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Claim: Encrypted Chat Developer Detained, Interrogated at US Border

Claim: Encrypted Chat Developer Detained, Interrogated at US Border

A developer for encrypted chat application “Cryptocat” has recently claimed that he was detained and interrogated at the US border. Apparently, border guards took his passport and interrogated him about the application, demanding to know “which algorithms Cryptocat used and about its censorship resistance.”

A developer of an encrypted chat program is making some dramatic claims. Nadim Kobeissi, developer of Cryptocat which “lets you instantly set up secure conversations. It’s an open source encrypted, private alternative to other services such as Facebook chat.”

Apparently, a trip to the US now allegedly features a frightening round of intense interrogation by American border guards. Kobeissi took to his Twitter account to talk about his experience, saying, “I was detained, searched, questioned on my research, with my passport confiscated for almost an hour.”

He added, “There are many perspectives I strive to understand. Justifying targeted gov. harassment, rights deprivation & interrogation is not one.”

Other tweets this, “In my mind there is no question concerning interrogating someone for open source crypto work.”

Details about the experience were also posted including this, “Even though I didn’t get an SSSS this time, I was still detained, questioned and searched while transiting to Canada via the US.”

This: “Also worth noting: my passport was confiscated for around an hour.”

This: “Out of my 4 DHS interrogations in the past 3 weeks, it’s the first time I’m asked about Cryptocat crypto and my passport is confiscated.”

And, most notably, this: “The interrogator (who claimed 22 years of computer experience) asked me which algorithms Cryptocat used and about its censorship resistance.”

If all of this is true, this is certainly a frightening turn of events. If what you develop online or what you say online as it relates to Internet freedom could impact how you are treated at the Canada, US border, it certainly would make me think twice about coming in to the US.

(Via Youranonnews Retweet)

Update: Since we broke the story last night, we have since sent requests for comment to both Nadim Kobeissi and the Department of Homeland Security for some clarity in this story. We will post a follow-up should new details surface on this story.

Have a tip? Want to contact the author? You can do so by sending a PM via the forums or via e-mail at [email protected].

Drew Wilson
Drew Wilson is perhaps one of the more well-known file-sharing and technology news writers around. A journalist in the field since 2005, his work has had semi-regular appearances on social news websites and even occasional appearances on major news outlets as well. Drew founded freezenet.ca and still contributes to ZeroPaid. Twitter | Google Plus
Givon
Givon

I am a computer professional for almost 20 yrs. A US citizen.  Been back & forth from Canada to the US. Been harassed at the border--which IMHO was sometimes clear prejudice.  One of my specialties is encryption.  I've seen this stuff before.  Legit computer ppl & legit citizens get shafted all the time, while the criminals walk the streets free.  http://bit.ly/KBvUdZ  This is shades of Phil Zimmerman & PGP.  BuckarooBanzai has got it right.

BuckarooBanzai
BuckarooBanzai

22 years of being on American Online and using Microsoft Word does not constitute "computer experience". That's like saying someone who has taken a taxi cab and had limo service their whole life equals experienced driving.

 

Right..... If you have 22 years  experience of "using computers" and do not know what open source is, then my dick has more centimeters than you have IQ points. I will let you figure that one out.

Matt
Matt

Crypto software is subject to export controls for many countries (and has been since long before the days of the Internet). There could be more going on here than meets the eye. It's a little disconcerting that this post lacks on details while being high on FUD.

Joe
Joe

I am a US citizen, and I have crossed to and from Canada with my passport confiscated, car and bags searched, and questioned in detail about my work by both countries.  I didn't think it was out of the ordinary; the border guards were stitching together a coherent story to see if I was trustworthy and truthful about my benign trip.  Perhaps Mr. Kobeissi's experience was based on the border guard's geekiness and having to meet their daily be-a-jerk quota.

Clint Gates
Clint Gates

I read the article and this seems like a false claim for publicity. Since it's open source it's already been cracked is my bet.

49th_Parallel
49th_Parallel

There are some holes in this story. First of all, the basic journalistic questions 'when' and 'where'. It is hard to credit the story without these basic facts.

