Interview with Lance Brown, CEO of PeoplesForum.com
“Liberty has never come from government. Liberty has always come from the subjects of government. The history of liberty is the history of resistance.” – Woodrow Wilson
Lance Brown is the creator of Stop Carnivore and President and Founder of Future Solutions, which was founded in 1996 with the goal of pursuing freedom-minded solutions to tomorrow’s problems.
Mr. Brown is also: President and CEO of PeoplesForum.com; CIO/Technology Supervisor of Dispute Solvers/Rent-a-Court, an online dispute resolution firm; Candidate for President of the U.S. in 2008. Already a veteran political activist at age 27, Mr. Brown plans a life of dedicated service to the causes of freedom.
How much time did it take you to open StopCarnivore.org?
I bought the domain name on July 17th, and had it hosted by that night. It took about 3 or 4 days to put the site together enough to be presentable. I was trying to launch it in time for last Monday’s Congressional Hearings, and I did that. The first big traffic day was Monday the 21st. I have been updating and adding to the site daily since then.
The main focus of the site is Carnivore. What is the main problem with this system?
At an academic/political level, the biggest problem is that it blatantly violates the 4th Amendment to our Constitution. That amendment specifically requires searches of only a very limited and targeted scope, and Carnivore is a sweeping violation of it.
On an “average person” level, Carnivore is wrong because it gives far too much power and control to a very dangerous agency…one which has shown its disrespect for civil and human rights, not to mention privacy, on numerous occasions. Few Americans trust the FBI, and rightly so. Carnivore gives them, and through them, any Government Agency, the potential to control, limit, and interfere with electronic communications on a mass level.
And for those with full faith in Government, Carnivore is still a bad idea. Its super-invasive nature will drive criminals, and large numbers of innocent people to use encryption in greater and greater numbers. Those companies and citizens who fear for their privacy will simply relocate, digitally, to a place such as HavenCo.
Is Carnivore a next step of the ever-spoken-about Echelon network?
As I understand it (and I am not fully educated on Echelon), any talk about the specifics of Echelon are speculation at best. I see, and I think that the more cautious and/or paranoid of us see, that Carnivore seems eerily like a physical manifestation of Big Brother – the feared “evil twin” of Governement. Why else would a tool be developed which can scan all communications, unless that was its intended use?
The bottom line is that ISPs were supplying the FBI with this information before Carnivore. It’s unneeded – which makes me wonder why it’s here.
StopCarnivore.org has been featured on (among others) Free-Market.net’s Freedom Home Page of The Week, Freedom Action of The Week and USA Today. How much exposure did those features give to the site?
It’s hard to tell exactly how the word is getting around. I didn’t get a single visitor from the USA Today column online, but I can’t say what happened with all the readers of the paper edition. And the Free-Market.net awards are very new. they are just starting to draw people in. Free-Market.net is a very large network, and I was very proud to get their double honor. They reach a lot of important people in the freedom movement. Word is spreading more each day: by e-mail, through links, and more and more from the search engines.
As you noted, on Monday, July 24, 2000, the House Judiciary Subcommittee held a hearing to discuss Carnivore. What was the result?
Very little really. It prompted a lot of media attention to the issue, and motivated 28 Congresspeople to petition Janet Reno to suspend Carnivore, but she has refused to do so. The FBI did a fairly good job of downplaying the danger of Carnivore, but it seems likely that more hearings will ensue. There has been an “impartial” study of Carnivore commissioned by Janet Reno, and the ACLU and EPIC are still waiting on their Freedom of Information requests to see Carnivore’s code. When eityher of those things occur, we will likely see more hearings. What will happen there depends on how much the public raises their voice between then and now.
If these privacy groups receive the Carnivore code, do you think it will be the original code or a “slightly lighter” version of it?
I don’t think the FBI will release the code, if they can avoid it. They will use the claim that it will threaten their efforts to invade our privacy, which is true. I think asking for the code of Carnivore is another way of showing that it’s so despicable, that they can’t even show us the code. I think we will get the “impartial” Government study of Carnivore, and that will be about it. If we find out about the “guts” or Carnivore, I think it will be through a “leak,” either at an ISP, within the FBI, or from hackers who find and dissect Carnivore on the network. Otherwise, we will just get the Government’s “impartial” perspective.
