Senator Cantwell, please co-sponsor the USA Freedom Act

Here’s a recap of our meeting this morning with Senator Cantwell’s staffer to ask Senator Cantwell to co-sponsor the USA Freedom Act, which aims to curtail the illegal activities of the NSA.

Seven of us attended, three Seattle Privacy founders, and four other people brought together by Free Press.

It was a curious group. Two of us had direct experience with performing surveillance or sharing data with the NSA, two had deep knowledge of the East German surveillance state experience, one of us was an immigrant rights activist who addressed the disproportionate impact of oppressive technologies on already marginalized populations, and four of us currently work for three Very Large Tech Companies with offices in our area (though we weren’t representing those employers, of course).

During an hour’s conversation, we covered a number of the toxic effects of surveillance: the chilling of free speech, the undermining of the American private sector in tech, the hollowing out of civil society and the poisoning of even the most intimate familial relationships by suspicion and fear, the potential for blackmail of people in positions of power, the use of military technologies against civilian populations, to name a few.

We talked about the well-documented attempted blackmail of Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr., zero-day exploits, the revered, and compromised, standards body NIST, Guantanamo and indefinite detention. We dug into the history of the Clipper Chip and the TIA program, and how the American people have repeatedly rejected programs of this type, only to have the democratic process circumvented by security agencies. We even talked a little bit about how DHS funding of the Alki cameras allowed SPD to elude local oversight (had there been any). (Unaccountably I think we missed mentioning the assault on the free press.)

I think I might even have said something about how the whole endeavor was unAmerican.

The staffer’s questions were smart and pointed. We left him with a 1-pager on the USA Freedom Act, asking Sen. Cantwell to sign on as a co-sponsor and take a leadership role in promoting the bill. We got the expected and natural, “We’ll get back to you” response, but it was still very heartening. I for one felt like I’d finally gotten to say some things that I feel VERY strongly about to someone who is actually in a position to potentially do something about them.

One interesting moment was when the staff person asked us, “How do you respond to someone who says, ‘I don’t care, I don’t have anything to hide, if it makes us safer, great!’ (basically)”. He implied that he hears that a LOT.

And it’s a really tough question to answer succinctly and in a way that’s relevant to the person who asks that sort of question. I’m hoping that our note taker got other people’s responses down, because I sort of zoned out formulating my own. I think a problem we run into with this question, or this attitude, is that people ask that question out of a visceral state of fear, and a longing to feel safe, and we respond from an analytical and rational and value-based point of view with evidence about whether surveillance prevents terrorism and idealistic discussions about freedom and liberties and rights and responsibilities and trade offs, etc.

It’s not that we’re wrong, it’s just that we don’t connect with the emotional starting point of the other person. I have never figured out how to “meet people where they are” with this particular question. I don’t particularly want to respond to fear by offering a different, better fear, either. If anyone has found an effective way to respond to that question, please share it widely!

Senator Cantwell’s staffer advised us to talk to the rest of the state congressional delegation and we will certainly make every effort to do so.

Seattle Privacy expands mission to include state, federal issues

We formed Seattle Privacy almost a year ago, with the specific intention of persuading Seattle City Council to empower an expert civilian privacy oversight board to review all proposed use of surveillance equipment in the City of Seattle. We were responding to the deployment of surveillance cameras along Alki. The longer we poked around, the more equipment and surveillance systems we found, including SPD’s use of ALPR (automatic license plate readers), the Seattle Shield program, whereby private companies provide surveillance data to SPD, and the interesting role of Homeland Security funding in building Seattle’s mesh net.

Then, Edward Snowden surfaced in Hong Kong, with revelations about the NSA’s illegal dragnet surveillance programs and what has fairly been called the militarization of the Internet.

At first we tried to stay focused on what we could do right here in Seattle. We dreamed of presenting Seattle to the world as a model of legislative success in curtailing surveillance. We still do

Over time, however, all of our members have been drawn into other efforts as well. This week we’re talking to US Senator Maria Cantwell, next week we’ll be lobbying state elected officials in Olympia. It’s time for us to acknowledge that we are no longer a municipally focused organization. We’re working with Washington State ACLU and the national organization Free Press to identify legislators to contact and legislation to promote.

We seek the protection of privacy for all people, where ever they live, whatever their citizenship, against increasingly totalitarian government surveillance programs and intrusive and cynical corporate data collection. Our focus remains on policymaking, but we are happy to publicize other approaches, including direct action, protests, petitions, training and educational efforts, and more.

Be seeing you!

TA3M Seattle, January 2014

====== Seattle TA3M, January 2014 ======

When: January 20, 2014, 6:30-9:00pm

Where: Black Coffee Coop (BOOKED, we WILL be there!)

====== This Month (January) ======

The focus will be user training this month, which is something we’d like to start doing on a regular basis. We want to introduce members of the audience, especially people who aren’t necessarily technical experts, to some simple encrypted chat apps on the PC and Android. We would like everyone to start playing with chat applications like Cryptocat, Pidgin + OTR, Jitsi, and Bitmessage. If you are more technically inclined and already familiar with these apps, please help anyone that is interested in learning to get set up and start playing!

