back to article US librarians defy cops, Feds – and switch on their Tor exit node

The first library in the US to host a Tor exit node has voted to turn it back on despite warnings by the cops that it could lead to criminal behavior. A meeting late Tuesday of the board of trustees of the Kilton Public Library in West Lebanon, New Hampshire, saw it stand by its unanimous decision to embrace the anonymizing …

  1. Will Godfrey Silver badge
    Thumb Up

    Well done Librarians. That's all.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      And that is the difference between New Hampshire (who don't even have mandatory helmet laws if I remember right) and virtually every other state in the Union. Live free or die (and unlike Iowa on the GOP side doesn't pick the craziest religious nut to be POTUS).

      1. DougS Silver badge

        As an Iowan, I'd like to apologize for our nuts on both sides of the aisle. Unfortunately primaries/caucuses tend to bring out the most dedicated people, who also tend to be the most polarized. So we will reliably select one of the most conservative republicans and one of the most liberal democrats, and leave it up to the states that follow to have their voters figure out "what a minute, maybe this guy is so extreme he's unelectable in a general election" or decide to roll the dice and go with him.

        Don't blame us for Trump though, he was big nationally before he took off in Iowa. Instead of "who is the most conservative" this year republicans seem to be choosing based on "who is the least tainted by previous political experience". Considering that Scott Walker was leading Iowa a few months ago, Trump can hardly be considered worse. Who knows, maybe a billionaire who can't be bought (or so we hope) is better than the same shrubs we keep getting every 4-8 years who are hard to tell apart despite their supposed differences in party affiliation. At least he's making the election entertaining.

        1. dlc.usa
          Joke

          Unique Experience

          Hands down, The Donald has more experience going bankrupt than all the other candidates combined. I expect that will come in handy for the next POTUS, if not the sitting one. On top of that he's a sublime twofer--bread AND circuses.

        2. Captain Hogwash Silver badge

          Nuts, Iowa, etc.

          They're from outer space. They just work in Iowa.

        3. NogginTheNog
          WTF?

          Primaries, caucuses....

          I really don't understand your Presidential Election system at all... :-S

          1. Geoffrey W Silver badge

            Re: Primaries, caucuses....

            RE: "I really don't understand your Presidential Election system at all... :-S"

            I've lived in the USA for nearly 13 years now and I'm still no wiser. I asked my American wife to explain it and she hasn't a clue either. I suspect its like that radio game "Mornington Crescent" and no one knows WTF is going on, not even those taking part. They just do what the lizards tell them to do, read from the scripts, and hope they Get the job / Win the game / Don't get eaten.

          2. GBE

            Re: Primaries, caucuses....

            I really don't understand your Presidential Election system at all... :-S

            I do -- and sometimes wish I didn't.

            It's fairly easy to explain how all the individual pieces work (though the explanations

            differ from state to state). Just don't expect the "big picture" to make much sense when you put all the pieces together. There is no big picture. It's just pieces.

            1. asdf Silver badge

              Re: Primaries, caucuses....

              >Just don't expect the "big picture" to make much sense when you put all the pieces together. There is no big picture.

              Yes there is. Its called Modern Democracy/Republic Alpha Version .01 . Sometimes going first is not an advantage.

          3. Fungus Bob Silver badge

            Re: Primaries, caucuses....

            "I really don't understand your Presidential Election system at all"

            Its like mating a bassoon with 5-day Freshness - if it actually worked it would be outlawed.

        4. asdf Silver badge

          >Don't blame us for Trump though

          I don't. But if you all pick Rick Sanitarium (his real last name) again or Huckabee you deserve the shit you get.

    2. leexgx

      all i see NSA doing is installing traffic sniffers on each library now (does not have to be in the library) as they have more points now to sniff data on the exit nodes

    3. NoneSuch
      Big Brother

      "it got a visit from the cops, tipped off by Homeland Security, which warned library and city officials that the service could be used for criminal activity"

      The postal service, telegrams, email and the Internet can all be used for criminal activity as well. The difference is the government monitors those things already. They just hate what they can't read.

