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[FYI] (Fwd) Imagine that you are afraid of a knock on the door...

------- Forwarded message follows -------
To:             	cypherpunks@toad.com, cryptography@c2.net
Subject:        	Imagine that you are afraid of a knock on the door...
Date sent:      	Fri, 26 Nov 1999 04:41:06 -0800
From:           	John Gilmore <gnu@toad.com>

Good word-mongering on the US-driven UK proposals to demand your
crypto keys.  I recommend that c'punks participate in the slashdot
discussion; injecting a few facts now and then can keep the debate
from degenerating into a competition to prove who's more clueless. 

Forwarded-by: Frank Ederveen <frank@our.domaintje.com>
>From http://www.slashdot.org -today:
By Richard Stallman (in Linux Today):

Imagine that the knock could be the police, coming in secret to
interrogate you. Imagine that they can demand you decrypt files
for them, and demand you tell them your code keys, even to get
evidence to use against you. In effect, they can force you to
testify against yourself, and it is a crime to refuse.

Imagine that for these offenses you are effectively considered
guilty unless you can prove your innocence: mere failure to comply is
the crime. If you do not have the key they demand, you will be
imprisoned unless you can prove it.

Imagine that they can behave arbitrarily, because their actions
are secret. They do not need to get a court's authorization to
demand your testimony. And if you tell anyone -- your friends and
associates, a news reporter, even in most circumstances an open
courtroom -- that you have been forced to testify, they will imprison
you just for telling.

Imagine that the only judicial control over these actions is a
special secret court, with no jury, where decisions are made by
judges chosen for their sympathy to the prosecution. Imagine that they
can hear evidence from the prosecutors in secret, so you do not even
have a chance to deny it.

Unfortunately, there is no need for imagination. This is a real
proposal -- not in China or Iraq, as you might expect, but in
Britain. It was proposed as part of the draft Electronic
Communications bill
(http://www.fipr.org/polarch/draftbill99/index.html), but has been
withdrawn from there, probably to be reintroduced shortly in a
separate "Regulation of Investigatory Powers" bill. (Proposals to
extend government power are often secreted in bills with
opposite-sounding names.) The country that gave the world the concept
of the rights of citizens, of protection from abuse of government
power, of the right to remain silent and not be compelled to testify
against yourself, is tearing up the concept and throwing it away.

The rot in the British legal system began under the previous
Conservative government, which passed an "anti-terrorist" law saying
that -- for certain crimes -- if you refuse to answer questions, that
can be held against you. Thus the first stone was thrown at the right
to remain silent.

As a supposed protection against abuse, this law said that courts must
not convict based on silence alone; they must have some other basis as
well. But the same law established that an official accusation of
membership in a prohibited organization can also be held against you.
This, too, is not sufficient by itself -- which only means that the
two together are needed for a conviction. If you are accused of
belonging to a prohibited organization, and you refuse to answer
police questions, you go to prison.

Of course, every law that undermines the rights of citizens has an
"urgent" justification. For this law, the justification was IRA
terrorism; but the cure is far worse than the disease. A century from
now, IRA bombing will be just a chapter of history, but the painful
effects of the "cure" will still be felt.

The "New Labor" government of Prime Minister Blair which replaced the
Conservative government is eager to extend this policy to other areas.
I was not greatly surprised to learn that the same government also
plans to eliminate the right to a jury in criminal trials (see The
Guardian, November 20 1999, page 1). These policies would gladden the
heart of an Argentine general.

When you speak with British officials about the issue, they insist
that you can trust them to use their power wisely for the good of all.
Of course, that is absurd. Britain must hold to the tradition of
British law, and respect the rights of citizens to a fair trial and

When you try to discuss the details, they respond with pettifoggery;
for example, they pretend that the plan would not really consider you
guilty until proven innocent, because the official forms that demand
your code keys and your silence are officially considered the proof of
guilt. That in practice this is indistinguishable from requiring proof
of innocence requires more perspicuity than they will admit to.

------- End of forwarded message -------