Well, folks, they’ve finally done it. They’ve destroyed the Internet.

Everything us techies have been saying for years has been proven. We haven’t been paranoid at all, and our worst fears are true. The US government (with the collusion of the UK too) has been planting backdoors in software for years, and they can now decrypt virtually everything. You know those https links that you rely on for “security”? Bullshit.

Oh sure, it’s still running and everything. But this means that every email you ever read, every SMS message you ever wrote, every picture you sent privately, every purchase you made with your credit card — as well as your credit card information, your personal information, your Social Security number and all your private medical information — has been compromised. The NSA now has something on everyone, and if it’s true that the average American commits three felonies a day just by accident then they can blackmail or jail almost anyone they want with the information at their disposal.

All those people who claimed all these years with their big flapping mouths “Well, I have nothing to hide, so I don’t mind” are morally to blame for this too. I hope all their most private lives get blasted all over Facebook for their friends to giggle over and perfect strangers to scam and threaten them over. I’m sick of them.

Here’s the worst part, somewhat buried in this great article on the Guardian, and BTW I would like to nominate Glenn Greenwald for the Pulitzer Prize (and Edward Snowden for some sort of world prize as well):

The NSA describes strong decryption programs as the “price of admission for the US to maintain unrestricted access to and use of cyberspace”.

What that means is that the US Government doesn’t actually believe in a free Internet at all. They only allow you to think you’re free because they have been secretly controlling it all along.

So, they’re no better than the Chinese government, which censors its citizens openly. In a way they’re worse, because they let you say whatever you want, and then they can come back later and make you pay for it.

No wonder Homeland Security wanted all those bullets.

Update: Bruce Schneier has said this more eloquently in many more words.

Copyright laws threaten our online freedom
By Christian Engström

If you search for Elvis Presley in Wikipedia, you will find a lot of text and a few pictures that have been cleared for distribution. But you will find no music and no film clips, due to copyright restrictions. What we think of as our common cultural heritage is not “ours” at all.

On MySpace and YouTube, creative people post audio and video remixes for others to enjoy, until they are replaced by take-down notices handed out by big film and record companies. Technology opens up possibilities; copyright law shuts them down.

This was never the intent. Copyright was meant to encourage culture, not restrict it. This is reason enough for reform. But the current regime has even more damaging effects. In order to uphold copyright laws, governments are beginning to restrict our right to communicate with each other in private, without being monitored.

File-sharing occurs whenever one individual sends a file to another. The only way to even try to limit this process is to monitor all communication between ordinary people. Despite the crackdown on Napster, Kazaa and other peer-to-peer services over the past decade, the volume of file-sharing has grown exponentially. Even if the authorities closed down all other possibilities, people could still send copyrighted files as attachments to e-mails or through private networks. If people start doing that, should we give the government the right to monitor all mail and all encrypted networks? Whenever there are ways of communicating in private, they will be used to share copyrighted material. If you want to stop people doing this, you must remove the right to communicate in private. There is no other option. Society has to make a choice.

The world is at a crossroads. The internet and new information technologies are so powerful that no matter what we do, society will change. But the direction has not been decided.

The technology could be used to create a Big Brother society beyond our nightmares, where governments and corporations monitor every detail of our lives. In the former East Germany, the government needed tens of thousands of employees to keep track of the citizens using typewriters, pencils and index cards. Today a computer can do the same thing a million times faster, at the push of a button. There are many politicians who want to push that button.

The same technology could instead be used to create a society that embraces spontaneity, collaboration and diversity. Where the citizens are no longer passive consumers being fed information and culture through one-way media, but are instead active participants collaborating on a journey into the future.

The internet is still in its infancy, but already we see fantastic things appearing as if by magic. Take Linux, the free computer operating system, or Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. Witness the participatory culture of MySpace and YouTube, or the growth of the Pirate Bay, which makes the world’s culture easily available to anybody with an internet connection. But where technology opens up new possibilities, our intellectual property laws do their best to restrict them. Linux is held back by patents, the rest of the examples by copyright.

