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Email service used by Snowden shuts down, warns against using US-based companies (theguardian.com)
509 points by weu on Aug 9, 2013 | hide | past | favorite | 166 comments

"Can we call it a police state now?"

I saw the question on Reddit after a different revelation last month. I feel like we're going to ask that question more and more.

I can only hope more and more of us are inspired, as Snowden was by Levinson (Lavabit's CEO) and many of us have been by both of them, and we act to protect ourselves and constrain our governments from overreaching to where they can't help repeating the disasters of previous overreaching governments.

My reply on Reddit when I see people bring that up is simple:

You insult people who have experienced a police state by calling what we are experiencing a police state.

A police state has no distinction between legislation and executive.

Our legislation is currently investigating the president for: * CIA coverup of the attack on our Benghazi consulate' * IRS targeting of political opposition

They're planning on using their primary power, the power over our nations money, to enforce not only strict budget cuts, but requiring that the President's signature legislative victory be repealed.

That's before we discuss the court and how they've treated the President. Remember when they threw out his NLRB nominations as unconstitutional?

Now someone will bring up spying, but I urge you to realize that Congressional distaste for spying is centralized among the less important Congresspeople. Our leadership on both sides of the aisle is largely supportive of the infrastructure, seeing as they wrote and passed all of the laws that make it possibly. That's not an executive behaving without regard to legislation, it's one working with them.

I don't see a police state, and I think being cavalier with terminology does a grave injustice to lessons of the past and the people who have experienced (and are experiencing) a totalitarian government with truly no checks and balances.

> You insult people who have experienced a police state by calling what we are experiencing a police state.

Did you live in a police state? I have.

What police state calls itself "police state"? Hint: no state calls itself that. There is always a nice fluffy propaganda label slapped on top. "Freedom Loving Republic Of ..."

> Our legislation is currently investigating the president for:

Oh look, two investigations. Do you want a list of all the new developments that have been happening recently with leaks. I suspect you are familiar with them.

> I don't see a police state, and I think being cavalier with terminology

I see the beginning of one. Police states don't often turn police states overnight. There is a slow process of erosion going on.

> does a grave injustice to lessons of the past and the people who have experienced (and are experiencing) a totalitarian government with truly no checks and balances.

For one, it depends what you compare it to. You choose to compare against other states. Ok there are lot of fucked up states. So still doing well there. Now there is another way to compare and to compare a country by its own propaganda, that is what people want or believe that country to be. "We love freedom" (yet we imprison and assassinate people without a trial). "We love privacy" (yet we spy on everyone). "We respect human right" (yet we torture people). Should I continue? Another way to compare is historically, compare US against US say 15 years ago. I would say things got worse.

Again if Somalia did this, nobody would care. When US does this, it is very serious. People expect more from US and US has more power. So a 500 lb gorilla not behaving nicely is a lot worse than an angry dog.

> Ok there are lot of fucked up states. So still doing well there.

> Again if Somalia did this, nobody would care.

I think you've just illustrated his point...Those fucked up states? Those are the actual police states (some of them at least). The whole point is that you can't just gloss over them, that's the injustice. I absolutely agree that we should hold ourselves to a higher standard, but calling it a police state is hyperbole that's not really helpful.

It's like calling the US a third-world country because you saw a homeless camp. It belies a lack of perspective as to what an actual third-world country is.

> I think you've just illustrated his point...Those fucked up states?

But if you read my comment it depends what metric you use to compare. I choose to compare US against what other expect from US and what it should expect from itself. Also US against its historical state (now many would argue this is not looking too good either).

Now another way to look at it is like this -- qualitatively vs quantitatively. It seems to me (and I maybe wrong) that qualitatively we didn't have these provisions to imprison people without trial, to torture them, to assassinate, we weren't supposed to spy on American citizens. This was understood by the government, legislation and citizens in general. What changed is that the legal framework (using weasel words and loopholes) has been shaped to allow these things. Qualitatively one could argue these are the same legal provisions that would allow a police state to exist just by turning up the level of torture, extra judicial killing, indefinite detention, total monitoring and recording. Those are there now.

Now quantitatively. You got to lunch with your friends on Saturday to a cafe in Chicago. Should you be afraid of a drone strike and you'd rather hide in a basement? No. It is not happening. Can you still yell about how stupid the president is? Yes. But my point is, from that reality to this is just a matter of turning up the levels not really building or overcoming a major hurdle of putting together a new legal framework.

Simple test to see if you currently live in a police state: You've freely typed this critical comment about the government on an internet message board. You will be comfortably typing another critical comment Monday morning when you are back at work and were not thrown in jail over the weekend to rot.

You don't live in a police state.

This test fails to detect many existing police states.

I lived in Cuba for a while. Many people would consider that a police state.

Yet people were free to vocally criticize the government. And they did.

The government tolerated it because they knew those particular people were harmless. It only clamped down on those that posed an actual threat to their authority.

The ideal police state treats law-abiding citizens very well (free schooling, education, social programs, etc.), and treats law-breaking citizens very poorly.

Cuba is an especially interesting case because it's a communist police state which is also a tourist destination for huge amounts of free, affluent Westerners every year. That means that they can't use any of the standard 'scare tactics' of a police state (assuming they would if they could), such as having soldiers policing the street constantly.

I was also told by a guide that they don't allow imagery of the ruling leader (e.g. posters to say 'Hey, Fidel is so great!') because they don't want government to turn into hero worship. After a leader is dead, then their image can be used in 'publicity', but not before.

So Cuba's a really interesting state.

They police people pretty heavily with neighborhood watch associations called CDRs. But, from my experience, the hammer only came down when someone rose above a certain threshold of undesired activity.

You're right, I saw no Fidel images. Tons of Che.

> Simple test to see if you currently live in a police state: You've freely typed this critical comment about the government on an internet message board.

Actually...no, I did think about posting it. A month or two ago, I wouldn't have. I am actively engaging in censorship. I still posted it, but I did hesitate for a while. What if I have a defense related project in the future? Will they read back to me this comment? It did cross my mind. So by that test well, it got worse certainly.

Ever since AltaVista/Lycos/Hotbot et al what you type and say online can come back to haunt you. This isn't anything new....

We do need to keep checking every few months to be sure. I never felt the need to do that 10 years ago.

These issues aren't black and white. Calling the US a police state is perhaps unhelpful.

