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How To Foil NSA Sabotage: Use a Dead Man's Switch 259

Posted by Unknown Lamer
from the do-i-smell-methane dept.
mspohr writes "Cory Doctorow has an interesting idea published in today's Guardian on how to approach the problem of NSA 'gag orders' which prevent web sites, etc. from telling anyone that they have been compromised. His idea is to set up a 'dead man' switch where a site would publish a statement that 'We have not been contacted by the government' ... until, of course, they were contacted and compromised. The statement would then disappear since it would no longer be true. He points out a few problems... Not making the statement could be considered a violation of disclosure... but, can the government force you to lie and state that you haven't been contacted when you actually have?" Rsync.net has been doing this for years; rather than the statement disappearing in case of an NSL being issued, it simply would stop updating. Indeed, their canary text also points out the same possible flaws: "This scheme is not infallible. Although signing the declaration makes it impossible for a third party to produce arbitrary declarations, it does not prevent them from using force to coerce rsync.net to produce false declarations. The news clip in the signed message serves to demonstrate that that update could not have been created prior to that date. It shows that a series of these updates were not created in advance and posted on this page."
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How To Foil NSA Sabotage: Use a Dead Man's Switch

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  • by kju (327) on Tuesday September 10, 2013 @08:08AM (#44806543)

    can the government force you to lie and state that you haven't been contacted when you actually have

    As we should have learned, the government by large does not care if they "can" (in a legally sense), they just do it. But if necessary: Those rubber stamp courts will surely find a way to make it happen in a way which is legal on paper.

    • by Joce640k (829181) on Tuesday September 10, 2013 @08:17AM (#44806605) Homepage

      All these tricks are just wishful thinking.

      If other people learn you've been contacted then you're guilty no matter how you did it - by telling them or by stopping updates to a web site. It's all communication.

      • by FriendlyLurker (50431) on Tuesday September 10, 2013 @08:43AM (#44806751)

        Speaking of foiling NSA and other of the worlds shadowy sky organizations shenanigans, there are some great ideas floating about like this one posted a few NSA stories back by Anachragnome [slashdot.org]: "The NSA has made it clear that making connections--following the metadata--is often enough to get an investigation started. So why not do the same thing? Turn the whole thing around? Start focusing on their networks. [slashdot.org]"

        A sort of They Rule [theyrule.net] type network connection analysis on lists of people involved, start tallying connections and contacts build dossiers and trust-worthiness - combined with dead man switches for websites and professionally shunning anyone/organizations that have worked to subvert the security of the internet in favor of spying and undermining the social contract of the internet.

        In related news Reddit co-founder was exposed as wanting to sign up and use Reddit/his reputation as a mouthpiece/research partner for Stratfor [startpage.com]. Stratfor turned him down they already had people from the social networking world working for them apparently. Given Slashdot appears to give regular airtime to well known warmongering trolls [slashdot.org], will anyone be surprised if most sites like Slashdot are already on the payroll...

        The truth, it's just a leak away, it's just a leak awaaay....

        • by Defenestrar (1773808) on Tuesday September 10, 2013 @08:59AM (#44806883)

          ... The truth, it's just a leak away, it's just a leak awaaay....

          And if you have potatoes, then the truth can bring some awesome soup with it

        • Exactly right (Score:5, Insightful)

          by Phoenix666 (184391) on Tuesday September 10, 2013 @10:26AM (#44807757)

          We all need to ostracize and refuse to have anything to do with any of these people. Looking to hire a subcontractor, and one of the firms in the running has connections to these people? Knock them out of the running and let them and their competitors know why. If we tag and track all of them and make them effectively persona non grata everywhere, and those who do their bidding likewise persona non grata, then we would begin to see change.

          Society in general must excise these people or risk imploding catastrophically.

      • by TWiTfan (2887093) on Tuesday September 10, 2013 @08:50AM (#44806803)

        Agreed. In an America of secret courts, indefinite detention without trial or habeas corpus, secret police who prohibit you from even telling anyone they've contacted you, etc.--the concept of "proving yourself innocent" is laughable. "Because we said so" is the only charge the feds need anymore. Everything else is just dressing.

