Multiple Subkey Pairs

Robert J. Hansen rjh at
Fri Mar 14 17:06:40 CET 2014

> The NSA e.g. denies to archive content of us-american citizens mails. It is
> thus perfectly reasonable to assume it does so with all other ones.

They also deny being able to violate the Second Law of Thermodynamics:  
is it thus perfectly reasonable to assume they can violate the other  

"Just because they deny X means it's reasonable to believe Y" is logic  
that will get you in a whole lot of trouble.  If you have evidence to  
support your assertion I'm sure we'd all love to hear it -- but as I  
don't believe such evidence exists, the most we can reasonably say is  
"we don't know."

> Besides, you believe their denials - are you kidding?

Let me tell you a story about Allan.  Allan was a great guy, one of  
the true heroes of American government.  He never got the recognition  
he deserved.  Allan was a veteran FBI agent with a Ph.D. in criminal  
justice, with a thesis that focused on police corruption.  His life  
goal was to someday get appointed as a federal judge.  He authored  
part of the FISA Act.  Later in his life he was appointed by the  
Attorney General to become the Department of Justice's gatekeeper to  
the FISA Court.  All warrant applications had to go through him.

He thus had two compelling reasons to be strict about the warrants he  
presented to FISA.  The first was that he hated corruption in a  
deep-in-his-bones way.  The second was he knew that if he allowed any  
inadequate warrants to be presented to the FISA Court, those  
inadequate warrants would come up in Senate confirmation hearings for  
the federal judgeship he wanted.  As a result, he had a reputation for  
being harder to convince of a warrant than the FISA Court itself was!

-- Now, who told me about him first?  My father, a federal judge who  
at one time was tapped for FISA.  (He refused for personal reasons: he  
was approaching retirement and didn't want the additional  
responsibilities.)  Dad had a good laugh about it and thought that if  
the American people ever knew it was harder to get Allan to bring a  
warrant application to FISA than it was to actually get FISA to  
approve a warrant, they'd be reassured.  Dad would tell me all about  
how in all the time Allan had been responsible for bringing warrant  
applications to FISA, FISA had only ever denied three or four -- and  
that years later Allan was still sore about those!

Nowadays, of course, the meme is "FISA has only rejected a handful of  
warrants in all its time!  Clearly, it must be a rubber stamp court!"   
Nothing is further from the truth.  For many years the reason why FISA  
so rarely bounced an warrant application is because Allan refused to  
bring inadequate ones to the Court.

The former General Counsel of the National Security Agency, Stewart  
Baker, has written a fine book that I think everyone here should read:  
_Skating on Stilts_.  Baker has some harsh words for Allan, claiming  
that he was such a hardass about warrant applications that he got in  
the way of many national security investigations.  I first read this  
shortly after Allan's death and I almost bust a gut laughing.  If he  
knew that his major claim to fame was having GC-NSA call him an  
obstruction to national security, I think he'd consider his place in  
posterity to be well-established.

Allan died of cancer a few years ago -- but before he did, he achieved  
his life goal of being appointed to the federal bench.  I had the  
honor of talking with him on several occasions from 2008 to 2010.   
Even dying of cancer, he was still a partisan for integrity in  
government.  His commitment to it even in the face of imminent death  
impressed me as few things in the world have.

Do I believe the NSA when they say that for U.S. persons only metadata  
is collected?  No.

But it was Allan's job to watch the NSA, and I trust that Allan didn't  
lie to me.

I know that the common meme on this mailing list is, "ooh, government  
*bad*, government *always* looking for ways to exploit us."  But  
that's an insulting and childish belief.  It's about as grown-up and  
about as mature as believing there are monsters under the bed or a  
bogeyman in the closet.

Government *can be* bad, sure.  Absolutely.

But government also has people like Allan, and when we forget that we  
diminish ourselves.

Frankly, I think people on this list ought celebrate his birthday --  
March 4 -- as some kind of holiday.

You know what?  To hell with it.  I /will/ celebrate his birthday,  
just ten years late.  I'm going to make a donation to GnuPG today, in  
the memory of a government intelligence official who stood up for  
civil liberties.  They *do* exist.  Werner, if the donation I make  
later today could be credited as "In memory of the Honorable Allan N.  
Kornblum," that would be appreciated.

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