L. Neil Smith's
Number 366, May 7, 2006

"The Lamestream Media"

Twilight Zone
by Kathryn A. Graham

Exclusive to TLE

For the last several years, I have felt like I was living in the Twilight Zone. Every time I started to get a mental handle on the abuses of our government, something new came up that left me reeling with shock.

Well, I'm out of shock now. I am just plain pissed.

Most of you have read about the roasting our presidential Shrub took at the annual White House Correspondents' Association dinner this past Saturday evening. It was hilariously funny, largely because it was all so very true, and Shrub was not amused.

In fact, he was so unamused that he is now considering prosecuting reporters under the espionage laws for the release of classified information. The FBI is demanding records from reporters dating back four decades to do this! He is declaring war on the press, and he is completely ignoring our most precious traditions and laws to do this.

The press is a free nation's watchdog. When the press is no longer free to report government abuses, and abuses embarrassing to Shrub are dead certain to be "classified" by Shrub, then our nation is no longer free. I have known that intellectually for an uncomfortably long time, but now it is brought home to me as a writer in a very, very personal way.

And speaking of government abuses, just to add insult to injury, just this past week the FCC has just approved a tax on all Internet services for all of the illegal monitoring that our government is doing of our web surfing and email correspondence. Let me rephrase that. Everyone who connects to the Internet now is going to pay a premium for this illegal and treasonous violation of his or her right to privacy. Our ISPs were told they would be reimbursed for the "upgrades" they had to make to allow this monitoring, but the FCC has just decided you must bear the costs associated with the destruction of your privacy.

There is only one way I can fight back right now, and I am going to do it right here, in print.

There is a little known Internet service called Hushmail. Hushmail's corporate offices are located in Vancouver and in Eire. Their mail servers are physically located in Canada, Eire, and in the Dutch Antilles. For those of you who do not know this, the Dutch Antilles do not even have a treaty with the United States concerning the War on Terror.

Furthermore, Hushmail uses GPG encryption between Hush users (and also between Hush and GPG users), which is the free and open source version of the original PGP code written by Phil Zimmermann—for which "crime" the Clinton administration tried for seven long and expensive years to put Zimmermann in prison. PGP, in its commercial and official incarnation, has had a government back door at least since its most recent release [see "Letter from from Mitch Wayne", "Letter from Stephen Carville" and "Letter from Brian Draves, General Counsel, PGP Corporation" in later issues of this magazine—Editor] OpenPGP, or GPG, however, has never been broken. In fact, that's the beauty of open source code. Some very talented folks have been diligently trying to crack it for more than fifteen years now, and if anyone had succeeded in that time, that information would be all over the Internet. Zimmermann himself, the encryption genius who remained true to his belief in personal privacy under the most terrible of pressure, has been the very executive in charge of Hushmail's encryption program since 2001. Yessir, he is alive, well and free, and still working for you.

To add icing to the cake, Hushmail does not demand to know who you are. Period. You may choose any email address, and they don't even ask for your name, let alone log it. When you send email out, your IP address is only shown as the IP of the Hushmail SMTP server, and no logs of any kind are kept as to your real IP address. Hushmail itself does not have your passphrase, meaning they cannot decrypt your messages. And if you use their Java system (and I recommend strongly that you do), you can encrypt your mail locally using your remote keys, and nothing is ever transmitted from your computer in the clear. Nothing.

What this means is that if the U.S. should manage to seize the Antilles servers—unlikely in the extreme—all they will get is encrypted email with no way to even track the originator of that mail. Hushmail could not decrypt your email even if they wanted to, and they certainly do not want to—and neither can the NSA. This is just about as safe as email is going to get, folks. The weakest link is your passphrase—so pick a long and complex one, with more than just letters—but heaven help you if you forget it.

But wait, we still aren't finished. Hushmail also has a Messenger that uses the same type of encryption. It's painfully basic right now, but they are constantly working on more services, like conferencing with several chat partners, and several of those services are expected to come on line within the next few weeks.

Am I done yet? No. Hushmail is free. That's right, completely free. Oh, you do have the option to pay for a commercial account if you choose to do so. With a premium or a business subscription, you can get more mail and encrypted file storage, the ability to retrieve your email locally using an IMAP email client (like Thunderbird—but I strongly recommend against this unless you understand thoroughly how to use GPG and Enigmail), and a few other nice perks, but the basic webmail and Messenger service is completely and utterly free and will remain so. They will deactivate your account if you don't log into it for three weeks (only true of a free account), but if you use email as much as I do, that's not even a consideration.

You can sign up for Hushmail at http://www.hushmail.com [see below—Editor]. When you choose your email address, you can choose the @hush.ai domain to locate your mail on the Antilles servers. The encryption is completely transparent to the user—meaning it is utterly and absolutely simple to use—which solves the worst problem with email encryption to date. There is no learning curve. If you can use Yahoo or GMail, you can use Hushmail just as easily—and you can reclaim a little piece of your privacy.

You are also helping to build a network of patriots that can still share information long after our press has vanished as anything even approaching free and honest journalism.

Besides, if you are anything like me, the thought of the NSA spending an astronomical number of hours trying to crack the encryption on ordinary chatty email just does it for you. Now, multiply that by millions of folks, and enjoy the feeling!

If you want to support Hushmail, consider buying a premium subscription, but by all means try a free one first and see how you like the taste of liberty!

It's the patriotic thing to do.


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