        • by Lumpy (12016) on Tuesday September 10, 2013 @08:57AM (#44806869) Homepage

          Secret? They do that openly. It is common knowledge they can jail you forever without trial or even telling you of what crime you may have violated. And the American public love it because it's "fighting terrorisim".

          Secret means it's hidden, All of this is out in the open and publicly accepted.

          • by Dave Marney (2977859) on Tuesday September 10, 2013 @09:18AM (#44807037)
            No, we don't "love it", we're appalled, angry, embarrassed and saddened. Trust in government is at an all-time low.
            • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday September 10, 2013 @09:37AM (#44807197)

              A somewhat vocal minority think the government has gone too far in its war on terrorists. Perhaps you remember the TSA's short-lived attempt to relax restrictions [cnn.com]. My local news never has any trouble finding a member of the public willing to say how much safer they feel each time a government agency proposes a new search method or new restriction.

              Slashdot is a libertarian-leaning echo chamber and not representative of America.

              • A somewhat vocal minority think the government has gone too far in its war on terrorists. Perhaps you remember the TSA's short-lived attempt to relax restrictions. My local news never has any trouble finding a member of the public willing to say how much safer they feel each time a government agency proposes a new search method or new restriction. Slashdot is a libertarian-leaning echo chamber and not representative of America.

                That's why almost every article on the TSA I've read, Mr. A.C, has people lambasting the TSA more than not in the comments section [and lambasting those supporting the TSA in comment form in said comments section], right? *rolls eyes*

            • by wvmarle (1070040) on Tuesday September 10, 2013 @10:05AM (#44807531)

              No, we don't "love it", we're appalled, angry, embarrassed and saddened.

              No doubt there are also in the US many people who are appalled, angry, embarrassed and saddened about these indefinite detentions. However there are obviously not enough of them. Not enough people in the US that really want it to be changed, not enough people there that go to the streets and protest against those human rights violations, not enough people there voting for politicians who make fixing it their primary item.

              Most of the rest of the world wants it to be changed. I really hope you guys can fix this issue, instead of trying to make such behaviour the norm and pull more and more other countries (most notably in Europe) into this.

              Trust in government is at an all-time low.

              Do you have anything to back up that claim? Or is it just your personal opinion?

              • The problem isn't that there isn't enough people, the problem is the false dichotomy of Republicrats and Demicans. We are presented with a false choice, told not to "waste" our vote by breaking the bonds of the one party rule.

                We either get the government we want, or deserve. I don't know which is worse.

              • by celtic_hackr (579828) on Tuesday September 10, 2013 @01:02PM (#44809515) Journal

                You all seem to miss the important aspects here.

                1) Most Americans I talk with, who know about these things happening, hate everything that is going on.
                2) But a good number of people aren't paying attention to most of it. My wife, and most of my close family, being among them. And these people don't want to know, because they know they'll get upset and frustrated about it.
                3) Among those who know and are disgusted, few complain about it except to friends. Why, because, most of this activity doesn't have an immediate impact on Americans ability to travel "freely", buy food, earn a comfortable living, have spendable money and the ability to spend it mostly how they want, raise a family without major restrictions, go to the church of their own choice, live in any neighborhood they can afford, eat what they what, and have entertainment they want. In other words daily life in the USA is fairly stable and unrestricted. People are comfortable. Until, the activities of the government get so overbearing that life is no longer comfortable, few will be willing to do anything about it.
                4) The American Revolution didn't happen because the middle class people weren't comfortable anymore. Life was not really that bad in American Colonies back then. The American Revolution happened because the wealthy were feeling uncomfortable and the Crown was messing with their livlihoods.

                Ergo, nothing is going to change, unless:
                1) The government actions start having a serious impact on the upper classes, or
                2) The government makes life so hard for the average citizen that they have no choice but to revolt. You can complain to your politicians till you're blue in the face and it likely won't change anything, for long. They will relent, for a while, and then try it again when they think you aren't looking. Search your feelings, you know this to be true., or
                3) Enough people get fed up and actually start a new political party, that alters the landscape.

