surrendering one's passphrase to authorities

Robert J. Hansen rjh at
Wed Mar 4 23:46:38 CET 2009

David Shaw wrote:
> I suspect things would go rather like this:

Perry is an optimist.  It's considerably worse than he makes it out to be.

Judges are not idiots.  They are very well-trained and have a great deal
of experience at the discovery of truth through Socratic and/or
adversarial questioning.  They are also rather dispassionate, which
stems from the tremendous amount of human evil they come into contact
with on a regular basis.

Juries, on the other hand...

In the American system (and many other systems borrowing from the
British Common Law tradition), the judge is the arbiter of law, but the
jury is the arbiter of fact.

If the judge has any doubt as to whether there's an encrypted volume on
the drive, the judge is probably not going to bother putting the accused
in jail on a contempt charge.  The judge is going to say, "the existence
or nonexistence of material on that drive is a question of fact for the
jury to sort out."

And once the judge says that, you're rolling the dice with twelve plain,
average, human beings -- which is to say, most of them will be
technologically illiterate with little or no college education or grasp
of formal reasoning.

If you look at those twelve men and women and start to explain about
deniable systems and perfect forward secrecy and every other crypto
innovation you've thought of to keep you out of trouble, the jury won't
understand a word of it.  Not a word.

They _will_, however, understand that you're blowing smoke up their ass.

This is a mistake you will only ever get to make once.

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