cr> Leahy bill nightmare scenario?


(Reprinted from other mailing lists with the author's permission.--Andy)

From: jim bell <•••@••.•••>

In case any of you people still think that Leahy bill ostensibly freeing up
encryption is "progress," the following scenario is provided for your

"Bob" runs an encrypted remailer.  His system forwards mail whose contents
he cannot read, even if he wanted to.  He cannot know from where the
messages originated, or where they ended up.  He likes it this way, because
nobody can accuse him of complicity with a (encrypted) message that he can't

One day, Leahy's bill passes, as described by VTW (and quoted by Peterson):

  "804. Unlawful use of encryption to obstruct justice"
   "Whoever willfully endeavors by means of encryption to obstruct,
   impede, or prevent the communication of information in furtherance
   to a felony which may be prosecuted in a court of the United States,
   to an investigative or law enforcement officer shall-..."

I am assuming they fix the obvious error in the phrasing above.

"Bob," the operator of the encrypted remailer, receives an email one day
which states something like:

"Thanks for the use of your nifty anonymous remailer.  Under a different
name, I intend to use this remailer (along with others) to transmit child
pornography, plot terrorism, and do all of my drug deals.  You've made my
life so much more secure!"

Bob, alarmed at this note, tries to cover his ass by sending back a message
asking this person to not do anything illegal on his machine, hoping that
this will protect himself. The response is "as long as the system operates,
it will be used for whatever I want!"

 What "Bob" doesn't realize is that the message came from an agent for the
cops, who now have proof that he is aware that his system will be regularly
used for illegal purposes.  If "Bob" is smart enough, he will realize his
quandary, and he has only two choices:

1.  Shut the remailer down to prevent such use.

2.  Continue to run the remailer, knowing that it is being used for

If he should choose the latter, the cops merely have their agent mail some
kid some child pornography, and use Bob's remailer as the last link in the
chain.   At that point, the "investigation" starts.  The cops approach
"Bob," and insist that he tell them from where the message came.  Naturally,
however, "Bob" is an honest fellow, and he runs a remailer that doesn't keep

At that point, Bob is GUILTY of violation of the Leahy bill, because his
encrypted anonymous remailer:

1.  Uses encryption to thwart message tracing, and thus the "criminal

2.  Bob has already been informed that his system will be used for illegal
purposes; the cops have the messages to prove he has been told.  He's GUILTY
GUILTY GUILTY, he will definitely lose the system and possibly whatever
residence it runs in, and will probably have to pay a huge fine to boot.

Now, you may not sympathize with Bob. This doesn't affect YOU, right?
RIGHT?!?   But let's suppose the cops offer him a DEAL!  "Spy for us, keep
records and forward each and every one of them to us, and we won't prosecute
you!"   Such a deal!

At that point, even an idiot begins to see the problem:  Suddenly, you can
no longer trust ANY anonymous remailer, because the operator might have been
"stung" already, and he's keeping his system up only to keep his house and
life savings.  One by one, each encrypted anonymous remailer is dealt the
same treatment, and pretty soon you can't trust any of them.  All the
systems run by honest, uncoerced people will go down.  Naturally, this
treatment will occur in every country that sites anonymous remailers.

So maybe the word gets out, occasionally.  At that point, usage of anonymous
remailers declines, and people willing to risk operating one declines.  A
few come up which are run by the Feds, which log anyone who  attempts to use

Or am I the only person who can see this, huh?  If anybody doubts this
scenario, I challenge you to tell me WHY it cannot happen.  I am, frankly,
astonished at anybody who did not immediately see the potential downside to
this portion of the bill!

Jim Bell, Pessimist and proud of it.

Klaatu Burada Nikto

 Posted by Andrew Oram  - •••@••.••• - Moderator: CYBER-RIGHTS (CPSR)
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