            • by Lumpy (12016) on Tuesday September 10, 2013 @10:08AM (#44807569) Homepage

              Yes you do. I was born and raised in the USA and most everyone I meet approves of everything that they do to fight the boogymen.
              It is RARE to find someone that actually wants the govt to follow the constitution.

            • The voting numbers don't reflect that. 98% vote to keep things as they are. If people are so angry about it, they should be angry and embarrassed with themselves. Our communications systems are better than ever. There is no excuse.

              • The voting numbers don't reflect that. 98% vote to keep things as they are. If people are so angry about it, they should be angry and embarrassed with themselves. Our communications systems are better than ever. There is no excuse.

                The 2% is moving to New Hampshire. It's the communication systems you mention that even makes this possible. Where it goes from here, only time will tell, but keeping that 2% spread out and politically powerless is not a solution. Political migrations are slow and difficult, bu

            • by Jawnn (445279) on Tuesday September 10, 2013 @10:37AM (#44807861)

              No, we don't "love it", we're appalled, angry, embarrassed and saddened. Trust in government is at an all-time low.

              I beg to differ. You and I may be appalled, angry, embarrassed, etc., but the American public, in general, seems quite content to let their government continue the ass-ramming they've been giving to our Constitution since 2001.

          • by RevDisk (740008)
            Meh. Most people don't care because they're generally too busy trying to pay the bills, raise their kids, keep the car running, etc. More than 70% of Americans don't want to get involved in Syria. A lot of the more neutral polls show much much softer support for indefinite detention, pervasive surveillance state and the rest. Without rigged polls, the majority wants basically the status quo. They're fine with some degree of horrific government authority, for edge cases. They're not exactly drooling for the
      • That doesn't make it illegal, even if some bullshit order by some bullshit court thinks it is.

        Time to move to the next box.

    • Of course "the government force you to lie and state that you haven't been contacted when you actually have". They have done far worse. Of course, they can lie about doing it, too.

      • by mwvdlee (775178)

        They'll just ask how to maintain the particular "canary" page and handle it themselves.
        At no point will you have to personally lie; they'll just do the lying for you.

    • by TWiTfan (2887093)

      Sadly, this is the state of the country that I was once taught was supposed to stand for freedom in the world.

      • by Somebody Is Using My (985418) on Tuesday September 10, 2013 @10:33AM (#44807819) Homepage

        Sadly, this is the state of the country that I was once taught was supposed to stand for freedom in the world.

        Fortunately, it actually isn't.

        That is not to say that there are not some decidedly concerning excesses being committed by the government and its partners. From overreach by the executive branch, to undisciplined agencies like the NSA running havoc across our Constitutionally-protected (but not granted, important difference!) rights, down to the increasing aggressiveness of our police force, there are undoubtedly serious problems we as a nation need to face up to and rectify. These symptoms are indicative of a very worrying trend and it is right for Americans - and, indeed, citizens across the world - to take note of and speak against.

        But even cynical as I am, the despairing belief that the United States of America is currently little more than a well-disguised police-state is so blatantly false to anyone who lives here as to be laughable. I'll not deny that we might one day end in such a place and we must fight against it. But America still remains a bastion of freedom and while it may no longer be a beacon guiding others, it still shines brightly enough. That we can have this conversation without fear of retribution at all is testament to that fact. That (barring a further slide into tyranny) I expect to go through my life without worrying about ending up in a gulag for my particular beliefs is a testament to that fact. That I have an opportunity - however slight it may be - to help change the direction of this country should I chose to do so is testament to this fact.

        I still believe - contrary even to my expectations - that most Americans hold true to the ideals of this nation and would, given the chance, work to correct this nation onto a more favorable path. This even includes many of those we've granted positions of authority over ourselves. But between the vast bureaucracy of the government, the confusing melange of messages we get from the media and the self machinations of corporations, it is easy for these same Americans to feel powerless and so they do nothing. It's less apathy than a lack of a clear direction; they want to keep this country true to its ideals but do not know how - and worse, do not believe they can effect a change.

