US underwriting "liberation technology" projects to route around internet censorship abroad

"The Obama administration is leading a global effort to deploy 'shadow' Internet and mobile phone systems that dissidents can use to undermine repressive governments that seek to silence them by censoring or shutting down telecommunications networks." From James Glanz and John Markoff in the New York Times.


  1. Dear Mr. Obama,

    I am an unwilling customer of AT&T, a known extralegal collaborator with my nation’s shadowy clandestine intelligence services, and my only alternative is Comcast, which has deployed sophisticated Sandvine appliances to routinely censor peer-to-peer data transmissions.

    I can has shadow internets?

    1. Well said! My mind was so boggled by this when I read it this morning that I was speechless, but you hit it outta the park.

      There are no depths that our govornment won’t stoop, there really isn’t. They’re gonna provided this shit only to sweeten the situation up for our military and corporations to move on in to pillage, plunder and suppress. I can well imagine they’re working on ways to con or force desperate peoples into using these devices too, which is just despicable.

  2. while simultaneously having ICE seize domain names of websites accused of infringing on copyright without due process.

    Conflicted messages from our government? no way!

  3. So are these kinds of technologies going to have special “features” that will permit the GOV to kill them on demand? I’m thinking back to the crypto wars (1.0) when the US GOV wanted to build backdoors into all exported crypto technology for fear of having it used agains them.

    That tactic ultimately failed.

    1. “That tactic ultimately failed.”

      Are you sure about that? FYI, it’s possible to remotely activate the mic on your cellphone. You don’t have to have backdoors when yours is the only door. And have you read the source code to the SPICE models that was used to make the etch masks on every piece of silicon you use?

      Let me put it this way: unless you are jumping through some serious hoops, the spooks know what you said and to whom. And if you don’t jump through the right hoops, they will know that you said it when no-one else knows you said it.

      1. “And have you read the source code to the SPICE models that was used to make the etch masks on every piece of silicon you use?”

        I’d like to see a set of secret instructions on a piece of silicone that nobody knows are there suddenly wake up my phone and start causing my phone to operate like a bug. Moreover, I like them to use the mic on the phone that barely works when I use it to make calls. Finally, could you get a bunch of sad sack government employees to implement this wonder technology?

        What kind of crazy spy novel do you live in dude? Lemme clue you in here: unless you’re out there brazenly jumping through hoops to get the government to look at you, they won’t. They could really and honestly give a shit.

        “And if you don’t jump through the right hoops, they will know that you said it when no-one else knows you said it.”

        (SHHH! even when your just mumbling incoherently to yourself!)

        1. My point is that you don’t know what’s on the silicon you use everyday. And you don’t get to know, unless someone reverse-engineers those chips.

          ” … silicone … ”

          … silk purse, sow’s ear.

          1. Everybody talks about the silicon, but never about the sapphire – nevertheless, the fact remains that it is the latter which gives to the former any use or interest that it may have, in every case.

          2. You don’t reverse engineer a chip to find out whats on it. You do it to find out what it does without actually looking at it. That way you can reproduce it’s function without copying it. It’s a copyright issue. If you’re worried about security and hidden functions on a chip you think you know everything about already, you can just take it apart and examine it. You’re not gonna go and sell copies of the chip now that you know exactly how it functions and so it doesn’t matter if you reverse engineered it or not.

  4. Seriously? Does it work against the United [FBI/NSA/TSA/Goldman Sachs/DHS/ICE/police] States of America? Talk about multiple personality disorder(or whatever it’s called now).

  5. Finally high speed carrier competition at my house! I was wondering when the oligopolies would be recognized and ended.

  6. What a bunch of naysayers! The USA is the land of the free. Its government would never do anything to curtail individual freedoms.

  7. I live in China, so I normally need to use a proxy for almost everything. A couple of weeks ago it stopped working, and I was reminded why it was so important in the first place. It isn’t a case of sensitive political stuff, Facebook and some blogs being blocked, there seems to be a new policy of ‘if it’s in a language other than our own, or if it uses software other than our own, we will block it’. Among other things, I can’t use my translation software as it needs a real internet connection and my online dictionary has stopped working properly. I would seriously love to have the restrictive policies those poor Americans have to suffer under every day.

    1. I live in China

      Judging by the quality of your English I presume that is by choice. If you don’t like living in a repressive prison – leave.

      1. I understand what you’re saying, but I’m perfectly entitled to remain in a country without appreciating every aspect of living there. Judging from this and many other threads, many people do the same thing in the USA. I’m here for my job, the language, the culture and many other reasons – just not the internet connection, obviously.