  2. PleebSmash

    small steps towards freedom

    Library announces plans to hang homebuilt clocks on the walls.

    1. Rick Giles
      Pint

      Re: small steps towards freedom

      Library announces plans to hang homebuilt clocks on the walls.

      I see what you did there.

  3. Alistair Silver badge
    Windows

    wonder if this will make it into the TV show of the same name

    http://www.imdb.com/title/tt3663490/

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: wonder if this will make it into the TV show of the same name

      They don't need onion routing, they have magick

  4. Pliny the Whiner

    Terminator: Librarians Rising

    Librarians have proven themselves to be a remarkably resilient and ornery bunch, pushing back against anyone who pushes them. The Arnold Schwarzeneggers of the white-collar world, if you will. With much better English skills, of course.

    No kidding, this stuff makes my heart flutter a bit every time I see it happen.

    1. Suricou Raven

      Re: Terminator: Librarians Rising

      They are making powerful enemies, though.

      1. Rich 11 Silver badge

        Re: Terminator: Librarians Rising

        They are making powerful enemies, though.

        "A man's greatness can be measured by his enemies."

      2. Michael Wojcik Silver badge

        Re: Terminator: Librarians Rising

        They are making powerful enemies, though.

        No, they're merely annoying the enemies they already had.

        And those enemies have other fish to fry. While the folks in charge of this decision have my admiration for standing up to typical police-state fear-mongering, the reality is that DHS is just sniping at what they hope are easy targets, and the West Lebanon PD don't have the resources (material or political) to tighten the screws.

        If some dimwits with enough time on their hands get hold of this and decide to raise a stink, they might be able to put pressure on the library's public funding. But that would be local, non-official action. That's what public libraries in the US typically have to worry about - interference by the community book-burning idiots.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Terminator: Librarians Rising

      But don't most Librarians only have a place to work because Andrew Carnegie felt guilty about all the lives he ruined and his foundation built most of them in the US? After all we couldn't waste good public money on anything educational for adults. Those F35 (and many war machines before) won't build themselves.

      1. Anonymous Custard Silver badge

        Re: Terminator: Librarians Rising

        Oook?

        1. Rick Giles

          Re: Terminator: Librarians Rising

          Ook?

          It's a reference to something Terry Pratchett related.

      2. Michael Wojcik Silver badge

        Re: Terminator: Librarians Rising

        don't most Librarians only have a place to work because Andrew Carnegie blah blah blah?

        No. Carnegie paid to build fewer than 1700 libraries in the US. There are a couple of orders of magnitude more libraries currently in the country. And the Carnegie money had to, y'know, be supplanted by public and private funds to keep those libraries open for the past century. But thanks for playing.

        Carnegie libraries were important, sure, but they don't come close to being a majority of libraries.

        If only there were some organization that made this sort of information readily available...

  5. Nunyabiznes

    2A

    All of those arguments - especially the drunk driving one - can be used to support gun ownership. For the record I support personal gun ownership by people who have not proven themselves unsuitable.

    1. Greg J Preece

      Re: 2A

      Absolutely, and I'm also in favour of gun ownership by responsible people, just as I am in favour generally of things being granted to responsible people. The argument that's been raging in recent years in the US has little to do with whether or not guns should be allowed as possessions - good luck with that one - and is actually about one side wanting to add controls/checks on who can have guns, which I have no issue with but apparently the gun lobby does. If you have a health issue likely to cause an accident, you're not allowed to drive, but apparently checking whether you have health issues before giving you a firearm is insane.

      Back to the issue - good on the librarians! In the current climate it takes some brass balls to do something like that.

    2. DavCrav Silver badge

      Re: 2A

      "All of those arguments - especially the drunk driving one - can be used to support gun ownership. For the record I support personal gun ownership by people who have not proven themselves unsuitable."

