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May 2, 2007

Cryptome loses its ISP
Posted by Teresa at 01:33 PM * 29 comments

Via BoingBoing comes the news that the controversial website has been given notice by Verio/NTT that the ISP will no longer host the site after Friday. As noted on Slashdot:

Cryptome, a website concerned with encryption, privacy, and government secrecy, has received two weeks’ notice from Verio that its service will be terminated for unspecified “violation of [its] Acceptable Use Policy.” Cryptome has a history of making publicly available documents and information that governments would rather keep secret.
There’s a longer article at Computerworld/IDG. If you can get through, there’s a heap of material at Cryptome Shutdown by Verio/NTT on the Cryptome site. And here’s an odd bit from the fairly good Wikipedia entry on Cryptome:
Young claims that Cryptome has attracted the attention of government agencies. He reports being visited by two FBI agents from a counter-terrorism office and describes having a casual discussion with the agents. He further describes how on another occasion two FBI agents spoke with him on the phone. During this conversation, he claims, one agent warned of “serious trouble” if a published account of the conversation contained the agents’ names.

In March 2005 the Reader’s Digest published an article with a highly critical view of Cryptome in its regular feature “That’s Outrageous”. It asserted that Cryptome is an “invitation to terrorists” and claimed that Young “may well have put lives at risk”.

On 20 April 2007 the website received notice that the site would be shut down by its hosting company Verio on May 4 for breaches of their acceptable use policy. The nature of these breaches were not specified by Verio.

You know, I haven’t thought of this in years, but some while back I got into a conversation with a guy on a train (or maybe we were in a bar; I don’t recall) who said he had an intelligence background, and sounded like the real thing. (The real thing is distinctive. I’ve talked to other guys who genuinely did have intelligence backgrounds. Nobody else sounds like them.)

Anyway, what this guy said was that Reader’s Digest has deep old connections with the intelligence community, and that they use it to launch ideas and articles they want to have in circulation. I have to say that isn’t the sort of thing I expect to see written about in Reader’s Digest.

I expect there’s nothing to it.

Comments on Cryptome loses its ISP:
#1 ::: Zak ::: (view all by) ::: May 02, 2007, 02:51 PM:

If you'd not said who wrote the article on Cryptome and asked us to guess, I would guessed every publication in the world but Reader's Digest. I've consistently been told it's a heavily conservative publication, and the times when I've bothered to look at the cover have pretty much verified that, but they really are the last place on this earth that I'd think to look for articles about Crypto Rights groups. Wow.

Surpassingly strange.

#2 ::: Bruce Cohen, SpeakerToManagers ::: (view all by) ::: May 02, 2007, 03:07 PM:

I used to live in Peekskill, NY, not far from the Readers' Digest editorial office. There were so many people in our apartment complex that worked there, they ran a shuttle bus during commute hours.

Based on the employees I talked to, they were a pretty conservative lot*. I seem to remember some rumor about government agencies, but I doubt it was more than conspirator theory paranoia.

You're right about the way intelligence people talk. I used to be on a standards committee that had a representative from NSA**, and he had a way of talking that reminded me of military intel. people I've encountered.

* Mind you, this was in 1970, when the whole area was so conservative that Eva and I had to lie to the apartment manager and claim we were married, or they wouldn't have rented the place to us.

** "Just Defense Department, Ma'am"

#3 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: May 02, 2007, 03:33 PM:

I wouldn't be surprised if one or another intelligence agency used Reader's Digest as a stalking horse. RD was certainly a tool of the CIA back in the 60s and 70s, with Agency-inspired activities in the Third World being explained to readers as Indonesia's or Brazil's saving themselves from the evil Communists.

BTW, Teresa, what's 'conversial' about Cryptome?

#4 ::: Matt ::: (view all by) ::: May 02, 2007, 04:05 PM:

Teresa or Bruce,

Just out of curiosity, what is the distinctive speech pattern you are talking about? Is it word choice, speech rhythm, or a disturbingly different word view?

Or something you just can't put your finger on?

Or something you'd have to kill me if you told me?