Emerging police state may be more accurate. The people who use such language note trends. The USA still has liberty, but things are moving in the wrong direction.

An article is on the front page on the increasing militarization of police forces. This level of police action surpasses the level of state violence in many police states.

I've lived in one police state: Cuba. In many ways, the Cubans were freer of speech than Americans are, and they faced less police intrusion in their lives.

And, in other ways, the Cubans were less free and faced more restrictions on speech. Chiefly, when someone decided to step out of line and move from passive complainer to actual threat to the state.

My point is this. The USA is still a free country. Citizens enjoy great liberty. However, there are many elements of US society that surpass the excesses of 'police states'. Those trends are increasing, not decreasing.

Pointing out that the institutions of American democracy still exist and exercise certain functions does not refute any concerns about increasing state violence.

When is the appropriate moment to voice concerns that the USA is moving towards becoming a police state? Once it happens, it will be too late.

I agree with you in that a key difference would be if people were held accountable for illegal acts. However, simply investigating the president is not enough - it would actually need to be possible for him to be accused and held liable.

An investigation in which the conclusion is already obvious and no one will be held accountable is not really an investigation, it is only smoke and mirrors. Throwing out one set of nominations as unconstitutional among hundreds is the same smoke and mirrors.

The ability to create a public drama while the real decisions occur underneath is certainly no proof of the lack of totalitarian government. Not that I'd say the USA is a totalitarian government, just that your proof is very shaky.

Being held accountable is irrelevant. If what people want is someone to be accountable, people will get scapegoats.

The key difference would be that when acts happen that defy the needs and expectations of society that those actions end.

If Keith Alexander was blamed for acting without authorization and imprisoned for treason and then NSA operations went quietly on their way again, that wouldn't necessarily mean anything.

If on the other hand, there was no punishment doled out, but instead any apology was given out and the PRISM program and similar were dismantled, and a new intelligence system were built in its place with support and approval from the public. Maybe something with proper auditable checks and balances, something with less risk to the public. If that was the case, even if nobody was punished, the situation would improve.

Calling for punishment or vengeance will satisfy emotions. It doesn't do anything to change the status quo. I'm not in the US, but if I were, I wouldn't be calling for the President to be held accountable, or anyone else. I would be calling for change of the laws and processes that I felt were violating my rights.

I think this is especially true in a system as complex as government. There is no one person truly responsible for these systems. So to focus on punishing a person is meaningless. People can be forced to do things despite the potential punishment. People can have decisions made by more powerful people attributed to them.

In the end though, it is more important that bad behavior stops than it is that we exact retribution on some person for it happening. If the latter happens without the former, it's worse than meaningless.

Many of us are calling for changes, many people thought electing Obama would facilitate this change. I think these people are the most upset of all; the man ran on a campaign of change ...

There is a general concensus among people across the political parties that things are broken. Congress is not good, the President is not doing a good job and problems are mounting.

The majority realizes that the system is broken (ish), things are bad, the government should be doing something about it instead of prolonging the status quo -- and yet we can't get any meaningful change going.

I just don't understand it.

You guys need to do what we are doing in Brazil, protests every day until government change its position and create a true agenda, and a new pact with his people.. its working over here.. the government are doing now in weeks things it use to take years to do..

We live in a age where polititians are completely obtuse from the people who elect them..

we live in the age of schizophrenic democracies.. the people are much more evolved and sophisticated, and they are still doing the same sort of politics it use to work in the past..

well, we need to make them hear a clear message, they need to hear that things have changed, we changed for the better, and if they insist in not listening to us.. let them know that or they do it, or we will make it work in other ways..

but making them know we are not just that silly harmless sheap that accepts everything anymore.. and that consumism its not enough anymore.. we want and need more.. they will listen.

at least we are having a good experience overhere.. they are aware of us, of our needs and our expectations.. finally!

The election of Obama did facilitate a lot of change within NSA. It simply wasn't the type of change you all thought it would be, but it is an improvement in most respects compared to 2007's DoJ and DoD.

How so? At most he required they get explicit legislative authorization, which they did, rather than potentially being more easily struck down by the courts. Pretty much continued doing the same things as far as I can tell.

A significant paring down of the "watch lists" used by NSA (and TSA too, it seems), the revocation of the previous definition of 'torture', scrapping some of the surveillance programs of no useful intelligence value, stuff like that.

Certainly there is more that can be done, but I think if this whole affair is indicative of the reaction to be expected then I'm not surprised people avoided making oversight of these programs a loud and noisy public debate.

Ah. Those are things meaningful to those suffering directly but not to those designing security systems, which is what particularly concerns me.

I still think a Gingrich or Tea Party level congressional revolution in 2014, bipartisan, focused on "re-establishing effective oversight of the military/intelligence apparatus", should have reasonable odds of going through. There are enough districts which don't financially benefit from this (and a lot which are going to be hurt by it, like Silicon Valley and Redmond), that a number of junior congressmen could probably get elected on it (assuming they're not otherwise psycho).

I agree that it is important to reform the system, not just scapegoating. However, I think you minimize the importance of holding individuals accountable and the effect that has on the system.

For example, suppose Clapper is imprisoned for 6 months and looses his job for contempt of congress (he is the one who falsely told congress that the NSA was not spying on millions of Americans). I imagine it will be awhile before the next NSA leader decides to tell congress a porkie. Done properly, individual accountability has a systemic effect.

Why are you so sure these programs are illegal? Might it be possible that you find them distasteful, but that under our current Constitutional and legal regime, there's nothing for anyone to be "held accountable" for?

On the subject of whether it's a police state, illegality is irrelevant. If the law makes it a police state, it's still a police state.

But that's not the point to which I replied:

I agree with you in that a key difference would be if people were held accountable for illegal acts.

If you think the law makes it a police state, then argue about the law, but RyanZAG was suggesting that some evidence of a police state is that laws meant to restrain the government are not being enforced.

Constitutional challenges come in two forms: "on their face" and "as applied"

The people who argue this is constitutional have really only addressed the "on it's face"/prima facie sort of constitutionality.

Whereas, "as applied" is both harder to defend and attack because we know so little.

Part of the problem is the FISA Court. The court has the power to interpret the constitution, holds secret hearings, the rulings are secret and only government lawyers are allowed.

You can now break the law without even knowing it.

Not really, no.

