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Archive for February, 2016

tim-cookThank you for taking a stand to protect security and privacy.

It may be worth pointing out to the judge and lawmakers that if the security of Apple’s products is undermined, there are many open source alternatives with which criminals can easy encrypt data and communications beyond recovery. Therefore the result of undermining Apple products’ security would be to expose ordinary law-abiding citizens to security risks (and to expose American products to competition from more trusted sources), while criminals would be undeterred in using one of the many open source tools for unbreakable encryption.

To put it another way, when encryption is outlawed, only outlaws will have encryption. That would be a win for criminals and a loss for the rest of us.

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Zhivago

zhivago2It may puzzle modern readers why the Soviet Union engaged in a decades-long effort to suppress the seemingly harmless romantic novel Doctor Zhivago, why it denied its author the Nobel Prize, or why the CIA engaged in a similarly sustained effort to smuggle the novel in. The Zhivago Affair, by Washington Post National Security Editor Peter Finn and Petra Couvée unravels the mystery and tells a fascinating story of statecraft, tradecraft, and the price Pasternak and his family paid.

“All these years later, in an age of terror and drones … the CIA’s faith – and the Soviet Union’s faith – in the power of literature to transform society seem almost quaint”, the authors wrote. The iron curtain may seem to have no contemporary relevance, but the story remains important today, as China and other states fight to control their people’s access to information, and the State Department and the CIA promote new tools to defeat other nations’ electronic barriers.

Soviet leaders including Khrushchev eventually repented their campaign against Doctor Zhivago, not for its irrelevancy, but for the opposite reason.  The effort fanned the flames of the novel’s fame, and thereby showed up the Soviet system for its mindless suppression of the human spirit – including the suppression of the novel’s fictional protagonist, and its living readers, author, and family.

There is a lesson for China’s leadership in there somewhere.

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