In the wake of the scandal about PRISM, the NSA and their buddies from Great Britain and elsewhere, we have witnessed some services on the internet folding. In the past two weeks two services offering encrypted mail closed shop. Lavabit being the first, giving up after 10 years to protect their customers. Lavabit came into focus of the government because Edward Snowden used it for his emails. Obviously Ladar Levison, who founded the service, was forced to “voluntarily” give up his service. The second one is Silent Circle, a company co-founded by crypto-gurus Phil Zimmerman and Jon Callas. They also shut down their pgp-encrypted email service, while they are working on a mail client based on P2P that will leave no data to retrieve. CEO Michel Janke lets us know in a very interesting video-interview, what he sees happening.
As if that was not enough, we sadly learned yesterday, that Groklaw is finaly giving up. PJ lets us know in her last post, that she is done with the internet. She cited Ladar Levison, who had said: “I am giving up on email, even privately. If you knew what I know, you would too”. PJ in the light of the threats that are hanging over everybodies head, sees no chance to avoid being forced to handover whatever the government asks for. Under such circumstances she sees no chance to warrant the privacy of the people she depends on to further run the platform. So Groklaw is history also, and the message that these incidents send out is clearly written in bright red letters on the wall: We cannot win.
Now, none of these people are cowards, they put their time into helping others keep their privacy. They had to realize that the government is coming down heavy on people doing that. Edward Snowden cannot be had, so others have to pay.
In Great Britain the secret service GCHQ even takes it a step further, threatening the free press in quite an open manner. Not only have they detained Glenn Greenwald‘s partner, David Miranda, for 9 hours under an anti-terror law that denies legal council by an attorney but also confiscated all the hardware he carried. They also terrorized and threatened Greenwald’s boss, Alan Rusbridger, the editor of The Guardian, on the telephone trying to get him to turn in all the material that Edward Snowden handed over and be done with the story. The really unbelievable topping on this is two agents forcing employees of the Guardian to destroy hardware with data on PRISM in the basement of the newspaper’s London office building. Sound like Hollywood? Sadly it is not. It is a bold attack on the freedom of the press and an indicator, how much our democracy is worth in the eye of governments. For sure the GCHQ is not stupid enough to believe that by destroying a few harddisks the material would be out of existence. That was also not the goal of the raid, the goal was to shout out loud: See, what we can do, you can’t stop us!
My feeling is now, that a lot of the dirty secrets are out in the open, the secret services of the world have so much more fun doing what they do because it does not matter anymore. They can act in broad daylight. They believe we cannot stop them. Are they right?