#5 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: May 02, 2007, 04:43 PM:

The word on the street (which varies greatly depending on what street you happen to be on) is that every Fortune 500 company has someone in their personel department who moonlights in some way for the intelligence agency. (or the intelligence community has someone in the personel department of every Fortune 500 company, however you want to put that)

If true, it would provide instant access to an unlimited number of covers you could create at the drop of a hat for almost any location on the planet.

I haven't quite decided if I think it's true.

#6 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: May 02, 2007, 04:48 PM:

what's 'conversial' about Cryptome?

According to Wired:

Young -- a 72-year-old architect in New York -- has hosted countless government documents with the "For Official Use Only" markings intact; exposed the names of long-ago CIA collaborators; the alleged identities of current British intelligence agents; compiled a travelogue-style guide to the Pennsylvania mountain believed to be the vice president's "undisclosed location";

et cetera and so on...

Hitchhiker's Guide lists the site as "mostly harmless".

#7 ::: David Crampton ::: (view all by) ::: May 02, 2007, 04:56 PM:

I'm pretty sure that they wouldn't be violating the terms of service where I work - coincidentally, a web hosting company.

LiquidWeb is pretty reliable.

Also, if me waving the company flag is a no-no here, I won't be insulted if this post gets moderated into oblivion. :)

#8 ::: j h woodyatt ::: (view all by) ::: May 02, 2007, 05:32 PM:

I wonder what is that awful sound I hear in the background...

"something you just can't put your finger on?"

I've had similar experiences to Bruce, and some that are similar to what Teresa is perhaps describing too.

Here's how the phenomenon was described to me: ever hear the term gaydar? There's an awful lot in common between the culture of the intelligence community and the culture of the closeted gay community. They're both very good at operating under a cover identity, and they often need to identify other players in the same trade first by the application of a subtle intuition.

Here's what I think is the telltale signal: they've all got an identifiable constellation of linguistic tics, 1) a high sensitivity toward the treatment of people more or less as containers of information, and 2) a vaguely detectable kind of paranoia about self-regulating their own compliance with non-disclosure agreements. (Beware though— it's easy to get a false positive when you're dealing with someone who works for a privately operated intelligence operation and who has only been exposed to the culture second-hand...)

Of course, I could be wrong about that. Let me check with my controller... whoever that might be today. BRB.

#9 ::: Dave Bell ::: (view all by) ::: May 02, 2007, 06:12 PM:

One argument I've seen made is that secrecy against governments is hard. They had the resources to put together a lot of different clues, or just have a satellite take a picture.

Terrorists, on the other hand, are relatively short on intel resources.

So the KGB might know about Universal Export, or just where the Circus really is. But the average terrorist is as likely to finger AMS Trading.

There has been a fear of terrorism, and other non-government threats, since at least 1917. Communist Revolution never happened, but it was feared. Governments feared that Douhet was right. And, with the Cold War ended, they had nothing to mask their fear of their own populations; no excuse to keep secrets from the likes of us.

Terrorism may be the new excuse.

#10 ::: r@d@r ::: (view all by) ::: May 02, 2007, 06:24 PM:

a couple who host regular dinner parties at their house in the 'burbs have a friend who's CIA who "can't talk about the job" for the most part, but does hold forth fairly openly and honestly about the issues of the day. when it's all said and done, and i don't think the guy is really much of a BS artist, i get the sense he and his colleagues really don't have time for crap like this - that it's more the purview of fringe elements in the profession who have somewhat gone off the rails. the others are busy actually trying to get important stuff done, and are irritated by these loose cannons running around. makes me wonder just how much the job is a "set your own schedule" line of work.

#11 ::: T.W ::: (view all by) ::: May 02, 2007, 06:45 PM:

Sounds to my cynical self like a member of a certain political party claiming to be with intelligence, oh now there's a bait line, try to cause bullying censorship.

#12 ::: Tom Barclay ::: (view all by) ::: May 02, 2007, 08:38 PM:

Fragano @ #3, 'stalking horse' is an excellent description of the old RD. I grew up reading years of their back issues. They made June Cleaver and Donna Reed look like the Symbionese Liberation Army.

I seem to recall a connection between RD and USIA well-documented during the '70s.

Perhaps if the publisher's family includes Bonesmen . . . ?