        So rather than despair I encourage people to remember what makes this nation great and fight against those who would destroy it for their own short-term gains. Don't just accept the status quo or through excess cynicism allow justice to slip through our fingers. Speak out against these illegal actions, both to fellow citizens and to your representatives in both the state and federal governments. More to the point, do not through inaction be an accomplice to such un-American activities such as the NSA has been enacting; take a stand against them. You don't have to directly oppose them, just don't be their agent; if there are those who wish to subvert the ideals of this nation, make them do their own dirty work. Even if your tiny resistance barely slows down the behemoth, combined we can force a new and better direction for this country. It's also why people in authority fear the Internet and strive to suborn its intent; it allows a collectivism amongst citizenry that has never before been possible. Use this great tool to encourage others - with words and ideas - to strive towards the great dream of America rather than merely accept an "inevitable boot to the face forever".

        This nation is at a critical juncture and our leaders are either unwilling or feel unable to enforce a change. It's time to remind them who truly wields the power in America - its citizenry. Don't mourn the passing of our freedoms before we even lose them; instead, stand up for those freedoms and warn those who would take them away that's not where we want this country to go.

        • by greenbird (859670)

          But even cynical as I am, the despairing belief that the United States of America is currently little more than a well-disguised police-state is so blatantly false to anyone who lives here as to be laughable.

          You're drinking the coolaid. The US Library of Congress doesn't even know how many laws there are much less what they may be. The people who create the tax code have no idea how to follow it. You have to devote your career to the tax code to have even a reasonable understanding of it. Just given those 2 pretty much everyone in the US is a criminal. And the NSA is busy collecting all the evidence and then secretly giving it to the police to use against you when ever they want. Sure you can protest as long as

    • by Defenestrar (1773808) on Tuesday September 10, 2013 @08:55AM (#44806847)

      In the case of a signed (and dated) statement, you still hold the controlling factor and would necessitate coercion on the behalf of the other party. If the other party (government or individual) is willing and able to bear sufficient coercion upon you to acquiesce to perjury, than the system fails. So, one should only implement such a model if one believes that the level of coercion is within the limits of one's conviction to resist - otherwise you're setting yourself and your "trusted" parties up for compromise.

      A "dead man switch" system like this certainly lends itself to a civil disobedience of passive resistance in the tradition of Gandhi, and MLK Jr. But what level do you go for? If I recall right (and strongly paraphrasing), Gandhi's solution to the atomic threat was to allow yourself to be nuked so that the children of the "victor" would express enough horror at the methods that they would reject the philosophy used for the strike and therefore giving the "victim" the final moral victory. Personally, I suspect that I am vulnerable to coercion threatening the annihilation of my entire nation - and probably even a lesser version closer to home.

      One thing I've learned about the country with the Bill of Rights is that there are times when the government does exceed its authority, and sometimes even the courts rubber stamp it (although not always - look at Jackson and the Supreme Court), but ultimately a correction factor is applied. Sometimes this is a groundswell of public ire, a brave confrontation like Ed Murrow, and often a combination of the two (i.e. civil rights in the '60s). Although occasionally, due to lack of notoriety or some such, the lesson isn't completely learned until the next generation reads it in their history books (i.e. syphilis study).

      Finally, one also need to make sure that anyone else with the authentication to substitute for you holds the same convictions. For example, Thoreau only spent the one night in jail because someone else paid his poll taxes.

      • by BrokenHalo (565198) on Tuesday September 10, 2013 @09:13AM (#44807001)

        If I recall right (and strongly paraphrasing), Gandhi's solution to the atomic threat was to allow yourself to be nuked so that the children of the "victor" would express enough horror at the methods that they would reject the philosophy used for the strike

        Trouble is, the history books tend to be written by the victors.

        ...Although occasionally, due to lack of notoriety or some such, the lesson isn't completely learned until the next generation reads it in their history books...

        And given that so many people increasingly do not read at all (except in gobbets of 140 characters), I don't hold out much hope that their attention span will accommodate a book of any length.

      • by Kjella (173770)

        In the case of a signed (and dated) statement, you still hold the controlling factor and would necessitate coercion on the behalf of the other party. If the other party (government or individual) is willing and able to bear sufficient coercion upon you to acquiesce to perjury, than the system fails. So, one should only implement such a model if one believes that the level of coercion is within the limits of one's conviction to resist - otherwise you're setting yourself and your "trusted" parties up for compromise.