Second, if the developer was 'transiting to Canada via the US' then was he stopped by Canadian Immigration when entering Canada? If he was stopped by US Immigration when entering the US that would have to take place at some other entry point, not the Canada-US border. Transiting means passing through the US from outside Country A to outside Country C.

What are the facts?

tonybaldwin
tonybaldwin

Can someone explain to me the need to interrogate a man about work he has made completely open?  I mean, if they want to know how an open source application works, all they need to do it download and view the source code, yes?  WTF?!

Guest
Guest

Nadim,

 

Border guards had enough time with your possessions to make significant changes.  Anything that they confiscated (phone, computer, etc.) needs to be considered compromised at the BIOS level.  A fresh reinstall will not help -buy new equipment.  Change all of your passwords, change your ISP, etc.

 

It does not matter that your work is open source.  It does not matter if you have not done anything wrong.  You may be on a list of people to monitor and there are all sorts of charges that can be trumped up.

 

IANAL, but I am an IT expert.  Don't be paranoid, just act as if you are.  Good Luck.

David Sugar
David Sugar

We also develop cryptographic voip solutions as free software (mainly working with ZRTP), and we have specifically chosen to do so to help enable the general public to evade state surveillance, so naturally I am personally outraged by this.  An injury to one is an injury to all!

Rafał Krupiński
Rafał Krupiński

Why would anyone develop such application when there is already a bunch of jabber clients supporting pgp?

Highly Skeptical
Highly Skeptical

If it's Open Source, why would they interrogate at all? ...

joostharmsen
joostharmsen

 @Givon I really can't understand why america is like this. Is'nt that the land of the FREE?

BuckarooBanzai
BuckarooBanzai

You forgot the part of it being "open source". AKA anyone with an internet connection can see the source code. How does interrogating some developer about a program that is open source in anyway going to help us find/kill terrorists? Terrorists don't use internet to say anything meaningful. They have this thing called brains. I mean, am I the only one who pays attention to things? Did you notice that Osama's house didn't have a internet connection? Because. They. Are. Smart. Enough. To. Know. That. We. Intercept. Everything. On. The. Internet.

 

Why do you think it took 10+ years to find Osama ffs? Terrorists use the internet to communicate important information the same way mobsters use the telephone to tell people to kill other people....oh that's right they don't. Mobsters assume police are listening, terrorists assume we are intercepting everything. 

Pablo
Pablo

 @49th_Parallel If you are flying to Canada from another country and you have a connecting flight in the US, then you are forced to go through US immigration. I don't see anything about a land border in the post, so assuming an airport entry seems very plausible.

Guest
Guest

This reminds me of when a Campaign for Liberty (ronpaul) volunteer was detained by the TSA (while traveling from St.Louis to D.C.).  They demanded to know why he was carrying over $4000 in cash.  He refused to answer given that it was none of their business.  

 

OF COURSE the TSA has done much worse, such as holding a mother in a glass jail (her crime: carrying medical bottles of milk for her kid).   And forcing a mother to "demo" a breastfeeding a machine, else they'd take the $100 device.  Also strip searches of the elderly, dumping urine on disabled persons, and groping breasts and crotches.

 

Time to wake up America.

@David Sugar

Anonymous
Anonymous

 The intent isn't to gather information at all; it's just an excuse to harass and intimidate the developer so that less people will be willing to work on such tools in future, out of fear that this will cause them problems travelling to the US (or perhaps travelling in general)

 

AdamPetrovic
AdamPetrovic

 @BuckarooBanzai I don't think that's the point he is making though. The article has a tone alluding to the US Government having some sort of agenda for open source crypto developers. When in actual fact there are crypto export laws as old as the developer himself. This is by no means something new, nor is it some post-911 scheme to quash terrorism.

DanJohnson
DanJohnson

Most Americans are so deep into "The Voice" (or other reality TV) stupor that it will take a personal inconvenience to wake them up. As long as it is only happening to someone else, then why bother....

gift
gift

makes me want to be a cryptographer and make shit that people can use to privately talk with their loved ones. 

puzzleduck
puzzleduck

Yeah, I'm stepping up my crypto project too :D

latecia
latecia

"Rafał Krupiński

Why would anyone develop such application when there is already a bunch of jabber clients supporting pgp?"

 

because pgp has been compromised for about 4 years minimum now, where have u been?



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