As to the distinctive diction of operatives and Alphabet-Supers . . . my acquaintances have all had an oddly flat or childish affect on certain topics.

#13 ::: NelC ::: (view all by) ::: May 02, 2007, 10:00 PM:

I used to meet a few people who worked at GCHQ (British equivalent of NSA, kinda) at parties and such, who wouldn't talk about their work, naturally, but were quite open about their workplace, expecially the office politics. My friend who worked as a contractor there for a while was a lot more close-mouthed, but his vetting was quite gruelling and recent, plus he had a lot to lose professionally if word got back that he'd been blabbing even about relatively innocent subjects. Wouldn't even react when I kidded him about working on mind-control rays.

#14 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: May 02, 2007, 10:31 PM:

Being a member of the intel community (which is vast, and more varied than most realise)...

I can tell when someone is also a member; vs. when someone is trying to convince me they are. The latter happens more often than I'd have thought, before I became an interrogator.

Part of it is a compartmentalization.

Part of it an honesty, which is mistaken for openess (if one doesn't lie, one can't be latter tripped up; and answering questions/steering the conversation can avoid talking about things you don't want to have to deny/obfuscate).

I was at a party once, in Greens. Someone started talking to me, asking what I did, etc. I told her. She went to the hostess and said something to the effect that I was either pulling her leg, or not a very good intelligence type; because I told her so much.

Cat commented: "Terry didn't tell you anything he didn't want you to know." Which is only partly true; by talking to her I did give her the chance to infer things about me, but I probably didn't give up any concrete facts I didn't want to.

There's also a reserve. Things we don't discuss, conversations we don't join.

And, as a rule, intel types tend to be smart. They may be conservative, liberal, or somewhere in between, but they are persuadable. Looking at the facts is part of the job. Figuring out what the "facts" mean is also part of the job, and not being openminded about that is detrimental. I may not like the facts, but I can't change them.

Trying to shoehorn/cherry-pick/ignore the facts, to make them support what I wish they meant is a disservice to my fellows, my superiors and myself (the last because it means I will, sooner, or later, be wrong).

So there's also a certain skepticism in their personalities.

#15 ::: Earl Cooley III ::: (view all by) ::: May 03, 2007, 02:54 AM:

Never underestimate the strength of the weasel-fu of soulless ISP legal department drones.

#16 ::: meredith ::: (view all by) ::: May 03, 2007, 03:14 AM:

Reader's Digest is still very conservative as a corporate rule. A few years ago at a party I met one of their VPs, who lived in constant terror that his bosses would find out that he was living with his boyfriend in the next town over. If that news got out, he would instantly lose his job.

#17 ::: Steve Buchheit ::: (view all by) ::: May 03, 2007, 08:09 AM:

Intel types aren't the only ones that have a "style." Former military types can usually distinguish each other, even to the point of pinning down service branch, enlisted, NCO, or officer (with a general rank category). It's a thousand miniscule things, how they walk, sit, wear clothes and choice of clothing, lean in to a conversation, humor and when they start to smile while telling a joke, word choice. It's sort of how most people can tell their friends from behind without being able to see their faces. Once you know what to look for, though, you can intentionally break those habits (not having a standard b-line for instance).

#18 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: May 03, 2007, 10:46 AM:

I suspect this is true for many different categories in which each of us belong or are familiar. I've also had a fair bit of interaction with NSA people, and I remember noticing awhile back that I noticed their affiliation without a lot of cues, though there are definitely outliers. (I can think of a couple rather prominent ex-NSA people who break a lot of the stereotypes.)

This must make successful impersonation of something you're not terribly hard. Someone trying to pretend to be a cryptographer or mathematician or computer scientist would have a really hard time fooling me, even if we didn't go into much depth of technical information. Someone trying to pretend to be an editor would likely fool me, but wouldn't convince Teresa or Patrick. Someone pretending to be a doctor would probably fail to convince a doctor or nurse who worked around doctors all day. Etc.

#19 ::: John Rynne ::: (view all by) ::: May 03, 2007, 11:07 AM:

Maybe a year ago, Cryptome started selling a DVD of its archives going back ten years or so for a token sum ($25?). Perhaps in expectation of this very day, Young wanted to distribute his stash around. Smart move.