For starters, the law creating FISA isn't something that one can "break", necessarily. The only ones who can run afoul of it are agencies like the NSA, not the populace at large.

More importantly though, the public law carves out a niche that they allow the NSA to operate under, with the proviso that the NSA get the activities pre-approved and overseen by the FISA Court, and with reports routinely made to Congress. The FISA Court verifies that the NSA's proposed activities fall within the scope of the FISA (as amendmended) and with normal case law.

For the approved programs (even the secret ones) they are approved because of the fact that they fall within the area laid out by public law (in the opinion of the FISA Court of course, but that issue underlies all of law).

Even in unclassified jurisprudence there are lots of examples of closed-door court sessions, gag orders, etc.

Now I agree that there are problems with the way the FISA Court is staffed and composed, but those problems don't derive from the closed-door nature as much as from the fact that a single person is able to stack that Court as he/she wishes.

That is part of the problem. A legal framework, relying in part on secret rulings re-interpreting the Fourth Amendment, have has been constructed for these programs to give them 'legality'. Secret courts, secret laws and secret rulings are blatantly antithetical to a democracy and do give the sheen of a police state, but at the same time politicians and talking heads can refer to these programs as 'legal'.

What amazes me is that Clapper can baldly lie to Congress and not even have to resign, let alone be prosecuted. Lying to Congress is a federal crime! Yet the government spends $40 million prosecuting Roger Clemens for lying to Congress about steroids, and they couldn't even get a conviction.

Also, Clapper has been wrong about many things, including Libya and Egypt. I believe the US government wants total spying because their intelligence agencies are so incompetent at identifying threats. 9/11 proves this as the CIA had identified two of the hijackers as Al Qaeda members, determined they had US visas and then did not tell the FBI or State Department. The NSA had phone transcriptions of terrorists and refused to share them with the FBI. The FBI actually started building listening stations in Africa and the east at great expense due to NSA intransigence.

Before 9/11, they were very vigilant about respecting laws on intelligence gathering. After 9/11 it all went out the window, laws were broadened and oversight has been strangled.

The implication is that it's unconstitutional.

And a violation on such scale...

I haven't seen any evidence of programs that are prima facie unconstitutional. You may wish that the Fourth Amendment required a warrant to search any of your communications, but that's not how the courts have interpreted it. Nations have been opening messages that crossed their borders for centuries.

That's not to say each and every instance of these programs has always been scrupulously constitutional, but we never expect our government to get it right 100% of the time. That's why the FISA court exists. You may wish its oversight were stronger or its opinions always public, but again, nothing about how it operates is obviously unconstitutional. Certainly not as self-evidently as some people around here seem to assume.

If America's founders had wanted the government to conduct secret tribunals, they would have made provision for such in the Constitution.

Instead, their intentions clearly were in the other direction.

They are opening messages that don't cross borders.

Deliberately? Which program does that?

So your problem is that the country doesn't treat people as guilty until proven innocent?

I think you're being pedantic. No knock, no warrant, no redress when they murder you or a loved one for your family = police state, plain and simple.

That they can take your assests without proving any criminal wrongdoing surely tips the balance into police state.

At some point, it becomes a pointless semantic game. It's clearly not Stalin-bad, but it's still pretty damn bad. There are solid reasons both to support and dispute the label of "police state".

To strive for accuracy, I'd go with "unaccountable oligarchy" or "faux-democratic tyrannical beauracracy". Not as punchy, admittedly. You could also call it "soft fascism".

Ultimately, we live in a new and unprecedented form of state power run wild, and while there are echoes of history, it's probably going to continue to unfold in a mostly unique way. There's no reason to forcibly apply the old labels any more than there is to call an airplane a "winged tank".

How about some doublespeak of 'compassionate fascism'. or "Uniquely American Fascism". or "Freedom Fascism".

I hope pg is reading these comments and is pleased that hn has become one more of the innumerable discussion boards where calling the U.S. a "police state, plain and simple" has become part of the everyday discourse. Yuck.

I know there has always been a strain of the paranoid (sometimes well-earned) in hacker culture, but presumably it wasn't what this site was built to highlight.

I'm so tired of this viewpoint. You may not realize it, or value this revelation, but the issues we are discussing regarding the NSA, Snowden and the electronic spying is of critical importance. We are seeing the shaping of the present and the future of the Internet and thus all human communications.

I am beyond happy and proud of HN for keeping such a discourse about these issues! I have so much more respect for the HN community for keeping these issues on the front page and having such a sober view of their implications!

It's exceptionally naive to think that these issues are not related to what HN is all about: technology startups; what if your going to build "the next google" - clearly then you will come face to face with some MIB demanding access to your users data. If you don't pay attention to what's going on now, and develop an understanding of how grave this situation is, you'd never be in a position to build the future without furthering an actual police state.

The world is being steamrollered by the interests of the .001% and there is no reason why it has to be that way.

Edit: minor grammatical changes

I'd be discussing on HN if a shadowy entity suddenly put a backdoor on a service I run to watch my customers' actions within the app.

And I'm still very much annoyed that, as a foreigner who happens to have American customers and business partners, I'm told I have no reason to worry if the USG is watching my work, my personal activities and my relationships. I'd be just as annoyed if another entity was doing the spying and the posterior use of the information to punish me.

So I cannot understand why HN—a site for startup founders, programmers, tech business owners, and people working in technology—wouldn't be a place to discuss an entity watching our actions with the implicit threat of selective punishment.

I worry about some stranger getting access to our customer data. Why wouldn't I worry about a government, be it the US or any other country, getting access to that data?

I am beyond happy and proud if HN for keeping such a discourse about these issues! I have so much more respect for the HN community for keeping these issues in the front page and having such a sober view of their implications!

Sober views like calling the U.S. a police state? The train where hn had a high-quality discussion about U.S. surveillance and national security policy left the station long, long ago. It was about the time we were getting minute-by-minute postings on the exact position of an airplane seat that didn't contain Edward Snowden.

Yes, calling out the US on the fact that it actually is a police state is sober. If you do not recognize what the true nature of the US is at this point, then you may be in denial about it.

While you might say that things are "not that bad" - just because you hav some relative "comfort" (so long as you're not against the State) - does not mean that the actual architecture of the system is not that of a police state.

Just out of morbid curiosity, when do you think the U.S. became a police state? Decade-level precision is fine.