      Sort of. Here the argument is that TOR provides an important service for many people and can help people express themselves the world over, and balanced against that, the fact that some people will use it to do bad things, is not enough justification to ban it.

      For guns, the first part of the balancing act is much lighter, and the other side much heavier: guns are incredibly dangerous objects, leading in part to the United States being one of the most violent and murderous societies in the developed world. (The US has a murder rate of 4.7/100000, compared with the UK and France at 1.0/100000.) The freedom arguments are much weaker: privacy online and being able to own a particular object are significantly different.

      In the end it's another balancing act, as is almost every decision of this kind.

      Oh, while I think about it, anyone who says that the reason they should be allowed to gun is because it's in the Constitution is producing a stupid argument: firstly, it isn't in the Constitution, it's in an Amendment; secondly, the right to own slaves is in the Constitution, but most people would agree that isn't a reasonable thing now; thirdly, if we are talking about whether something should be legal or not, stating that it is legal is not an argument.

      1. Irony Deficient

        Re: 2A

        DavCrav, ratified amendments to the US constitution are every much a part of that constitution as any non-amended part; this is why its thirteenth amendment is a constitutional ban (rather than a legislative ban) against owning slaves.

      2. Greg J Preece

        Re: 2A

        I don't think you're quite getting this constitution thing...

        Oh, while I think about it, anyone who says that the reason they should be allowed to gun is because it's in the Constitution is producing a stupid argument: firstly, it isn't in the Constitution, it's in an Amendment;

        So it's in the Constitution.... Amendments to the Constitution are still part of the Constitution....

        secondly, the right to own slaves is in the Constitution, but most people would agree that isn't a reasonable thing now;

        Which is why it's no longer in the Constitution, as per Constitutional amendment. That said, please also be aware that changing the Constitution is such a serious thing to do, that particular amendment took a civil war...

        thirdly, if we are talking about whether something should be legal or not, stating that it is legal is not an argument.

        The entire point of a Constitution is that it's a basis for the most important parts of the law, and is much, much harder to alter. Other laws can be struck down if they contradict the Constitution, and often are. It is a special law, and special consideration regarding its tenets is indeed valid.

    3. NogginTheNog

      Re: 2A

      "people who have not proven themselves unsuitable"... by massacring a few dozen innocent members of the public?

      1. Tom 7 Silver badge

        Re: 2A

        "people who have not proven themselves unsuitable"... by massacring a few dozen innocent members of the public?

        Yup - you can have a gun until then. Then they may take it away from you.

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Does anyone actually believe Tor is anonymous anymore?

    Doesn't it all route through some big ass American government servers these days.

    Is this just a story to make people that abuse Tor think it's safe?

    I'm unsure what to believe anymore so I'll just sit here in my tin foil hat eating organic seaweed while listening to enya on vinyl with my wind up record player. Sail away sail away sail away....

    1. Daggerchild Silver badge
      Black Helicopters

      Oh they try. Even if you can't penetrate something, you can try and surround it, but even if you can't completely surround it, you can lay enough perimeter cameratraps to build up a limited picture over time.

      But it swings both ways - you can manipulate people who collect data, if they don't know that you know; and if you know where their perimeter isn't, they will eventually convince themselves you aren't using it as they never saw you.

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    with that logic we better close all roads as they may be used in criminal activity

  8. Graham Marsden
    Flame

    What about all those books?

    They can give people dangerous ideas! They can be used to look up chemical formulas to make explosives! They can promote all sorts of radicalism!

    Far better to burn them all!

    (Excuse me, the nurse is here with my medicine...)

    1. Will Godfrey Silver badge

      Re: What about all those books?

      Fahrenheit 451 anybody?

  9. Grikath

    ...despite warnings by the cops that it could lead to criminal behavior.

    So does being alive in general... Their point?

  10. Inventor of the Marmite Laser Silver badge

    Ook!

    Thats all

    1. Rick Giles
      Thumb Up

      Re: Ook!

      I see what you did there...