The disk is set up as a web site so it would be possible to upload the whole thing onto a server somewhere and hey presto! - Cryptome reborn.

#20 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: May 03, 2007, 01:41 PM:

Albatross @#18: The subtle cues you're talking about are indeed relevant to many security issues.. they amount to a biometric evaluation of the person, as implemented by a standard-issue human brain. ;-)

In a "three-factor" view of authentication, this tells a gatekeeper "something you are" -- a sort of authentication that humans do almost automatically, but machines have a horrid time with. Bruce Schneier discusses this sort of issue regularly.

As far as Cryptome's takedown, I do expect he'll find other sites, perhaps a whole flock of mirrors. I'd call this a temporary inconvenience.

#21 ::: Bruce Cohen, SpeakerToManagers ::: (view all by) ::: May 03, 2007, 05:26 PM:

I think Terry Karney @ 14 has it right; my experience was that any discussion had very abrupt boundaries. Intel people are quite open about everything except that about which they will tell you nothing, And they have lots of subtle ways of suddenly changing to not telling you anything without being obvious about it.

In the case of military intel people it's a little more obvious, at least to me, because I'm used to talking to military types in the first place. Intel types have obvious (to another military person) lacunae in their conversation. And military intel people sometimes present themselves at a rank other than their real one. Rank is not just a matter of the stripes on your arm or the bars on your shoulder; there are non-verbal cues that someone pretending doesn't always keep straight.

#22 ::: Anticorium ::: (view all by) ::: May 03, 2007, 05:50 PM:

The Canadian edition of Reader's Digest gets most of its op-ed material from the Sun chain of newspapers, which are kind of like the New York Post, except stupid. I could easily see them getting worked up about Cryptome, but only after someone drew pictures to explain the issue.

#23 ::: JC ::: (view all by) ::: May 04, 2007, 11:02 AM:

#21:there are non-verbal cues that someone pretending doesn't always keep straight.

I find this really fascinating. Can either Bruce or Terry go into more details about this? I don't know a whole lot about the military, but I find the way people are prescribed to interact with each other really interesting. (This might be perhaps I'm really awful at it. At my previous job, a workmate took upon himself to signal me during meetings whenever I was about to go out of bounds.)

#24 ::: Steve Buchheit ::: (view all by) ::: May 04, 2007, 12:24 PM:

#23 JC, if I can answer. It's a very subtle thing. The cut of shirt someone wears. The b-line (zipper flap, belt buckle, button flap of shirt). If they wear a tie, how they tie it and how the tie is worn. What hats do they prefer. The color of clothing, brands, and how they are kept. How they hold themselves while standing or walking, how fast and the length of stride. Reaction to external stimuli.

This is akin to the old WWII spy story, when the US spy switches hands to use his knife.

Verbal clues are easier to habituate or break. For instance, most military people will use pay rate instead of rank, especially for NCO ranks. There are ways of talking about things, such as deck instead of floor, charge and powder, range for distance, cut of a line, etc.

The way people categorize items can also tell much about their past and thought processes, that is some people will lump things that are alike, others will place them in order used.

#25 ::: Steve Buchheit ::: (view all by) ::: May 04, 2007, 12:28 PM:

Forgot to mention where people look. When they're standing by themselves and when they're talking to you. Do they look over your shoulder a lot, how do they and how often they break eye contact, Are they looking at your nose or forhead instead of your eyes.

#26 ::: Bruce Cohen, SpeakerToManagers ::: (view all by) ::: May 04, 2007, 01:02 PM:

Steve Bucheit @ 25

I'd say gaze is one of the best ways to figure out rank and service, because it's so automatic and so hard to change. For instance, you can tell a grunt (an infantry soldier who's been in ground combat) from an artillery solder or a tanker by the way their gaze moves around, never stopping for more than a second or two on anything, even when they're talking directly to you, and deeply engaged in what they're saying. It's an unconscious action that may have saved their lives, so it's not something they can stop easily just because they're pretending to be a desk soldier.

