country other than by means of birth. Hence, you can't naturalize and not be a citizen by definition. Did you mean they were / are lawful permanent residents?

    becoming citizens would mean swearing an oath to defend the US, which they will not do as pacifists.

    From the USCIS Guide to Naturalization [uscis.gov] (PDF links in page, quote is from Chapter 5):

    Waiver or Modification of the Oath of Allegiance.

    In certain circumstances there can be a modification or waiver of the Oath of Allegiance. These circumstances are as follows:

      If you are unable or unwilling to promise to bear arms or perform noncombatant service because of religious training and belief, you may request to leave out those parts of the oath. USCIS may require you to provide documentation from your religious organization explaining its beliefs and stating that you are a member in good standing.

      If you are unable or unwilling to take the oath with the words “on oath” and “so help me God” included, you must notify USCIS that you wish to take a modified Oath of Allegiance. Applicants are not required to provide any evidence or testimony to support a request for this type of modification. See 8 CFR 337.1(b).

      USCIS can waive the Oath of Allegiance when it is shown that the person’s physical or developmental disability, or mental impairments, makes them unable to understand, or to communicate an understanding of, the meaning of the oath. See 8 USC 337.

    Frankly, USCIS is remarkably accepting here, and if it was brought up to an immigration officer I'm certain they'd advise your parents of the possibility of a modified Oath. So either your parents don't know about this, are assuming it can't be modified, and haven't tried, or your whole story is fabricated.

  • by Grishnakh (216268) on Thursday June 07, 2012 @10:52AM (#40245385)

    What's really bad is that this is all true only for some protesters, and not others. If you're protesting a politician or some big politically-connected corporation or something, then the above is what happens to you. However, if you're picketing at a soldier's funeral and saying he deserved to die because "God hates fags", then you're A-OK and the cops won't bother you at all. If the cops are going to harass protesters, they could at least have the decency to harass the Westboro assholes too.

  • by LateArthurDent (1403947) on Thursday June 07, 2012 @10:58AM (#40245485)

    That power includes arresting protesters for simply protesting. This is what we saw happen last fall from NY to Oakland...Think of it this way, if Mubarak had tried to forcibly clear Tahrir square with the excuse of "health and safety"...

    Look, I'm all for the right to protest, and I'm all for civil disobedience that might get you arrested to bring attention to an injustice. The Occupy protests were still stupid, and the police was in their right to remove them.

    Here's how you make the determination. If it's illegal to do something (like putting up tents and sleeping in an area where this is generally not allowed), it doesn't suddenly become legal because it's part of a protest. That doesn't mean you don't do it, like I said, I'm in favor of civil disobedience as a form of protest. What you are protesting must be related to the laws your are disrespecting however.

    Case in point, when Rosa Parks refused to get up to allow the white passengers to sit, she broke a law. That was, however, the law she was protesting against. The law itself was unjust. The only way that the civil disobedience of the Occupy protesters would have been valid would be if they were protesting laws against trespassing or the health codes that prevented them from being there. If they are in favor of those laws being enforced for people who are not protesting, then it is not legitimate for them to disobey them in a protest.

    Just about every location gave them the right to protest, just not sleep there. They could go home and come back the next day, just not set up tents. They just felt it was more dramatic to put up tents and not move. Well, it's also more dramatic to set buildings on fire, but that doesn't mean they should be allowed to do it to make their point. Unless they think arson laws are unjust, that is.

  • by Stiletto (12066) on Thursday June 07, 2012 @11:22AM (#40245797)

    Please. Police were ALSO going after Occupy protesters who were NOT squatting in tent cities, littering, urinating in public, using drugs, assaulting, etc.

    The reason for the difference in treatment between Occupiers and Tea Partiers has everything to do with the groups' messages: Occupiers protest corporate power, Tea Baggers support corporate power. That's why one group gets to open carry and make death threats, and the other group gets truncheons and tear gas canisters to the face when they hold up signs.

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