        Perjury is lying under oath, it's not lying in general. And the law (whichever nefarious one enables National Security Letters to exist) trumps whatever contractual obligations you may have made. They already actively demand you comply with their demands, not merely stand aside and let them do their business. Hidden in a bunch of technical mumbo-jumbo it basically comes down to "If you ask me if we've been compromised by the NSA, which is obviously a yes/no question I'm going to answer it with no but if I r

      • by wvmarle (1070040)

        In the case of a signed (and dated) statement, you still hold the controlling factor and would necessitate coercion on the behalf of the other party. If the other party (government or individual) is willing and able to bear sufficient coercion upon you to acquiesce to perjury, than the system fails. So, one should only implement such a model if one believes that the level of coercion is within the limits of one's conviction to resist - otherwise you're setting yourself and your "trusted" parties up for compromise.

        Not giving in for long enough for your "dead man switch" or "canary" to expire is long enough. Like the example of rsync.org; they'd only have to delay the update for a single day and (assuming there is someone actually paying attention to it) the message is out. That one day should be manageable. Especially as the message can not be prepared in advance (thanks to the news snippets) the government can't do much until the new message is due to be created.

    • by mounthood (993037) on Tuesday September 10, 2013 @08:58AM (#44806879)

      As we should have learned, the government by large does not care if they "can" (in a legally sense), they just do it. But if necessary: Those rubber stamp courts will surely find a way to make it happen in a way which is legal on paper.

      Techies never seem to understand this, even though they read it over-and-over: the law is not a set of rules you work with, "it's the chain I go get and beat you with 'til ya understand who's in ruttin' command here." If an NSL isn't the right excuse, they'll make another.

    • Perhaps they meant "do we know the government has already given itself the ability" to foil this method?

      Focusing on specific known facts is useful if you're trying to be practical in designing something. You can't account for every potential scenario obviously. The government could authorize itself to kidnap your loved ones and threaten to flay them alive until you tell them your password, it's certainly within their capabilities. However, you can't design security around everything the government or
    • Government does ______ , because the people "wants" them to do _______, but then complain about it later. The people DON'T want the government to do nothing, they want the government to do everything. They keep voting for more government and then complain about the consequences of more government. This is the natural order of big government, as it slowly enslaves the people.

      Ask yourself, is your government doing what YOU want? Chances are, you do not WANT what the government is offering you, but yet you kee

    • by Zemran (3101)

      Stop hosting in the US, I moved to Germany (hosting) and will not move back. Yeah, yeah, yeah, it is not perfect but it is miles better.

  • Clever Tricks (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward

    When it comes to prosecuting, it's entirely alright to punish people based on the spirit of the law. So whatever tricks they tried, as long as they're under a rule of nondisclosure, would land them in deep shit if they disclosed things they were barred from disclosing. However, the spirit of the law is rarely taken into consideration when it helps people, like the whistleblower laws. No one looked to see if the people who were blowing the whistle were exposing corruption or making the country a better place

    • by plover (150551)

      all that mattered was that they violated the letter of the law and needed to be sorry for doing so.

      Close. All that mattered was that they were hunted to the ends of the earth and punished mercilessly as an example to any other would-be whistleblowers.

      • Re:Clever Tricks (Score:4, Insightful)

        by TWiTfan (2887093) on Tuesday September 10, 2013 @08:55AM (#44806849)

        I bet the employee orientation at the NSA and CIA includes the admonition "Yes, you're going to lie to Congress, The President, and the American people. You're going to do it every fucking day, and LIKE it. And if you DON'T like it, either head to Russia or we'll arrange a cell for you right next to Bradley Manning."

        • They probably wait until after the new recruits are ingrained with secret knowledge before the strongarm them to continue their illegal activities.

  • >> ... until, of course, they were contacted and compromised.

    So the Feds just contact everybody who does this, and we're right back where we started.

    • by lionchild (581331)

      Then it falls back on the consumer to stop using the service. Unused services go away and the point becomes moot. New services pop up which are 'clean' and thus the cycle starts all over again.

