Tor Is a Foreign Policy Weapon of the U.S. Government

Via: Yasha Levine:

For years, the Tor Project — along with other U.S. government crypto tools like Signal — has been seen in almost religious terms by the privacy community as the only way to protect people from government spying online.

The Electronic Frontier Foundation held up Tor as the digital equivalent of the First Amendment. The ACLU backed it. Fight for the Future, the hip Silicon Valley activist group, declared Tor to be “NSA-proof.” Edward Snowden held it up as an example of the kind of grassroots privacy technology that could defeat government surveillance online and told his followers to use it. Prominent award-winning journalists from Wired, Vice, The Intercept, The Guardian and Rolling Stone — including Laura Poitras, Glenn Greenwald and Andy Greenberg — all helped pump up Tor’s mythical anti-state rebel status. Even Daniel Ellsberg, the legendary whistleblower, was convinced that Tor was vital to the future of democracy. Anyone who questioned this narrative and pointed to Tor’s lavish government support was attacked, ridiculed, smeared and hounded into silence. I know because that’s what Tor supporters tried to do to me.

But the facts wouldn’t go away.

The initial evidence that I had gathered in my reporting left little room for doubt about Tor’s true nature as foreign policy weapon of the U.S. government. But the box of FOIA documents I received from the BBG took that evidence to a whole new level.

Why would the U.S. government fund a tool that limited its own power? The answer, as I discovered, was that Tor didn’t threaten American power. It enhanced it.

The FOIA documents showed collaboration between the federal government, the Tor Project and key members of the privacy and Internet Freedom movement on a level that was hard to believe:

The documents showed Tor employees taking orders from their handlers in the federal government, including plans to deploy their anonymity tool in countries that the U.S. was working to destabilize: China, Iran, Vietnam, Russia. They showed strategy sessions, discussions about the need to influence news coverage, and control bad press. They featured monthly updates that described meetings and trainings with the CIA, NSA, FBI, DOJ and State Department. They revealed plans to funnel government funding to run Tor “independent” nodes. Most shockingly, the FOIA documents put under question Tor’s pledge that it would never put in any backdoors that gave the government secret privileged access to Tor’s network under question.

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