The public increasingly recognises the need for reform. That was why Piratpartiet – the Pirate party – won 7.1 per cent of the popular vote in Sweden in the European Union elections. This gave us a seat in the European parliament for the first time.

Our manifesto is to reform copyright laws and gradually abolish the patent system. We oppose mass surveillance and censorship on the net, as in the rest of society. We want to make the EU more democratic and transparent. This is our entire platform.

We intend to devote all our time and energy to protecting the fundamental civil liberties on the net and elsewhere. Seven per cent of Swedish voters agreed with us that it makes sense to put other political differences aside in order to ensure this.

Political decisions taken over the next five years are likely to set the course we take into the information society, and will affect the lives of millions for many years into the future. Will we let our fears lead us towards a dystopian Big Brother state, or will we have the courage and wisdom to choose an exciting future in a free and open society?

The information revolution is happening here and now. It is up to us to decide what future we want.

The writer is the Pirate party’s member of the European parliament

Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2009

(and yes, I’m totally aware of the irony of the copyright statement — DF)

Guest Editorial courtesy of Cathy Wilcox and WikiLeaks

We're arresting you for speeding.
What's the speed limit officer?
The speed limit is secret.

Shortly after 9pm on Tuesday March 24, Wikileaks related buildings in Dresden and Jena, were raided by 11 plain clothes German police.

Why?

Over the last two years, Wikileaks has exposed detailed secret government censorship lists or plans for over eight countries, including Thailand, the United Arab Emirates, Australia, and Germany.

Although Wikileaks’ main site has been censored by the Chinese Public Security Bureau since early 2007, last week saw the site placed onto a secret list of sites "forbidden" by the Australian Media and Communications Authority, or ACMA.

The pro-censorship governments exposed by Wikileaks can be divided into three broad categories:

1. Countries with a mandatory censorship system in place: Thailand, the UAE, and Lebanon (films).
2. Countries proposing a mandatory censorship system: Australia and Germany.
3. Countries in which the internet censorship system is an unregulated agreement between several large ISPs and the police: Norway, Denmark and Finland.

Australia and Germany are the only liberal democracies proposing a mandatory internet censorship regime.

All of the schemes operate, or are proposed to operate, through multi-million dollar national networks of censorship machines.

The machines spy on the nation as each citizen attempts to read on the internet, and compares requested pages to those listed on a secret government "blacklist".

If the page is on the blacklist, the government forcibly prevents the citizen from viewing the information by intercepting his or her internet communication and diverting it to a machine controlled by the censorship system. This machine is often configured to record the identity of the person attempting to access the forbidden information. If the page is not on the blacklist, the government grants permission for the citizen to view the page.

Although originally marketed, in all countries, as a way of combating child pornography, the blacklists obtained by Wikileaks show that the systems have already been corrupted into censoring other content, including political content.

For instance, the secret blacklist for Thailand censors thousands of sites per year deemed to be critical of the Thai Monarchy, from academic books and YouTube to the Economist magazine and Wikileaks itself.

Similarly, the blacklist for Australia contains an anti-abortion site, fringe religions, a dentist clinic, gay sites, gambling sites, islamist sites, euthanasia activist sites, an astrologer’s blog, misclassified material, and, like Thailand, Wikileaks itself. Even the Australian government’s "Minister for censorship", Senator Stephen Conroy, has admitted that fully half of the sites on the secret list are unrelated to child pornography.

As newspapers and other publications migrate to an exclusive life on the internet, such totalizing censorship systems are able to instantly snatch "pages" from the laps of citizens across an entire nation, interdicting communications between publisher and reader, and the new civil discourse between readers and each other. The scale, speed and potential impact of this centralized intervention has no historical precedent.