The entire audience is encouraged to bring a laptops and try playing with some of the programs after a brief introductory talk. We of course recommend using some flavor of Linux, but if you’re running Windows that’s fine. All of the apps we’ll be covering work on both operating systems, and the point is to get started playing with some apps that you can use to regain some dignity for your personal communications.

In our second talk, we will introduce people to a few smartphone apps, developed by The Guardian Project and others. Possible apps include ChatSecure (formerly Gibberbot), Orbot, Orweb, Textsecure and Redphone.

We will be providing flyers with links and brief descriptions of the apps we cover, and will post any presentations online. We encourage anyone to use our course materials and if you learned something interesting, to share it with the people you regularly communicate with.

====== What to Bring ======

Bring someone new! Bring anyone you know that you would like to be introduced to private communication software. Friends, family, activists, co-workers; people all technical levels will be welcome. You won’t be an expert in two hours, but it’s plenty of time to learn how to bring some privacy and dignity back into your personal conversations with friends and family.

A laptop, Linux or Windows (we won’t be covering Apple products specifically, but there is an OTR-compatible chat client called Adium that is quite user-friendly). Though we don’t endorse Windows and suggest transitioning to an open source operating system as soon as you can, it’s what most people have. The apps we’ll be covering have both Windows and Linux versions that are easy for anyone to start playing with. Ideally, bring a laptop that has the above-mentioned programs already installed. You can also bring a LiveCD for Xubuntu or Linux Mint, which will allow participants to test new apps without making any changes to their systems.

An Android-compatible smartphone, if you would like to follow along with our second talk of the evening. All of the apps we will be demonstrating should be readily available on the Google Play store.

====== Schedule ======

6:30 – Intro, announcements

6:40 – Don’t Be Afraid to Talk to Each Other – Encrypted Chat for Beginners

7:00 – practice time, networking and conversation

7:40 – Privacy Apps for Android

8:15 – Practice, networking, open floor for discussion

9:00 – Official end

====== Links to This Month’s Topics ======






The Guardian Project



====== About TA3M ======

TA3M-Seattle (Techno-Activism 3rd Mondays) is a monthly event taking place in cities worldwide, focusing on the issues of surveillance and censorship, and how open technology can be used to combat it. We bring together software developers, activists, concerned citizens, and anyone who cares about these issues. Our mission is to help improve open technology and get more people using it. We do this by showing people how to start playing with free and open source privacy and communications software, and by giving developers a chance to raise awareness of their projects among both potential users and technical contributors.


Each month we will have 1-3 presentations, with time for networking in between and after. Presentations cover the general topics of 1) Training, teaching privacy and security-centric skills, accessible to novice computer users. 2) Presentations about open technology projects, both to spread awareness to the general public and to tell technical people what they need to know to contribute. 3) Societal issues related to privacy and technology, and announcements for related events and projects.

TA3M-Seattle has 2 goals: 1) Help novice computer users – especially groups that need it most, including journalists, activists, etc. – learn about using technology securely and privately. 2) To get advanced users and developers to contribute to existing tools and sharing knowledge about how to make use of them.


We’re always looking to give a platform to knowledgeable speakers and to collaborate with the local tech community. Let us know if you’re interested in speaking. Soon you might even get a t-shirt!

TA3M-Seattle is a member of the Seattle Privacy Coalition, , and is sponsored by the Open Internet Tools Project .

partial list of groups that we have been associated with include, Seattle Privacy Coalition, Tor Project, LibrePlanet-WA, ACLU-WA,, Seattle MeshNet, FreeGeek Seattle, Geeks WithOut Bounds, local hackerspaces, local open source-related user groups… and many others.

Please suggest any other groups that should be involved in what we’re doing!

====== Training Resources ======

In addition to attending monthly TA3M sessions, we hope that participants will be able to share anything they learned with others. We would like everyone to be involved with scaling up TA3M and helping to spread open technology. In the future, we will be posting downloadable pamphlets and handouts here.

Until then, here is some existing educational material we like:

– PRISM Break, – A current list of security and privacy-oriented software projects and services.

– Press Freedom Foundation’s Encryption Works,

– EFF’s Surveillance Self-Defense,

– Cryptoparty Handbook,

– NSA surveillance: A guide to staying secure,

====== Contact Us ======

We need help! We need speakers both to teach users and explain to developers how to get started contributing. We need an A/V people to tape our training talks. We need an artist to help with our logo and promotional materials. We need event hosting locations, large enough for 50 people or more.

Sign up for our mailing list:

====== November Videos! ======

Embedding information is here –

====== Possible Future Topics ======

February 17th – Seattle Meshnet

March 16th – Bitcoin/cryptocurrencies, 1-2 guest speakers. Let us know if you’d like to be one of them!

April – transparency/Freedom of Information Act

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