      I like the idea of the dead-man switch. However, if the consumer does what they're supposed to, ultimately they don't win, because they have to keep switching services in this cat-and-mouse game.

  • A) this exact story was on Slashdot a couple months ago.
    B) judges don't like smartasses who play word games with the law. You can only hope the judge dislikes the NSA even more.

  • If you like the law, or do not disagree with it, comply.
    If you don't like the law, use the democratic process and try and get it changed.
    If you don't trust your government, elect another.
    And if all else fails, emigrate to China or Russia :)

    • by ciderbrew (1860166) on Tuesday September 10, 2013 @08:36AM (#44806713)
      If you like the law, or do not disagree with it, comply.
      If you don't like the law, comply.
      If you don't trust your government, comply.
      And if all else fails, comply.
    • Most people cannot legally emigrate, so that isn't really an option. If you have dual citizenship, or unique in-demand skills, this may be more feasible, but China is not going to accept random American citizens who want to move there, especially not people who want to move there due to political disgruntlement.

      • by Lumpy (12016)

        If you want freedom look at Iceland and greenland. They at least are still young enough countries to be honest.

        • by Trepidity (597)

          Iceland and Greenland both heavily restrict immigration, so unless you were born there, you probably cannot move there.

        • Just fyi greenland isn't a sovereign country... it's a self governing providence of Denmark.
          And have been a part of Denmark for about a 1000 years - by comparison the US is a young country :)


          In any event, I wouldn't try my luck with greenland, it's really dark and they're not super rich either... and have lots of problems...

          But Norway, might actually be a good choice these days... They have too much money/oil, anyone with a university degree in something even remotely useful has a good chance of landi
      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward

        Uruguay.

    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward

      It is the moral responsibility of every single person to disobey unjust laws.

    • by TWiTfan (2887093)

      If you don't like the law, use the democratic process and try and get it changed.

      You mean the democratic process where the corporations tell Congress what to do? Because that's the only one I'm familiar with.

      If you don't trust your government, elect another.

      Yeah, next time we can all vote for Kodos instead!

  • by schwit1 (797399) on Tuesday September 10, 2013 @08:16AM (#44806597)

    Don't expect a prosecutor to buy this argument. Anything you do that alerts others to a gag order will be treated as a violation. You may win in court, but you will be thousands of dollars in debt defending yourself.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Anything you do that alerts others to a gag order will be treated as a violation.

      That's not vaguely true. As we've already seen with various companies closing down, they are allowed to say "I can't provide any details because of a gag order". They can't discuss _WHAT_ they are being prevented from saying but they can most certainly say that they aren't allowed to say something.

      • They can't discuss _WHAT_ they are being prevented from saying but they can most certainly say that they aren't allowed to say something.

        The NSL's say that you cannot say that you got an NSL. The First Amendment says you can, so it's a matter of who wants to bring the fight. Apparently Google, et. al. are bringing this one.

    • Do prosecutors buy any arguments aside from "Alright, I'll plead guilty if you promise not to fuck me as hard as you say you're going to"?

      Anyway, no one said standing up for freedom against the government would be fun, cheap, or easy. This just potentially makes it slightly less costly, slightly easier... and is at least fun to some people to think about in theory.
    • Assuming they haven't just shipped you off to gitmo for poking the bear.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      Don't expect a prosecutor to buy this argument. Anything you do that alerts others to a gag order will be treated as a violation. You may win in court, but you will be thousands of dollars in debt defending yourself.

      That is the position he will take at press conferences. But will he think he can win in court? He will face formidible obstacles such as:

      • The case may bankrupt the defendant, but it will cost the prosecutor big too. It could easily blow up into a multi-year civil-rights battle against top lawyers.
      • The gag provisions of the law are distastful to almost everyone including those who think they are an unfortunately necessity.
      • The judge may well find the law distastful and be unwilling to enforce more than its let
  • Er, obstruction...? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by beaverdownunder (1822050) on Tuesday September 10, 2013 @08:20AM (#44806627)

    Although cute, this 'idea' is irrelevant. Even if you made the case that you weren't contravening the letter of the request, you could still be charged with obstruction of justice, should your behaviour alter the conduct of the subject(s) under scrutiny. This puts the onus on you to lie.