I would love to give you the long version of this, but here is the answer to your question:

The US became a police state as soon as the CIA did its coup of the executive branch. Now, when this actually occurred is debatable - but my opinion is that they succeeded 100% once GHW Bush took the VP spot as Reagan's handler.

This coup was a LONG time in the making -- and goes all the way back to Prescott, but ever since 1980 - every president has been a puppet of GHW Bush and the CIA.

If you're interested in sources and history, we can discuss further...

Intriguing. So why did GHWB lose his reelection campaign? Did he do something to upset his superiors or was losing just a smokescreen to better orchestrate things from behind the scenes?

The illusion of hoice must continue. While I cannot say that GHW Bush wanted to lose the election, I can say that it didn't mater.

Clinton was brought into the CIA fold after his complicity to allowing CIA drug importation to Mena Arkansas.

Here is a brief clip where Clinton does not deny any of the allegations of the trafficking - he simply attempts to deny any awareness of it.

Watch the Mena Connection....



There is a lot more to it as well.

Perhaps a better question is, in what decades did the US start being a bully to others, including its own citizens.

It probably started with Latin American countries (CIA coups, Smedley Butler), vietnam, Iran (Shaw), Afghanistan (when the CIA radicalized them to fight the russians), etc. Ike warned of the MIC, and he was right. Now we're turning the lens inward, as the empire is totally insolvent.

You can increase the quality of HN threads by replying to such "paranoid" comments with a counter-argument instead of complaining.

By engaging in a line of comments that is so far from reality, the quality of discussion is lowered because it is off in the weeds instead of confronting the real issues.

One of the reasons I generally like HN so much is because there is so much expertise around that the comments often get right to the actual heart of an issue.

A great example is something like the P ≠ NP attempted proof from a couple years back: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=1585850 The top comment is extremely informative, nearly the best commentary you could find about the issue anywhere.

Imagine if the top comment was instead from one of the numerous people who believed they had already proved P = NP or P ≠ NP, and they went off about their own theories and disparaged all of the mathematical community for ignoring them. A mathematical quack, basically.

The people who actually understand math could spend their time refuting this guy, but by doing so the overall signal-to-noise ratio of the site would go down, and with it the overall comment quality. And besides, the quack has probably heard it all before and it didn't change his mind. So instead people vote stuff like this down so that the top comments are from people who actually know what they are talking about.

The problem with stories like this is that the equivalent of these mathematical quacks get voted up to the top. The natural hacker distrust for authority, which on one hand motivates good and productive work on privacy/anonymizing technologies, in this case motivates people to post comments that involve low-quality grandstanding and statements about the political situation that are objectively false. Sure it is possible to refute them, but S/N ratio is still lowered and no one's mind gets changed anyway.

By the way, I'm not someone who is downplaying the significance of Snowden's revelations. I just want to read a discussion that really cuts to the heart of the issues, instead of generic outrage, vague calls to action, and outright inaccurate statements like calling the US a police state.

By engaging in a line of comments that is so far from reality

Just because it's far from your reality doesn't mean it's the same for everyone else. People are constantly bombarded with articles about the US engaging in potentially illegal and unconstitutional activities that affects a lot of internet users, so it's only natural people get upset about it and let their emotions run wild, thus resulting in the "paranoid" comments that we now regularly see.

You should take the time to show these people an alternate point of view, because your comment will not only be read by the person you're replying to (who may or may not change his mind), but also by the thousands of lurkers who don't even participate in the discussion.

> I just want to read a discussion that really cuts to the heart of the issues, instead of generic outrage, vague calls to action, and outright inaccurate statements like calling the US a police state.

And yet instead of the usual 100% noise of naive brogrammer narrow political relativism, you are seeing some more interesting replies from people who say they have actually lived in police states and that this is where things are heading.

criley2 did that and got the cookie-cutter response I replied to. That response is the same as you'd read on any of a hundred boards that love to tread over and over through black-helicopter-ville. Nobody's mind is being changed and nothing new is being added to the discussion. Like those boards, it's boring as hell.

So a discussion in 4 parts then:

1. What attributes constitute a condition we call a "Police State"? (a list of which you already provided)

2. Does America (or some part of it) have those attributes?

3. Assuming the above is "Yes", what can we do to make it not have those attributes? (e.g. call currently elected representatives, elect representatives based on their historical opposition to those attributes, avoid certain companies or products, etc...)

4. How do we track if these actions are being performed and how effective they are?

Actually, we probably don't need to do categorize negative attributes so much. We can probably just focus on reversing the attributes we think are making our country worse.

Also, enacting political change is a skill as old as civilization I'm sure. There is probably lots of material around on how to do it effectively. We can start by reading and trying some of that stuff in place of arguing in circles about what is and isn't a police state.

(edit: formatting)

Crap, I accidentally fat-fingered my vote into a downvoted. I meant to upvote you.

This is an issue among programmers and technical people because it affects us politically and monetarily. Who wants to use SAAS (aka Amazon, Azure, etc), when security is compromised? Why can't I trust Google, Yahoo or Microsoft? Why should I build any services or web sites when they can pulled/compromised just because a certain user or group accessed them or I pissed someone of power off?

Yuck is right. The truth is yucky. "The truth will set you free, but it's gonna piss you off first"

Surely people calling the US a police state is largely down to recent events.

I don't think that it is largely speaking that people who always thought that the US is a police state have suddenly appeared on HN, but more that people on HN who didn't previously think that the US was a police state are changing their minds.

The US has the worlds highest incarceration rate per capita than any other country and has just been caught running a global surveillance network that would make even the Stasi blink. To not use the term police state when discussing all of this would be weirder.

Paranoid? I'm sorry, have you removed your head from the sand at any point in the past year? You've mentioned in previous posts that you're thankful for particular amendments to your constitution. Your government is currently engaging in a systematic and aggressive teardown of said constitution. Without consulting anyone outside of the state apparatus. And which arm of the state is largely carrying out these attacks? The repressive arm. Police and military.

Perhaps if you come up for air (and sun, it's good for you) you'll see that discussion about police states is both relevant and extremely important at this time. Many people don't want to dive head-first off the cliff with you.

If you don't like the conversation then leave.

If he doesn't like the conversation, let's encourage him to stay and provide evidence for his point so that HN doesn't become an echo chamber. I find this model very helpful: http://www.paulgraham.com/disagree.html

I've done that! I did that with Slashdot, and Reddit, and a few other places besides. You guys seem to follow me into whatever new place I end up, and start the politics conversation back up again. Why can't it be you guys who leave for once? :c

> You insult people who have experienced a police state by calling what we are experiencing a police state.