        1. Different strokes, right?

          Personally, I couldn’t stand knowing that my tax dollars go to the crooked bastards in the Chinese Communist party. I even avoid buying Chinese-made junk as much as possible. They are an evil empire and I want no part.

          Just hope that you never do anything they don’t like (including bypassing their firewall), because Chinese law is a fucking joke when it comes to truth and justice. I’m not American and I’m no American apologist, but (generally speaking) an American can ridicule the absolute shit out of anything they want. That’s the difference between China and the USA and that’s why your comparison is not apt.

          1. … and, Teapot, if you are not an astroturfer then you are missing out on a very good paycheck.

            Yes, we are “free”, for the moment, to flap our gums as much and the way we want. Remember though that, if it is of any importance, your free thoughts can very well be retrieved by any potential employer or the government. The former can mean that you won’t get certain jobs or loose the one that you have. The latter still can mean very bad juju for you if you’re judged subversive and influential enough, especially if you are not citizen enough of your “free” country of election. At the speed to which our societies are migrating toward less and less liberties, the day when some of what you said in you life can be used against you may not be that far. Well, probably not you.

            The idea of living under China’s rule just terrifies me. That doesn’t means that we should be reassured ourselves. There’s nothing much that I can do against what goes on in China. Maybe there is some that I can do here though, quite frankly, it is an uphill battle, where the hill is more like a cliff, one defended with small nukes.

            Yet I am living happy most of the times. I’d bet a large sum that quite a few achieve that same feat right now in China.


          2. The Tea Party of the USA, Teapot, would rather your tax dollars go to widespread, indiscriminate, and mandatory drug testing for everybody:


            How’s that for “reducing the role of Government in our lives”?

            Right-wing Americans = hypocrites.

          3. Oh yeah, it’s always the other side.
            So nothing hypocritical about putting a few shekels into some afterthought of a plan like this while seizing domain names for copyright violations, shutting down innocuous online gambling sites, denying FOIA requests for decades to come, and persecuting whistleblowers with legal and physical threats? These guys are giving Bush/Cheney a serious run for the Abuse-of-Power title.

            As others are saying, maybe we can stop worrying about the rest of the world and start trying to foment some democracy within our OWN borders.

          4. “Personally, I couldn’t stand knowing that my tax dollars go to the crooked bastards in the Chinese Communist party. I even avoid buying Chinese-made junk as much as possible. They are an evil empire and I want no part”.

            As far as I am concerned, it is impossible to sweep countries like this under the carpet. They are a huge trading partner with everyone and their products probably play a huge part even in your life. Some kind of informal embargo will have no influence apart from unjustifiably placating your conscience. Even if people really got behind it and China’s economy started to suffer, it would only cause an entrenchment in negative policies and the permanence of a system that is currently changing for the better. I would say that at this point, China’s people are freer and wealthier than at any point in their history, before or after the revolution. There’s a long way to go of course, but the scale of the issues that the Chinese government has to deal with dwarf any western country’s.

            The way I see it, China’s motivations are things like preservation of the country as a whole and sustainable development, including building its image on the global stage. This can lead to a number of ‘evil’ policies, some more excusable than others. For example, quietly quashing protests in the national interest when Middle Eastern countries are overthrowing their governments or at war with them; building huge dams that destroy multiple cities and ecosystems to provide the energy and water needs of developing cities (filled with people who are mostly looking for a standard of life below the average westerner’s standard) or controlling the internet by monitoring forums etc.

            I think the last one is one of the most hyped around the world, most western blogs and social network sites won’t submit to any of the Chinese controls and are blocked; a similar Chinese site becomes the de facto leader. Of course this is also part of the plan, as a lot less money leaves the country to hugely profitable companies like Skype, Facebook, Google etc. The fact is, this affects Chinese people a lot less than westerners, as they have all of the things that are blocked for us, they are just not allowed the anonymity that we see as our fundamental right. I agree that a lot of the penalties are overly severe, but it just isn’t the case that everyone has a one strike rule or anything. I personally know a Chinese woman who recently wrote on a Chinese blog that she felt it was time for a revolution – she was questioned and released, which is probably more than would happen in the US or the UK but hardly what we’d expect from an evil empire.

            To be honest, I’m not very political when it comes to where I live. I try to be respectful of the culture and keep the laws (I do draw the line though when it means I can’t even do my work without being blocked). I’m not comfortable with everything that goes on, but I really don’t see it as my responsibility to fix the countries I live in, nor do I see my living in a country as an endorsement of its political system.

          5. China and the USA are natural allies. You’ve got to work , actually consciously work at it, for it to become otherwise.

