Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Law Enforcement E-Mails Highlight Entrenched Camps in Tor Debate

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Law Enforcement E-Mails Highlight Entrenched Camps in Tor Debate

Article excerpt

At a public hearing last week, city officials in Lebanon, N.H., voted to restart a server in their public library that is part of the Tor anonymous Web browser. The decisions came in response to a flood of support from privacy advocates and civil libertarians after officials temporarily shut that server down.

E-mails obtained by the New Hampshire American Civil Liberties Union and shared with Passcode highlight the entrenched camps in the debate: law enforcement, who often deal with the worst-case scenarios of anonymity technology - such as child pornography - and privacy advocates, who encounter some of its best uses - political freedom and avoiding surveillance.

The Lebanon Tor relay (which helps expand the Tor network) is the first in a partnership between Tor and the Library Freedom Project, which encourages public libraries to provide their users with access to privacy software. When Ars Technica announced the relay's launch in late July, it caught the attention of a special agent at the Boston field office of Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) - a component of Immigration and Customs Enforcement that investigates, among other things, online child pornography.

"Just terrific ... that kid seems to be thinking just an inch past the end of her nose," HSI Special Agent Gregory Squire wrote (including the ellipses) in an e-mail to Det. Sgt. Tom Grella of the Portsmouth, N.H., Police Department. Sergeant Grella heads up the state's Internet Crimes Against Children (ICAC) Task Force. The e- mail also included a link to the Ars Technica article.

The Portsmouth officer forwarded HSI's e-mail to an officer in Lebanon, saying only, "This could be a problem." That officer then contacted another police officer and requested a meeting with local library officials, according to a Sept. 11 memo.

"The tone of these e-mails betrays the fact that DHS and ICAC don't take the work of community activists like Library Freedom Project seriously," said Alison Macrina, founder of the Library Freedom Project. "However, given the outcome of this incident, they should probably rethink that approach."

Agents in Boston's HSI office work with images of child sex abuse to track down victims and perpetrators, according to a 2012 Boston Globe profile. …

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