The National Security Agency has an active campaign to penetrate and destroy popular online privacy tools. A number of leaked documents reveal that average citizens can block NSA surveillance with a popular application called TOR, or the Onion Browser.
TOR is a free application that bounces communications through a distributed network of relays around the world, which makes it hard to track individuals. TOR lets people get around internet censorship tools and remain anonymous. The latest revelations from Edward Snowden indicate that the NSA hates TOR.
In presentations such as “TOR Stinks”, NSA analysts are trying to find methods to track and identify TOR users. The NSA hates the idea of average citizens having access to software that can block its tracking efforts.
NSA Working to Undermine State Department Efforts to Spread Democracy
The most interesting thing about TOR is that it was developed by the U.S. State and Defense Departments. The idea was to create secure communications networks that dissidents and activists could use to communicate without worrying about secret police snooping.
The Guardian reported that around 60% of TOR’s funding comes from Uncle Sam. That’s right, the federal government is spending U.S. taxpayers’ money trying to crack a security program it created. Worse, that money is being used to help techniques that could help despotic governments identify their enemies.
The good news is that the NSA hasn’t been able to crack TOR yet. It can still block most of the agency’s snooping. That means citizens can still use it to evade the NSA and its foreign counterparts. Unfortunately, the NSA and the British GCHQ are working on such methods as redirecting TOR traffic to its servers.
Not only does the campaign against TOR threaten efforts to spread democracy, but it also definitely violates the U.S. Constitution. Cracking TOR violates the Fourth Amendment, which guarantees privacy in communications to citizens and could undermine the First Amendment because TOR is widely used by journalists.
It looks like the NSA is a threat to the very ideas of liberty and privacy. It is time Americans asked the important question: Do we really need an agency like the NSA or not?