    In short, good luck with that. They're already way ahead of you. Way, way ahead.

    • by Trepidity (597) <delirium-slashdo ... org minus author> on Tuesday September 10, 2013 @08:43AM (#44806747)

      I don't think the intent is to argue that it isn't contravening the intent of the gag order due to a technicality, but rather to set up a constitutional challenge to the gag order. Compelled speech is reviewed at a higher level of scrutiny, so if the gag order actually requires you to affirmatively state things that you neither believe in nor are true, that would be a basis for challenging the gag order. You may still lose, but it would require violating a constitutional rule that thus far has been respected.

  • Declaration (Score:4, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday September 10, 2013 @08:26AM (#44806655)

    When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.

    We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.

    That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security. ...
    He has erected a multitude of New Offices, and sent hither swarms of Officers to harass our people and eat out their substance.

  • Seriously? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by argStyopa (232550) on Tuesday September 10, 2013 @08:29AM (#44806677) Journal

    We're talking about the government doing just about anything they want, and we're wondering if they'd restrain themselves according to something as little as the "letter" of the law?

    +2 Funny.
    +4 Sad.

  • by Cow Jones (615566) on Tuesday September 10, 2013 @08:32AM (#44806695)
    A dead man's switch automatically triggers an action when the person in charge can no longer prevent it, because he's dead, detained, or otherwise disabled. (Examples: let go of a hand grenade's handle, send out documents if the person don't check in at least once a week, etc). What this article is talking about is more appropriately called a "canary" (referring to the canary in a coal mine). It does the exact opposite. CJ
  • http://www.slate.com/blogs/future_tense/2013/09/09/shifting_shadow_stormbrew_flying_pig_new_snowden_documents_show_nsa_deemed.html [slate.com]
    Why just watch, track or redirected targeted traffic?
    Your site might just have a slight pause in updating as a new crew takes over for a few years.
    If they have been watching your 'style' for a few years your internet persona might just become a contractor and your site a front.
    Drop or add the message every April Fools' Day?
  • by tlk nnr (449342) on Tuesday September 10, 2013 @08:43AM (#44806749) Homepage

    The rsync canary is a good idea, another standard approach for delicate communications are job advertisements.

    In this case:
    A large ad in a suitable newspaper that you are searching for a lawyer.

    • by AHuxley (892839)
      To paraphrase a quote in support of NDAA (National Defense Authorization Act):
      ‘Shut up. You don’t get a lawyer.'"
      Somewhere a lawyer is searching for you.... will you be listed as "inoperative" "excised" "completed"?
  • by Shavano (2541114) on Tuesday September 10, 2013 @08:44AM (#44806753)
    There are different ways you might be contacted by the government.

    For example, maybe somebody who uses your website stole something. Suppose for example the FBI suspects that person of having sold it to someone else who uses your website and is looking for evidence of the same. So they get a warrant and go throught is one person's email, don't find the evidence they were looking for leave.

    In another example, maybe one person who uses your website had his car washed by a guy who got an email from a dude who was seen in a cafe with a suspected terrorist. They issue a National Security Letter that threatens you with horrible consequences if you divulge anything, seize a copy of every record on your site going back to 2005, discover another 50 people who got messages from the guy whose car was washed and by the associative property of terrorism, they're terrorists, you're a terrorist and everybody who uses your site is a terrorist.

    See the difference? It's not about being contacted by the government. It's about being swept up in a potentially vast and unwarranted (literally) investigation when you didn't do anything wrong.
  • Some elaborate dead man switch about a gag order? No judge will take kindly to such shenanigans. Just make it simple, contact a trusted news reporter/Wikileaks securely or via an anonymous 3rd/4th party you have arranged ahead of time and have them publish.
    • by Lumpy (12016)

      This actually is the right path. Give all the information to a third party that has the ability to publish all your finding and information that will get it out.

      But honestly, just get it out as soon as you get it and do it quietly then erase all evidence that you ever had it. And the key is to STFU about it. Get the info, release it to a group without anything tying back to you, destroy all evidence in your possession, and keep your mouth shut about it for the rest of your life.

