[Cryptography] Cryptography, backdoors and the Second Amendment

Benjamin Kreuter brk7bx at virginia.edu
Sun Oct 12 12:04:15 EDT 2014

On Sun, 2014-10-12 at 04:28 +0200, Lodewijk andré de la porte wrote:
> On Oct 11, 2014 7:55 PM, "Benjamin Kreuter" <brk7bx at virginia.edu> wrote:
> >
> > 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.
> I never understood this though! Doesn't it significantly weaken the second
> amendment? What could weigh up to constitutional values, and who is
> authorized to judge? Please don't say politicians...

Interpretation is an important component of any law, including the
constitution.  Laws are not software, courts are not computers, and
nobody would want to live in a society where the law is completely
inflexible.  Laws tend to be written non-precisely, and even the bill of
rights is not so precisely as to require no interpretation at all.

As for the authority to judge, the answer is that "judges" have that
authority.  Courts exist to settle disputes about the meaning of the law
and whether or not it is being followed.  I would say that some kind of
court system is necessary for the rule of law.

> So, should we treat them as a theoretical adversary and move on? Advocate
> against them at every opportunity, but just, move on?

Unfortunately there is not much else that can be done.  In theory
Congress could pull the plug, but that does not look terribly likely
right now.  Obviously we should advocate against this kind of behavior
whenever possible, as long as it remains legal to do so.

Beyond that, the public cryptography community needs to design systems
with the understanding that this kind of adversary exists.  Yes, the NSA
is actively sabotaging our work.  Now we need to design systems that are
harder to sabotage, easier to check, etc.  It is not easy and I am not
going to claim that I have a magic formula, nor am I claiming that there
is a magic formula.  What I will say is that we should be trying to
reach such a state, and that when we have a chance to move closer to
that goal we should do so.

-- Ben
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