I think you insult their experience much more by allowing your country to become a police state while denying what's happening.

It's true, it could be far, far worse. But that doesn't change the fact that the US is rapidly moving into that direction. The fact that the executive branch and the legislature both support the police state, doesn't make it any less of a police state. Yes, you can call it something else, but a police state by any other name stinks just as much.

So... as long as there are two or more parties within the State, squabbling about issues unrelated to the over-reach of executive power, spying, police militarization, etc -- it's not a Police State?

Surely every police state has had factions that have vied for political primacy via such side-shows. That can't possibly be a disqualifier.

The Congress is not investigating the President with any desire to get to the truth, they (the House) are merely keeping this in the public eye to make him and Clinton look bad for Clinton's run for the presidency.

We do not have a functioning legislature.

>Our legislation is currently investigating the president for: * CIA coverup of the attack on our Benghazi consulate' * IRS targeting of political opposition

These investigations are politically motivated, effectively battles in a war between factions of the aristocracy.

I don't see a police state

That's because you haven't been on the wrong end of it yet. Many others in the same state have, and their experience trumps yours.

Those distinctions are increasingly meaningless in the US.

The entire NSA spying program was designed to thwart the separation of powers and to circumvent the democratic process.

> A police state has no distinction between legislation and executive.

What does that have to do with anything? There are any number of democracies in the world where that is true; google "responsible government" to learn more. The head of each executive agency in Westminster parliamentary systems is an elected legislator...

The essential characteristics of a "police state" involve excessive police supervision of the day-to-day activities of the citizenry, generally with the goal of disrupting and discouraging activism against the government.

"Can we call it a police state now?" is a question, and one that by its nature should be asked before the answer is "yes".

Except when it's a rhetorical question

Criley, have you lived in a police state? I did. I don't offend easily but my advice to you is that unless you had a dog in this race by living in a police state yourself, please think harder about saying what I will or will not be insulted by.

It is not so simple - trends are important.

For now few things are clearly visible:

1. US spends disproportionately on security and surveillance.

2. There is mission creep and mission search in all security related branches.

3. Vague laws gives prosecutors insane amounts of heavy mallets with which to threaten people - if 95% of trials end with guilty plea and a deal - due process is illusion.

4. US is having very high incarceration per capital ratio.

And while 4 has leveled in the last few years I think the other are accelerating. Of course it is not impossible to be reversed. Or even that hard.

>You insult people who have experienced a police state by calling what we are experiencing a police state.

Surely as a logical, intelligent HN poster you understand that this is not a valid counterargument? It is rhetorically quite a persuasive statement, but if you have a strong argument why is an emotional appeal necessary?

>A police state has no distinction between legislation and executive.

So when secret courts start popping up, what does that mean to you? When repressive arms of the state are free to exercise unrestricted surveillance despite prohibitive legislation, what does that mean to you?

The names of things mean very little. How they function is what's important.

This is rather silly. It's only a police state when there is literally no distinction, and the leader has absolute, unquestioned power, and always gets their way? Has this ever actually existed?

It's a continuum. All such terms are. Shouldn't people be upset when the current location swings noticeably in an undesirable direction? What else should it be called? "Can we call it a 45% police state with intermittent oversight favoring the executive branch yet?"

And anyway. Why get upset when others get a taste of something bad? Instead of being demeaned by it, why not support, since you know how bad it can get? Whenever stuff like this comes up, it's echoed by "That's insulting, in my day..." as if that somehow makes what's happening now not bad.

This isn't a contest for who knows / has lived in the worst governing body.

'My police state is worse then your police state!'

First, let me start by saying that I understand your position, and I can see how you arrived at it, but that I disagree with your assessment.

Using your own argument, you primarily rely on the distinction between legislative and executive branches as the determining factor on if police state = true. While I think it a bad argument in the first place (as it ignores all the nuances of what can constitute a police state, and ignores the various definitions of the word), I will allow for the time being that it is an argument worth having, and will simply assert that we currently have almost no distinction between the legislative branch and executive branches (I would also argue the judicial as well).

Here is why.

All three branches are compromised from multiple angles.

Angle 1. K Street (massive corporations and regulatory capture) Mostly affects congress, but has reaching effects in the other two branches. (elections/nominations in the exec, etc)

Angle 2. Dirty info. When the executive starts to gobble up everything on everyone, everyone becomes manipulatable. I think there is good academic standing to be had on the argument that many of our congresspeople are being blackmailed or manipulated in some other way by the executive.

Lack of use of tradition checks. We have a very specific checks and balances system, but because of the merging of the three branches that I propose is true, a simple test would be to see how often any of the checks systems have actually been utilized.

How often have any of the following occurred? Veto's, impeachment, removal of persons from office, declaration of an act as unconstitutional...etc.

In short, the three branches are in the process of merging (if they haven't already for all intents and purposes) All the things that you claim congress is pursuing against the president are part of the media based Hegelian dialectic. They are essentially none issues.

For example, on Benghazi, the congressional intel committee probably was more involved or at least more aware of what happened that the POTUS was. But they are investigating? They are the controlled opposition.

It is you, not anyone else, who is being cavalier with your terminology, and the implied assertion that because it's not as bad as X example in the past or present is a dangerous road, as it essentially encourages the "it's not so bad, so why are you complaining?" attitude. Also, who fucking cares if someone who has once experienced a "real police state" is "offended" by someone else's assertion of a police state. This is a slimy tactic used by people like the JDF...

unfortunately we seem to have gone from a system of checks and balances involving the executive branch, legislative, and judicial, to one of judicial, democrat, and republican.

and the press just plays dead

You have a distinction between legislative and executive in principle.

In practice, however, the tail wags the dog.

So, my apartment-mate last year was from Belarus.

I got in a bicycle accident on my way home, and somehow managed to get myself home (I don't remember this part) with my face pretty much split open. So, I called 911, and an ambulance and some cops came. The cops asked him some questions.

He freaked out. I got this lecture the next day about how he didn't sign up for this, how I needed to keep his name out of my trouble, how I'm bad news, etc.

I couldn't help but think that talking to the police meant something very, very different where he's from than where I am.

Food for thought.