            From what I can see, the USA yet has some influential residents who still today feel the Gov of Taiwan is or ought to be the actual legitimate Gov of China…but even they recognize, imho, that the USA and China ARE natural allies – they just did not and do not agree with the way the Chinese wars of the 20th C played out, as to who ended up in charge there.

            I feel that all countries which share an ocean/sea basin are, because of that circumstance alone, therefore “natural allies”… and although history shows that in the past such countries have often gone to war, that fact alone does not obviate their relation as “natural allies” – on the contrary, as those wars occur simply because the interests of such countries are so naturally entwined, that what each does externally is important to the others – important enough to go to war about such, sometimes.

            And to the extent that a country’s external relations are determined by its internal politics, precisely to that extent are its neighbours and allies legitimately interested in what occurs internally in that country – but that is very far from saying that they have therefore any “right” to interfere, or otherwise change, another country’s internal politics.

            Other than, of course, by the use of non-violent persuasion and debate.

          6. China and Japan are, or Rome and Carthage were, natural allies? Somebody should have told them.

          7. Anon #42:

            Where people(s) share a natural asset, in every such case they would all be better off working together, rather than fighting with each other. The former conduct maximizes the potential benefits of that natural asset, while the latter destroys any which already exist.

            Previous generations and civilizations were ignorant of many other facts, too.

          8. Everyone would be better cooperating than going their separate ways, and going their separate ways than fighting. Sadly, that hasn’t given us any natural inclination to friendship rather than conflict. It would seem shared resources only exacerbate both.

    1. What is this, I don’t even…

      Oh just shoot me already.

      This place, I mean this fucking place… damn, ffffff….

      *runs into the night screaming with Cthulhu madness*

  8. Folks, no matter how it’s tarted up, privacy, personal freedoms and such are basically a consensual hallucination. Your freedom ends where the barrel of the gun starts. Today it’s me, tomorrow it’s you.

    Well, it’s not REALLY me, I’m a mere buffoon and no threat to anything…AND a publicity whore to boot. So I don’t mind the potential watchers, the electronic eavesdroppers, the surveillance–they’re the AUDIENCE.

  9. Ah, the day mesh networking becomes the norm, will be a glorious day indeed!

    Hope that it actually happens at some point…

  10. Apparently your message here was written in English and came through… How?

    I’d hate to be submitted to the controls China is applying on its citizens. I hate to be submitted to my government no less.

    Hopefully, I am not answering to some astroturfer.

  11. Just saw the second previous post below this on Boing Boing (about the FBI getting more snoopy on US residents). It seems that democracy is welcome abroad, but they want to keep close tabs on it at home.

  12. This stuff seems right up Cryptome’s alley…what have they got to say about this?

    “Official attacks and stigmatization of Anonymous, LulzSec, Wikileaks, Bradley Manning, Thomas Drake and others around the world accused of distributing information that threatens authoritatives, are coordinated with, and contracted to, commercial corporations, media and public institutions. As ever, privacy is to be sacrificed for security by requiring holes and weaknesses in privacy and security products. The State Department initiative reported today to distribute “suitcase” propaganda devices easily capable of containing backdoor spying features fits this campaign. ”


  13. Make no mistake, this is not being done to spread democracy and free the people. This selective endowment of “liberation technology” is only one part of a coordinated effort targeting governments that the US and her allies do not favor. What is surprising to me, is not the content of the announcement, but that this announcement is being made at all.

    This fellow offers in-depth analysis that is rarely seen:

  14. And of course, the superpower issuing these “shadow” systems would never think of installing sniffers, trackers or back doors into these systems, would they?

    1. Hah! Well, truth is sometimes stranger than fiction.
      Have a look at this:
      “US military buys social networking spy software”
      the software will ‘enable an operator to exercise a number of different online persons from the same workstation and without fear of being discovered by sophisticated adversaries.

      The only problem with that was that some countries would should down internet access, which undermined the credibility of social media revolutions originating in country “XYZ”.

      Deploying a shadow internet could/would theoretically fix that.

      1. Even hah-er. Your link:

        “Not Found

        The requested URL /2011/06/13/US military buys social networking spy software was not found on this server.”

        Best argument yet!

        1. My bad! I can’t fix the comment but here is link (in raw text glory).


          And bonus:

          Interesting disclaimer at the end of the second article.
          “We do not target US audiences, and we do not conduct these activities on sites owned by U.S. companies,” he said.

          … good to know! :)

          1. Thanks. I’m relieved this effort is intended only for online chats “with terror suspects.”
            Like Joy Behar.

  15. Coincidentally, Jacob Applebaum was just summarising his latest trip through the US border.

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