    • by swillden (191260)

      Some elaborate dead man switch about a gag order? No judge will take kindly to such shenanigans. Just make it simple, contact a trusted news reporter/Wikileaks securely or via an anonymous 3rd/4th party you have arranged ahead of time and have them publish.

      Or... just publicly state that you have received some number of requests, but can't talk about them due to a gag order. That's what all of the Internet companies have done. Lavabits explicitly said that it was legally unable to discuss the issues.

      There don't appear to be any consequences to publicly admitting that you can't say anything.

  • Obligatory Code (Score:5, Informative)

    by hacker (14635) <hacker@gnu-designs.com> on Tuesday September 10, 2013 @08:55AM (#44806851)

    ...aaaand, here's some code to use to make your own (which I just posted about only yesterday [gnu-designs.com]


    #!/usr/bin/perl

    use warnings;
    use strict;
    use LWP::Simple;
    use XML::RSS;
    use HTML::Strip;
    use File::Slurp;

    my $url = 'http://feeds.bbci.co.uk/news/world/rss.xml';

    binmode(STDOUT, ":utf8");

    my $hs = HTML::Strip->new();
    my @newscanary = '';

    my $rss = XML::RSS->new();
    my $data = get( $url );
    $rss->parse( $data );

    my $channel = $rss->{channel};

    foreach my $item ( @{ $rss->{items} } ) {
            my $title = $item->{title};
            my $date = $item->{pubDate};
            my $desc = $hs->parse($item->{description});

            # Word wrap the output at 70 characters
            $desc =~ s/(.{70}[^\s]*)\s+/$1\n/xg;

            push @newscanary, "$title\n$date\n" . "-"x70 . "\n$desc\n\n\n";
    }

    write_file('canary.txt', @newscanary) ;

    my $boilerplate = read_file('boilerplate.txt', {binmode => ':raw'});
    my $newscanary = read_file('canary.txt', {binmode => ':raw'});

    print $boilerplate, $newscanary;

    $hs->eof;

  • Pre-emptive tweet? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday September 10, 2013 @08:57AM (#44806861)

    At what point does a gag-order come into force? Just send a tweet "A government official has just entered the building with an envelope I haven't opened yet. Updates to follow...", followed by no updates.

  • IANAL but IMHO words are only one form of communication and any action that communicates, regardless of the actual mechanism of communication, could be considered a willful violation of a gag order.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday September 10, 2013 @09:01AM (#44806899)

    Wouldn't it be better to always have a message saying that you are collaborating with the NSA / currently being gaged. If that siuation does ever occur, you then remove the message because otherwise you will be breaking the law...

  • Hello original author here:

    >> http://slashdot.org/comments.pl?sid=4108553&cid=44622087 [slashdot.org]

  • The fighting back against the police state has just begun. That the police state will be defeated is a foregone conclusion. The only question is, how many people are going to suffer and maybe die?

    I'm convinced that wanting freedom is in our genetic code. Certainly, wanting privacy is. Fighting for it is how we're made.

    A lot of us didn't want to think it was this bad, but now that we're finding out, the fight is on, and the outcome certain.

  • by daffmeister (602502) on Tuesday September 10, 2013 @09:17AM (#44807019) Homepage

    The librarian Jessamyn West [wikipedia.org] has had a similar idea [librarian.net] for years.

    • by oneiros27 (46144)

      This was my first thought when I saw the summary -- it's been done before; by librarians. (I just couldn't remember the name and/or library system that started it).

  • Now let me introduce you to my friends, Mr. and Mrs. Nipple Clamp and their neighbor, Sr. Electric Current. Or you can just add the message back onto your website and we can be done here.

    Look, I respect Cory. I think he's a pretty good author and an even better freedoms advocate, but if you're betting on the technicality of alerting through inaction instead of action, I don't think you'll like the odds.

  • "The statement would then disappear since it would no longer be true. "

    and we all know that if something is on the internet it MUST be true...

  • Since the TSA is now allowed to lie https://www.schneier.com/blog/archives/2013/09/the_tsa_is_lega.html [schneier.com] , bbviously so can the NSA spooks.

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