Reminds me of the time I called the police to report an attempted break-in. An hour later they showed up and immediately ran my ID for warrants, I assume. Now I'm on the defensive because even if I wanted to call the police I probably won't.

While it's a common belief that the police in Belarus are reasonably corrupt, this is usually limited to bribery. Perhaps his visa was expired?

Grad student, so not likely.

I don't know about a police state, but I've maintained for a while we're clearly living in a very dystopian society.

The problem now is who's going to step into the vacuum and start providing services these people are being persecuted for?? I think this is the real issue. The further you push people down, the more they scatter and go further underground.

Sad, sad state of affairs for this country. . .

It is a surveillance state, the police state follows.

IMO we are currently in a surveillance state. I wrote my rationale on this on this 2 months ago: http://hubski.com/pub?id=88146

In short, the difference between a surveillance state and a police state is a matter of nature, but they have capabilities in common.

I think a police state will likely follow.

I challenge you to stop asking about it and stand up to do something about it.

The final difference between a true police state and now is that they're allowed to say that they're not allowed to say anything, or that's how it feels.

No, they aren't. I agree with @criley wholeheartedly: stop calling the US a police state. There's plenty to criticize without having to resort to blatant falsehoods.

How is it possible for Snowden to be inspired any further?

He sacrified his life for us. He is the inspiration.

Certainly no president in the next few terms will rest until he is rendered, he has to look over his shoulder now forever.

Thank you for your sacrifice Mr. Snowden.

If you are inspired by him, you should realize that he would want you to focus on the message, not the man himself. He's done a lot to initiate change, but others have in the past too. If we don't follow it up with appropriate political pressure, his sacrifices will have been in vain.

I think the wording there is a bit over the top, but yeah he has made great sacrifices and what he's doing is great.

I agree that Snowden is a hero, but fawning hero worship leaves less room for critical thought. This isn't about one man.

Sounds almost like he self-immolated. Russia is not such a bad place after all, for people with cash, and as a good professional he will certainly get some, and will enjoy celebrity status, and KGB will care for him rather than scare him.

Good bye all your friends. Good bye your childhood house. Good bye your parents.

And what I think should stands as the most important for people of your country... Good bye America.

Yep, sounds like he sacrificed his life. Sure, he can build a new one. But his last one? Pretty much destroyed.

I've read he also dumped his girlfriend before he leaked (to save her from US revenge).

Imagine you have to dump your loved one (against your wishes).

okay okay, i am not doubting Snowden is a good guy. I am just trying to tell there is nothing so tragic in his current situation (while of course, he risked much more). One day life will pay him back for this. And for now, he will be just fine. And there are plenty of good girls to date in Russia (and many of them are already attacking him).

He stills pretty much explodes Holmes and Rahe stress scale. Some people would have simply killed themselves. Sure, the guy has grit. Doesn't mean that he likes being there. It's a whole different life style. You have to build everything from the ground up.

Millions of people every year do the same, tens of thousands of them for same reasons (political dissidents turning refugees). And, normally they have lower status in their receiving countries than in home ones (because they are usually public persons with some visibility before leaving, otherwise it's hard to be a dissident), which is the reverse for Snowden who is a humble sysadmin turned celebrity.

Of course, it's better for him to stay in Russia then going to Equador as he planned, at least he will get a good job there. Certainly he will dislike St. Petersburg climate when the winter falls (very cold and humid), but there are places with decent climate and still good jobs.

He RISKED his whole life. He was fortunate and his plans turned out OK, and for the moment he remains beyond the reach of US power. He could have very easily ended up in US custody.

Sacrified his life? Please stop. He merely leaked classified data and sold pieces of it here and there. He is basically living the life of a celebrity right now yet dramafies his existence.

He's condemned to be a fugitive forever now. He can never go home, probably never see his family again. He also left his girlfriend behind.

So no he hasn't sacrificed his life, just his home, country, family and friends

He hasn't sacrificed his life in the sense that he's dead, but he has sacrificed it in the sense that he left behind the quite comfortable life he had back home. And if he gets extradited, who knows what kind of punishment he'd receive.

He was willing to risk his liberty and possibly his life for his country. That makes him a hero by any reasonable definition.

I wish I could say something in defense to all of you Snowden-zealots who would kiss his feet when in eyesight - but I am affraid of getting karma-killed again.

Don't be this naive, please.

Sick burn, it's almost as if you're acting like you're on a website that doesn't value productive discourse over petty, childish, condescending feces-slinging

> living the life of a celebrity right now

I very much doubt it's as glamorous as you seem to be imagining.

Exactly, he's living in hiding. Osama Bin Laden had to do the same, but for actually committing terrible crimes. Hardly the same magnitude and hardly living the life of a celebrity.

He is publicly available for theguardian journalists 24/7 to reply on current matters so you can assume the USA can pinpoint his exact location with precise accuracy. Unless you think the USA didn't know where Osama was either untill they did their raid?

Hiding like Osama? Quite the opposite wouldn't you say? Don't we all pretty much know where he is all the time?

>sold pieces of it here and there

care to back that up?

HN folks. I think ck2's response and pearjuice's response are both inaccurate as they represent an extreme view. It might be useful to read about celebratory and the attractions and psyche of those that are drawn to it. Many of you here share Snowden's feelings but none of you did what he did. Was it simply his sense of justice that made him do this? Or something more? If he'd stayed in the US and immediately faced the music it would be much more apparent that he's a true hero willing to sacrifice everything for his beliefs. Once he plotted the whole thing and moved to a safe place before releasing it and has looked to avoid any punishment for his actions by trying to get to or stay in safe countries it's apparent that it's not a black and white case. So I don't understand why ck2's kind of dreamy eyed quote is treated differently to anovikov and pearjuice who are in downvote hell. The answer is Snowden is neither hero nor vilan.

I don't worship Snowden at all or see him as celebrity. If anything I wish there was 100% more attention on the information he brought to light instead of him.

I merely recognize his extreme sacrifice and thank him for it.

If we are supposed to thank the people who ran and signed up for the military to invade Iraq and empowered the insanity of the last administration, we most certainly can thank Snowden for showing us that not only has the insanity not stopped, it may have gotten far worse.

Well ck2 it certainly reads like something close to worship. "How is it possible for him to be inspired any further?" "Sacrificed his life" "He can't be inspired, he is the inspirer" That's pretty strong stuff.

