Encryption vs. Surveillance in the New Civil Rights Movement


Abi Hassen | Truthout | December 12, 2015

What if in 1960, instead of performing an act of civil disobedience at the Woolworth lunch counter, the Greensboro Four had been arrested for “attempted disorderly conduct” on their way downtown?

Even if the charge were bogus and had no chance in court, its effect on the movement would have been real. Instead of engaging in a high-profile confrontation with the state that highlighted the cruelty of the United States’ racist laws, four young Black people would have been arrested on minor charges – hardly a noteworthy occurrence.

Law enforcement and the intelligence complex are paving the way to preempt activism in this way with their current talk of banning strong encryption while perpetuating an ever-growing system of mass data collection and surveillance. Don’t be fooled by their calls of “terrorism.” Actual terrorists such as al-Qaeda have known about and subverted electronic eavesdropping for decades and will continue to do so. The current efforts at subverting digital security will not stop the Bin Ladens and al-Qaedas of the world. Rather, they will disrupt this generation’s Martin Luther King Jrs., Black Panthers and Greensboro Fours.

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