Jon Lebkowski's Cyberdawg Barking, 9/20/97

Dear Big Brother

Dear Big Brother,

I hear that you're watching me, and I figure you must be pretty bored by now. I have to wonder what it is you're looking for.

I hear that you want access to my public key so that you can monitor my online transactions. Without this you say you might not be able to catch drug dealers or terrorists and foil their plans. Since I'm not a drug dealer or a terrorist, I'm not sure why you want my key.

I don't know much about drug dealers, but somehow I think they'll figure out or BUY a way around your key escrow/key recovery system--"if strong crypto is outlawed, only outlaws will have strong crypto."

I know a little more about terrorists, just from reading the news. I've never heard of a terrorist using crypto--they actually don't seem smart enough, like those guys at the World Trade Center who returned for the deposit on the van they used, or Timothy McVeigh barrelling out of Oklahoma City in a car with no license plate. Actually, it's kinda funny: you seem worried about bomb recipes on the Internet, but it seems that you taught McVeigh how to make bombs when he was in the Army. How are you going to protect us from your own creations?

I know a lot of people are worried about this stuff because they've discovered 'information anxiety' in their lives. I worry sometimes, too, but I can't help thinking about how this would play out in the 'real' world. I know that you can get into my house and see what I've been up to if you think you have to--I mean, I've seen enough movies to know that. But I would still feel pretty weird if you asked me to put the key to my house where you could pick it up and use it if you thought it was important. I don't have anything to hide, but I still feel weird about strangers coming into my house and rummaging around in my boring stuff.

You may think I have something to hide because I don't want you to know everything about me. Well, everybody probably has something they want to hide, but it's mostly innocuous stuff. But what I really want for myself, and I think many others will agree with me about this, is control over how much of my life I expose, and to whom. And I want you to trust me to tell you what you need to know.

Those other guys, the ones you can't trust, the criminals and sociopaths and terrorists of this world, will find ways to hide their stuff from you no matter what you have to do. It might be a little easier for you to catch them if you have the keys to their lives and can walk in the door at will--but if that means you have to have my key, too--I'd rather not. I'd rather see you work a little harder.


Check out for up-to-date information on the government's war on crypto.

Jon Lebkowsky, is a writer and Internet activist living in Austin Texas. He also maintains a Web page at To subscribe to Cyberdawg Barking , send email to with subscribe cyberdawg as the message.