> If he'd stayed in the US and immediately faced the music it would be much more apparent that he's a true hero willing to sacrifice everything for his beliefs. Once he plotted the whole thing and moved to a safe place before releasing it and has looked to avoid any punishment for his actions...

That is an unreasonable standard. I guess Gen. Douglas McArthur should have stayed and faced the Japanese in the Philippines?

Why would hero status require being stupid about your situation?

I think when you look at "heroes" in history they stayed to fight for their cause vs runaway. I'm trying to imagine how effective Ghandi, MLK, Nelson Mandela or Rosa Parks would have been from Venezuela.

Did you just ignore my example hero? Staying and fighting might make sense, but there are also times where it means you are less likely to get your story out. Getting locked in solitary confinement with no access to the outside media is probably the stupidest way for him to get his message out.

He didn't avoid punishment by leaving the country. He almost certainly avoided torture (see the treatment Bradley Manning has received for an example). That makes this a whole different ballgame. He's a political refugee and yes, he is a hero for what he gave up.

Proof that he sold information please?

CALEA (Communications Assistance for Law Enforcement Act, 1994) addresses real-time monitoring of the communications of a single person, by way of a warrant. Lavabit has complied with warrants in the past [1] without shutting down services. Real-time interception does not fundamentally break Lavabit's security model [2] of encrypting incoming email and never storing the user's password, which is required to use their private key when they wish to access the mail. The implication in this shutdown is that the basic security model would be compromised, allowing untargeted retroactive snooping without needing to wait for the user to log in. Such a system is functionally equivalent to not having server-side encryption at all. Regardless of your stance on government snooping, this is just bad security, allowing a successful attacker to take all data in one shot rather than only being able to snoop on users currently accessing their mail.

[1] http://ia600908.us.archive.org/9/items/gov.uscourts.mdd.2362... [2] http://possibility.com/LavabitArchitecture.html

Reading this is super interesting...ever heard of a Consent to Assume Online Identity Form?

"Note how a country's human rights problems becomes of interest to the US political and media class only when that country defies the US"

I am glad Greenwald has cottoned on to this and also made pointed remarks on the use of the abuses of others to question the ethics of Assange and Snowden in their "choice" of destination. It's reminiscent of the cold war retort from the soviets.

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/And_you_are_lynching_Negroes

Snowden: "Google, Facebook, Microsoft, Yahoo, Apple, and the rest of our internet titans must ask themselves why they aren't fighting for our interests the same way".

Indeed, they must. Your move Google, Facebook, Microsoft, Yahoo and Apple.

You mean: Your move Larry, Mark, Steve, Merissa and Tim.

In the end the base unit of society is still the human, no matter how many layers we place around them.

correction: > no matter how many [lawyers] we place around them

A CEO/Chairman hurting a public companies profit via protest against NSA would result in shareholder lawsuits. Another good example of the the legal constructs around corporatism and public stock markets hurting the inherent protectionism from abuse free markets offer society.

Corporatism often prevents large companies from acting morally, whether by being protected from real repercussions for acting maliciously via being a single legal entity (resulting in mass settlements not individual employee liability) or their legal obligations to only care about short-term profits (post-IPO), not long term gains or societal benefit.

What happened when Google left China?

Their shares went down immediately after due to concerns they forfeited the opportunity to expand their business in the world's 2nd largest economy, but as the immediate economic damage was immaterial their decision wasn't followed with a deluge of shareholder lawsuits.

Google already bowed out of one major market due to ethical disagreements, asking them to do that again with their home market is unrealistic - lobbying to mend the laws is the more sensible approach and one that scales better to businesses of that size.

Besides despite disagreements with US policy it's still not China.

US policy: it's still not China.

now there's a campaign slogan for 2016.

It's all about the billion$.

Shifting the blame and the burden for policy reform onto firms is not only silly but also unfair, you can't really expect them to shut down, they are not one man operations like Lavabit.

> you can't really expect them to shut down

Well, before a few weeks ago, I couldn't really expect my government to spy on all its citizens, use secret courts to bully companies into giving them access to my data, share it with law enforcement for "parallel construction" (intelligence laundering) purposes, and lie to congress about what they were doing.

If you had told me a few decades ago that this would be the situation in the United States at the start of the 21st century, I would have laughed in your face and called you a crackpot, a lunatic, a conspiracy theorist. Absent something like losing World War III, there was no way the United States could become a totalitarian state in my lifetime.

Yet here we are.

It is not unfair. At least some of them, most notably Google and Facebook, actively allure their users to share more and more of their private data, while misleadingly claiming, that they are able to keep them safe. If more and more people will realize the risks of sharing their personal data with those companies, it can endanger their whole business model. So who should fight most vigorously, if not them?

And nobody says they have to immediately shut down.

It really is time for a Facebook competitor to stand up and say "we will say FK YOU to the NSA/US/any other government requesting your data" by being based somewhere else safe. I'm sure they could use all this to their advantage to gain a lot of traction right now. I remember a couple years back there was a lot of talk about open srouce/p2p based social network (mind is coming to a blank to remember the name)... something like that more appealing to the masses!

You can't declare that they're not fighting because you have no knowledge of what is being done by their lawyers and lobbyists, especially since the courts involved are secret.

Lobbying scales better than shutting down or suspending service.

Right, we have no knowledge that they're fighting for us. And until we do, we put our money where our mouths are, stop using their services until we can be sure they're honoring our privacy. If anyone is able to fight, it's them, not the small businesses. So put the burden on them, if they want our data, then prove they can keep it safe.

> you can't really expect them to shut down

Why not?

And now we have completed the move to the story is about Snowden.

I wonder what his favorite food is? What is his favorite band? Where is his favorite place to shop? What does he think of the architecture of St. Basils?

A few more weeks and it will be 'Privacy Expert Snowden says...' and no one will remember why he's even famous.

Neither the story itself nor the actual title of the piece is about Snowden; whoever submitted the link to HN highlighted the comment by Snowden in their own title. Did you click the link? Did you read the article?

It's even more ironic when you consider that Greenwald has criticized others in the media for focusing more on Snowden and his day-to-day actions or location instead of the NSA revelations.

You are exaggerating a bit, aren't you? The story is quite directly related to him, so what's wrong with asking about his opinion?

Stop assailing our great leader Snowden Christ.

Hmm... its possible for people to miss even massive changes in culture at the point of inflection.

