No Conspiracy Theory Needed: Tor Created for U.S. Gov’t Spying [NetworkWorld / Cryptome / Sweet & Sour Socialism Essential Archives]

– An interesting discussion started on tor-talk about Iran cracking down on “web dissident technology” before Cryptome posted, “TOR Made for USG Open Source Spying Says Maker.” –

By Ms. Smith on Mon, 03/28/11

There is an interesting post on Cryptome, TOR Made for USG Open Source Spying Says Maker, in which one of Tor’s creators, Michael Reed, says to look at why the government created Tor from a common sense point-of-view instead of as conspiracy theory.

The Tor Project is free software that lets people be anonymous online but it’s not an invisibility cloak that’s meant to protect privacy. People use Tor to be anonymous for all kinds of different reasons, from regular users, to journalists, dissidents, whistleblowers, corporations, overseas military field agents, and even law enforcement to list out a few. Surfing with Tor is supposed to anonymize traffic; in the same way that Tor can keep your IP from showing up on a web log, it can keep a government or law enforcement IP address from showing up on web logs during online surveillance.

The TorFAQ clearly states that exit nodes can eavesdrop. “Yes, the guy running the exit node can read the bytes that come in and out there. Tor anonymizes the origin of your traffic, and it makes sure to encrypt everything inside the Tor network, but it does not magically encrypt all traffic throughout the internet.”

The discussion started on tor-talk about Iran cracking down on “web dissident technology.” The question was raised about why the government would create and continue to fund a technology like Tor that could be used against them. It was then answered that people should take a common sense approach, instead of a conspiracy theory, to realize the most effective way for the government to anonymize its Net communications is to make Tor available to anyone and everyone. An anonymity network used only [sic]the government would not work.

When Michael Reed, one of the original developers of the onion routing program, responded to the thread, he wrote:…

“…BINGO, we have a winner! The original *QUESTION* posed that led to the
invention of Onion Routing was, “Can we build a system that allows for
bi-directional communications over the Internet where the source and
destination cannot be determined by a mid-point?” The *PURPOSE* was for
DoD / Intelligence usage (open source intelligence gathering, covering
of forward deployed assets, whatever). Not helping dissidents in
repressive countries. Not assisting criminals in covering their
electronic tracks. Not helping bit-torrent users avoid MPAA/RIAA
prosecution. Not giving a 10 year old a way to bypass an anti-porn
filter. Of course, we knew those would be other unavoidable uses for
the technology, but that was immaterial to the problem at hand we were
trying to solve (and if those uses were going to give us more cover
traffic to better hide what we wanted to use the network for, all the
better…I once told a flag officer that much to his chagrin). I should
know, I was the recipient of that question from David, and Paul was
brought into the mix a few days later after I had sketched out a basic
(flawed) design for the original Onion Routing.

The short answer to your question of “Why would the government do this?”
is because it is in the best interests of some parts of the government
to have this capability… Now enough of the conspiracy theories…

…” (from Michael Reed’s entry ‘TOR Made for USG Open Source Spying Says Maker’ [Cryptome]) – link here —

…Then the EFF was brought into the mix and EFF’s Senior Staff Technologist Seth Schoen pointed out military uses for Tor are listed on the “About Tor” page. In fact, at the very top of the page, it states that the Naval Research Laboratory originally developed the onion routing program “for the primary purpose of protecting government communications.”

Just as the Internet was originally developed by DARPA for military communication, people who follow Tor probably knew that the onion router was started by the military…

NetworkWorld article excerpted; full article link here:


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