I take the Fifth

An interesting case from the New York Times illustrates nicely the right to avoid self-incrimination (within the United States justice system) but also a more disturbing trend.

A guy carrying child porn on his laptop refused to give the password to the encrypted files and thus could not be prosecuted. Under the Fifth Amendment, he wasn't required to provide the password to the authorities. This also shows the efficacy of PGP systems.

As the judge says it's the difference between having to hand over the key to a safe, and offering the combination (hmm, I'll have to think about that).

More ominously, the story signals a shift in U.S. customs and security protocol that now gives minimum-wage thugs access to your computer's hard drive. Another victory for the war on terror.

Not to advertise my server to criminals, but on my PC you'll find: my diary, financial records, personal photographs, drafts of novels, poems, love letters, probably some bizarre porn (seen by accident and now stored in several hard-to-find caches), PDFs of the Anarchist's Cookbook and the Unabomber's Manifesto, and the ubiquitous Photoshop experiments (no comment).

Horrifying secrets of Darwin's hard drive

I don't want my nearest and dearest checking out my PC, let alone some low-rent Taser-jockey. My internet history list alone would be enough to send me to Guantanamo with an orange jumpsuit for the next five years.

Sample links to Iran and Bush in just the last 24 hours:


Hmm, this guy is a political threat. That equals terrorism! Quick! Get him the gimp costume!

Darwin today