I personally felt it this morning when I was getting ready to reply to an email to a friend with a cold-war joke that in times past I would have never thought twice about sending. I didn't send.

Obviously you should have remembered to use the term "Dear Leader". Get it right next time.

Kind of sucks for those customers though, who can't get their email out. I get it, but man I'm glad I didn't use lavabit. The lavabit founder is probably going to have to deal with some serious civil legal problems, and maybe even criminal ones too.

I don't know where I stand on this. I feel like the NSA can't respond because they're trapped by the same secrecy that they operate in from speaking out, although the lies and backtracking don't help, so this echo chamber is just amplifying itself to the point people are making big bold moves that hurt themselves (and their customers) when anyone has yet to demonstrate a single instance of where the NSA has misused their information (if you don't assume the DEA parallel reconstruction is using NSA data, which is maybe speculative or not).

Well at least Obama is meeting with Tim Cook about this, because that makes sense. I've been thinking, why doesn't Tim Cook go talk to the president about this. Because...yeah.

Help me with this. A) I'm a non dev and b) I'm trying to cut to the chase vs use inflamed terms like Freedom of Speech and Police State. I'm piecing this together from the few comments I see that trying and get to the core of the issue.

i) Lavabit's provided a communication service (email) that was uniquely designed so as the content's literally did not touch their servers. Therefore, if the NSA came to them wanting to look at communications by their users they would literally be told "It's impossible to do that" ii) NSA (or government in general) says "We cannot allow you to have a service that is completely untraceable. You need to begin having a way to trace this. iii) Lavabit's understands that this is their commercial value proposition. Should they be forced to do this they literally go out of business. iv) They fight it hard for a while but realize it's futile so shut up shop vs slowly go out of business.

Is that right?

As a side note I'm somewhat uncomfortable with the Greenwald/Snowden circular loop. It's very close to a propaganda loop and not all that different to other media outlets who get two like minded people and thus really just have a mutually agreeable conversation vs a reporting role. The danger being of course it's passed off as news by being positioned as such.

> that was uniquely designed so as the content's literally did not touch their servers

It only touched their servers in encrypted form, never plaintext.

They would have had to wiretap their customer to retrieve content (for example, client side JS monitoring the next time the user accessed their email on the server) since all email was encrypted on the server harddrives and only accessible via the user.

Instead if it wasn't encrypted they could have used a normal search warrant which would have given the police access to the plaintext content immediately.

What was unique about Lavabit is that they never had the ability to decrypt the content without involving the user, since they never had the "private key".

This is the kind of scenario one would expect to find if encryption were introduced into a totalitarian society.

I know we all trust pg and all... but are there non-US-based alternatives to Hacker News that we should be considering?

I'd love to know what the consequences of making public these secret court orders and trials. One company standing up to the government and making public the actual content and threats could make a big difference.

Yet a "safe" email system is now gone. A better idea would be to move yourself and your encrypted email company to a country that will let you keep providing such a useful service (assuming there is one).

Email is not safe, by design. Even if you do encrypt the contents using PGP or GPG, the headers are too much exposure. They will know who when and with whom you correspond, and all the hosts the mail passed through (if you are not using anonymous re-mailers). The current implementation of email is "defective by design". But _there_are_ alternatives [1], you must just start using them.

[1] RetroShare, BitMessage, I2P Bote, Freenet + Frost and some others, which haven't tried yet.

It might sound odd, but I think an easier solution is to commit to being persecuted by the tyranny. The alternatives are to prevent it or live under it, committing to the persecution should encourage prevention.

I don't understand.

A robust and open society is a better weapon against tyranny than a well managed public profile.

With NZ becoming less safe, it seems that's exactly what Mega intends to do for its storage service and the upcoming secure e-mail service. If he does it right, it could fill the space left Lavabit and Silent Mail.


It's definitely becoming clear that the US stopped being a suitable country for companies interested in providing such services.

The darker side of this, they can't speak about it because of state secrets, and any other individuals involved in other stuff has to deal with the same problem.

I'd think, people would end up speaking out when they're threatened by the NSA to shut up, but they have nowhere to go for legal advice.

I wonder if the government or the NSA could manage to shut down a class action if there would be one.

Why is Lavabit, based out of Texas, appealing in the Fourth Circuit (Maryland, West VA, Virginia, North and South Carolina)?

Same reason more patent cases are taken to east Texas: some states seem more favourable than others to certain parties in certain types of case.

Patent cases are civil, you can absolutely choose where you want to go, correct. I can't imagine the same is true for which jurisdiction the government uses in handing down a NSL...as I type this I wonder if it came out of Maryland though...

Because NSA, CIA, etc... are in Maryland and Virginia?

Jurisdiction works on the defendant, not the plaintiff/prosecution (or rather, it's waived for them since they chose to initiate the action).

So yes, if the NSA and CIA already have proof that Lavabit serves some minimum amount of customers in those states then it would be proper to bring it in that federal district.

But it seems like they a) wouldn't have the proof needed until they got access to lavabit's assets or b) if they had the proof, they wouldn't need formal access to lavabit's assets

Kind of a circular problem but of course since we don't know what he's appealing and why...

Edit: Actually they could just use credit card information to establish customers so nvm

Edit2: Now that I've read a copy of the search warrant linked by someone else in this thread, I see what's going on

Now that we are seeing more and more publicity surrounding this issue and companies are at least attempting to be transparent, how can we spark a fundamental change in the way the Govt sees this issue.

The public need to hold these people accountable in some fashion, criminally is probably out of the question. Whether it be by some investigation committee by congress, supreme court intervention, or simply voting the current incumbents out.

We need to stop the Govt from just abiding by the letter of the laws and not by going with the Spirit of the law. The Government shouldnt be finding loop holes in their laws or playing games about the meaning of words when the are questioned by officials.

What's up with all of these news articles where person A thinks topic B is word "C", in quotes? Maybe I'm missing something, but just throwing words onto events and calling it news looks like unthoughtful neurolinguistic programming. "this thing is called 'horrifying'". Often the articles don't declare the subject, so we just see that an invisible someone has done something. Sort of like "Wall graffitied with "$GANGTAG" sign". Off topic, I know. Just having a tough time grappling with news articles titled like this..

This blew up more than I expected. It is the front page story now of Spiegel Online (one of the top German newspapers).


Why does it have to be Paypal? They've already proven themselves unreliable in cases such as this.

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