[Cryptography] Cryptography, backdoors and the Second Amendment

Benjamin Kreuter brk7bx at virginia.edu
Sat Oct 11 12:40:24 EDT 2014

On Fri, 2014-10-10 at 00:36 +0100, Alfie John wrote:

> As the US State Department classifies cryptography as a munition,
> shouldn't the use of cryptography be protected under the 2nd Amendment?

1. The second amendment is not without limits.  You cannot possess a
machine gun without a license, for example.  The second amendment is not
a free pass to possess or distribute arms.

2. The classification is only relevant for exporting a product from the
USA.  Nothing stops you from possessing or distributing cryptography
within the US.

Really though, that classification is an anachronism that predates PCs
and the Internet.  Instead of invoking it (which is a kind of
endorsement), we should be trying to get rid of it entirely.  We need to
make the case that cryptography is not some kind of military device, but
a necessity in a computerized society as a low-cost safeguard against
various abuses and crimes.  Calling cryptography "munitions" is as
absurd as calling combination locks "munitions," and that point needs to
be driven home.

> If so, as the NSA continues its concerted effort to cripple encryption
> by providers [3] [4], shouldn't this be seen as the equivalent of the
> Department of Justice colluding with Smith & Wesson to manufacture guns
> that don't shoot straight and bullets that don't fire?

What makes you think that laws matter when it comes to the NSA?  There
have been no consequences for the NSA's violations of the law.  They
openly ignored a court order, and nothing happened.  Their leadership
lied to Congress, and nothing happened.  They have conspired with
federal, state, and even local police forces and prosecutors to break
the law, and nothing happened.  Lawsuits are shut down in the name of

We are past the point of legal arguments.  We should think of the NSA as
we would think of the Chinese government: big, scary, actively working
to subvert computer security, and beyond the reach of the law.

-- Ben

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