To the latest findings, is Carnivore “on-line and working” on some Internet Service Providers?
Yes, the FBI testified before the Congress subcommittee that Carnivore has been used some 26 times since last year, with 16 of those uses being this year. It was implied, if not stated at those hearings, and later in Janet Reno’s refusal to suspend the system, that it is currently in use. No word was given on where it is deployed. We hope to find that out on our own.
On the site you speak mainly about the American people because Carnivore affects mostly their lives. Do you think that the problem “can” extend to the rest of the world and by what pace?
Where the Internet is concerned, I think that the problems of the U.S. are automatically world problems. The U.S is home to most of the world’s Internet users, data traffic, web sites, and ‘Net companies. Very few world Internet users can go for long without interacting with a server in the U.S., and as soon as they do, they could become part of a Carnivore investigation.
The United Kingdom has problems with RIP bill. RIP and Carnivore have some similiar functions.
From what I understand, RIP is almost a replica of Carnivore, with the big difference being that the UK Government is not invoking it in secret, like the FBI did last year in the U.S. In many types of Internet policy, the U.K. has shown itself to be a sterner, more regulatory twin of the U.S. So RIP is not surprising…but I hope that the U.S. will lead the way to reversing the trend of Governmant invasion of the Internet.
What is your opinion regarding ideas of buliding parallel networks that will be based on user’s anonimity and privacy? Is there always another side of the coin in fully anonymouse networks? (of course there is no full anonimity)
I would prefer that there were no need for counter-measures such as anonymous networks, parallel distribution, and the like. But what it shows is that the Government’s attempts to “reign in” the Internet are bound to be subverted- the scale of which will be in proportion to their invasion. The more we feel like we are not secure in our “papers and effects” as the Constitution guarantees, the more we will do to protect that security, or to evade the invaders. The bad side of this is that these networks don’t allow for copyright protection, and other lawful protections that government is responsible for. I think the government is encouraging the disgruntled and threatened to go hide out, and this is not a healthy relationship between Government and Citizens.
About the “Carnivore poll” – It’s well-known that an on-line poll cannot be taken seriously, but the last time we checked 6% of the votes gave Carnivore a green signal. Are you satisfied with the results?
Like you said, an online poll only means so much. But, given the little public knowledge of Carnivore, I think it’s encouraging to see such a near-total rejection of it. BTW, the percent has gone from 8% in favor to 6% since we put the link on our page. 🙂
Since the petition involves mainly the American people, do you think that the visitors from other countries that sign the petition will be taken as valid entries? Is the e-mail address the main way to check the validity of the signed message?
I think that all the entries will be taken as valid, at least by the petition form. It is up to the recipients whether they want to invalidate some signatures on the petition. My hope is that they will not question the validity of any of the signatures, and simply be led to realize that, regardless of exact numbers, there is a widespread and vocal negative reaction to Carnivore.
Regarding your StopCarnivore.org work, have you received any threats by e-mail, snail-mail or any other way?
No, I haven’t recieved any threats – mostly just helpful comments, suggestions and critiques. Of course, the campaign is still quite young. 🙂
Were you contacted by the FBI?
Was your site visited by the US Governement?
According to our server logs, the site has been visited by people from a number of Government Agencies, including the Department of Justice, the Washington, D.C. Superior Court, and the Traesury Department, to name a few. And so far, the Marines are the only branch of military that hasn’t seemed to visit yet. I just posted a fuller list of the Agencies that have stopped by on our home page.
What are your plans for the future? It stands in your info that you plan to run for president in 2008…
I plan on fighting for freedom for the rest of my life, until everyone is free from unprovoked force, or I die, whichever comes first. Part of that plan is running for President in 2008, a campaign which I began 6 years ago. I have a number of freedom-related projects in the works, including a Free School on the Internet, and web sites such as nomoredrugwar.com, fightthefeds.org, and no1040.org, an anti-tax site. These sites are still in development. Also, I just acquired stopechelon.org, and will begin a campaign against carnivore’s International twin when the time is right. Overall, I plan to provide opportunities for people to escape the restraints, both real and artificial, that our current way of life has created upon our freedom. We live very un-free lives, all of us, and that has got to change if we are going to move forward as a species.