Secret national censorship systems are dangerous and unaccountable. They are an afront to natural justice, due process and the balancing power of the fourth estate. They must be, and will be, stopped.

The Australian Government has stated it plans to increase the size of its blacklist list by 10 fold, from roughly 1,200 blocked pages to over 10,000, although the plan is now seems unlikely to pass the Australian Senate after the revelations of the last month.

To make what has happened clear to those who understand traditional book censorship, we provide the following simple analogy:

Within the libraries and book catalogues of Germany and Australia there are books (web pages) forbidden by the state.

The government of Australia has compiled a secret list of books it forbids. About 1,200 books are on the list.

Not even authors or publishers whose books are placed on the list are told their book has been banned.

Germany plans to adopt and expand a version of the Australian scheme.

Under the plans of the German and Australian governments, every attempt to borrow a book (read a web page) will be checked against the secret "forbidden books" (forbidden web pages) list.

If a book is on the list, the attempt to borrow it is noted down in another secret list and permission is refused. If the book is not on the blacklist, permission is granted.

The list of forbidden books (the blacklist) is a forbidden book.

The lists of books forbidden in other countries are also forbidden books.

Any book that mentions the title (URL) of a forbidden book is itself a forbidden book.

An international investigative newspaper (Wikileaks) reveals key internal documents on the censorship expansion plans for Germany, Australia and other countries. For Australia this expose includes the lists of forbidden books and the presence of clearly political books on the list. The newspaper warns that Australia is acting like a "democratic backwater" and risks following the censorship path of Thailand.

The article and lists, and then the entire newspaper secretly added to the list of publications banned by Australia.

The Australian "Minister for censorship", Senator Stephen Conroy, states "Any citizen who distributes [the blacklist] is at serious risk of criminal prosecution". The Minister threatens to refer the leak to the Australian Federal Police.

That same week, the newspaper releases three more articles on censorship and updates the lists of forbidden books.

Two buildings related to the newspaper in Germany are then raided by 11 plain clothed police. The police demand the keys (passwords) to a protected room (server) containing the newspaper’s printing press so they can disable it. The newspaper staff refuse to comply–both the keys and the press itself have been sent to Sweden, a country with stronger legal protections for journalists.

The German police then seize what they believe to be the newspaper’s archives (a hardrive) and a typewriter (laptop) "for evidence".

The story might end there, but 12 hours after the police raid, on Wednesday the 25th of March, the German Cabinet announced the completion of a proposed law for a nationwide, mandatory censorship system–to be pushed through before national elections in September, 2009.

For every noble human desire, in this case, the strong protective feelings most adults have towards children, opportunists such as Senator Conroy and his German equivalent, CDU Minister Ursula von der Leyen, stand ready to exploit these feelings for their own power and position.

Von der Leyen apparently hopes to raise her profile before a national election by promoting a national censorship "solution" to child pornography.

But forcibly preventing the average parent from seeing evidence of what may be an abuse against a child is not the same as stopping abuses against children. Absense of evidence is not evidence of absense.

Censoring the evidence promotes abuses by driving them underground, where they are difficult to track. Such schemes divert resources and political will away from proven policing solutions which target producers and consumers.

Children depend, even more than their parents, on the quality and viability of government. An assault against those systems and ideals which keep government honest and accountable – public oversight, natural justice, and protection from state censorship – is not just an affront to Enlightment ideals, but an assult on the long term interests of children and adults alike.

The March 24th raid is not the first time the German state has attempted to censor Wikileaks; back in December 2008, Ernst Uhrlau, former police chief and current head of the BND, Germany’s equivalent to the CIA, threatened to prosecute the site unless it removed a BND dossier on corrupt officials in Kosovo and other information. The dossier was not removed. There is no evidence that the police action and the BND incident are related, but the situation, together with a recent Bundestag inquiry documenting illegal BND spying on the German press, does not paint a flattering picture of the state of German government.