As for rank, remember the military is strictly hierachical so people tend to look more often at the senior person in a group than anyone else, and to have their bodies facing them directly. The senior person tends to move around more, and expects to be at or near the physical center, or at least at the focus of attention of the group. Movement and body placement are easier to control consciously than gaze, but they can still trip you up.

#27 ::: Monkeyfister ::: (view all by) ::: May 04, 2007, 05:17 PM:

The good folks at Cryptome need to get ahold of Marc Perkel STAT.

He's got a "Free Speech" policy, and will host them in a heartbeat.

The loss of Cryptome from the Internets Tubes would be a tragedy, and huge loss for Free Speech. I learn SO much about our government from daily reading of Cryptome.

I hope that this helps.


#28 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: May 06, 2007, 11:44 PM:

Sorry this took so long, I've been working a range for the past four days: which relates to some of the questions.

JC: The military is stratified. It doesn't take long for aspects of that to become ingrained (about one week is all it takes for a recruit to be in physical awe of his drills, even if the recruit has no liking, nor even respect for them).

As time goes on, that becomes both more entrenched, and more subtle. I'm a staff sergeant. At one level I'm in the lower middle of the pack (I am at the sixth level of nine enlisted ranks, there are five warrant rankes, and 10 Officer ranks above me; though all of them from O-7 up [brigadier general] are equivalent, as far as it concerns me).

At a diffferent level, I have a fair amount of, inherent, authority. The three types of rank (enlisted, warrant, officer) are distinct.

If we look at say, Ft. Hood, there are some 30,000 people on the post. I can probably tell 12,000 of them what to do.

Taking that level of social standing into account, I'll never be taken for a private again. I can't even fake it, because my model set of reactions to everyone don't involve the right sort of equality to privates, and fail to have the right sort of deference to NCOs, and Officers.

I can, however, easily fake being a Warrant Officer, and without too much trouble (or risk of being caught out) pretend to be a captain (but oddly enough not a Second Lieutenant, for the same reason I can't pretend to be a private).

In the U.S. Army clothing, and the like, aren't as telling as they are in the British, because the class distinctions aren't as relevant.

But how one stands, what one does when a Sergeant Major enters a room, the way one moves when tasked to do something; how someone delegates a mission when tasked.

There are some places where the rules fall apart.

Some of that is in intel. Lots of things (at least in the American model) are not work for officers, and so the people who do things that civilians think of as work for "people in charge" are done by the people they think of as idiot drones.

But take the range I was working for the past four days. On a range the principle of, "Don't confuse your rank with my authority" is in full flower.

In my lane, I am the boss. When I'm running an interrogation, General Pace could come in, and I'll tell him to bugger off (politely, if possible, but forcefully; no matter what).

I had a Master Sergeant (two grades, and a small world of rank above me) try to buffalo me. I'd told her not to touch her magazine. She told me that, because (as we'd previously discussed) she was familiar with firearms, her husband runs NRA ranges, etc., etc., etc., I could trust her.

And I told her there was no way I was going to cut her any more slack than anyone else.

I yelled at officers, who did stupid things, in the same way I yelled at privates.

It's not anger, or frustration with the person (though the regular sequence of the same errors could make it a decidedly frustrating day.

On the other side of the coin, I was as deferential to privates who needed help, as I was to majors. I was the range armorer, responsible for correcting malfunctions the soldier couldn't, and evaluating things which might make for a legitimate excuse for the soldier re-shooting the course (without penalty) or deadlining a weapon (I actually had to deadline one... checking the soldier's description of the malfunction was some of the most frightening things I've ever done with a rifle).

So when one of those came up, I dropped whatever I was doing and paid absolute attention to what I was being told.

How does that relate? The sense of self-assurance that comes of living within that sort of world, and of having that sort of relationship to people shows. When someone who has it, uses it, it often just comes across (to those who don't know) as a sort of competence. To those who've been in, it says something else, and the air of competence becomes nothing more than one more thing to look at when pigeonholing someone.

#29 ::: julia ::: (view all by) ::: May 07, 2007, 09:25 AM:

The Wallaces were wingnuts of the knee-jerk anti-left red scare variety, but paternalists (employees were treated fairly well, and they donated tons of money to schools and zoos and museums).

The people who took over when they died were a whole 'nother kettle of fish

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