  11. Rol Silver badge

    Everyone's a suspect

    Wouldn't it be nice, if it was assumed by the state, that all its citizens are innocent until proven guilty?

    Simply taking away the ability to commit a crime, isn't going to help society to progress, or for that matter, prevent the crime from eventually happening elsewhere.

    As one comment eluded to earlier, books could become the most divisive criminal tool we have ever seen, because unlike the internet equivalent, there is no way of tracking who is reading books on chemistry or electronics and thus honing their demonic skills to whatever ends.

    Perhaps we could see the day when all paper books are banned, because they are seen to be beyond the control of the state and thus a threat.

    And then we will see granny getting pinned to the floor as horrified commuters cheer on the heroes, wrestling a terrifying Mills & Boone out of her hands.

    Ridiculous? Well, I truly hope so.

    Impossible? You haven't been paying attention. Have you.

    1. DocJames
      Black Helicopters

      Re: Everyone's a suspect

      And then we will see granny getting pinned to the floor as horrified commuters cheer on the heroes, wrestling a terrifying Mills & Boone out of her hands.

      Ridiculous? Impossible? No, just implausible. There would be no wrestling:

      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Death_of_Jean_Charles_de_Menezes

    2. John Brown (no body) Silver badge
      Headmaster

      Re: Everyone's a suspect

      "Wouldn't it be nice, if it was assumed by the state, that all its citizens are innocent until proven guilty?"

      I assume you meant "unless proven guilty". As it stands, your statement predicates that all are guilty, it's just that we ain't proved it yet! On the other other hand, maybe it was some version or irony which I'm not quite getting :-)

      Oh yeah, it's "alluded", unless you are trying to hide from someone ;-)

      1. Rol Silver badge

        Re: Everyone's a suspect

        @ John Brown (no body)

        I wish I had seen the irony, but sadly I had fallen into that wide open trap of regurgitating common phrases without thinking. Have an upvote for your sentinel work.

        1. Rol Silver badge

          Re: Everyone's a suspect

          Down vote?

          Err, please explain, as my mind is melting trying to understand just what it is I said that could invoke such negativity.

          John is right, the phrase can quite easily be misinterpreted as, everyone will eventually be found guilty.

          And not in a "No one is innocent" sense.

          If the world is to be judged on historical references, then let's get those references written in a modern and precise fashion and not leave them to misinterpretation by future folk.

  12. Paul McClure

    Stupid cops

    They go after the library for adding a service to their community? Maybe cops should ask for the road/transit to be shut down because someone might be criminal. Maybe they should close grocery stores, banks, and every other piece of modern society because criminals might on the off chance use their services. Cops have been without supervision for too long. Maybe the public should have a chat with the cops about getting back to work and stop bothering everybody who might get struck by lightning. It won't hurt to review staffing levels as it seems they have too many and not enough work.

  13. a_yank_lurker Silver badge

    Good news from the Granite State

    The whole argument that the connection could be used for illegal activity is a bit silly. Libraries where I live (not New Hampshire) do not let anyone just plop down in front of a computer. You have give some sort of ID and they let you use a computer. If illegal activity was traced back to any library, it could be relatively easy to determine who was using the computers at that time. Also, libraries where I am limit what you can do and you are out in the open.

    1. Sven Coenye

      Re: Good news from the Granite State

      It is an exit relay. No one using it will be present at the library. And if any user were, having to fork over an ID pretty much negates the entire purpose of using TOR.

  14. Grade%

    I bow to thee, librarian!

    Librarians are the guardians of the sacred stacks. They battle against the corrupting ignorant darkness with the shield of library cards. By granting access to anyone with a proof of residency in a given lending area, the citizen now has access to all the books through the magic of inter-library loans.

    I, as a benefactor, swear to guard thee too, and genuflect with humble gratitude for the ceaseless struggle you endure.

  15. Ken Moorhouse Silver badge

    Keep your enemies closer

    A couple of questions about the hardware in the library. Any sign of CCTV's pointing at the screens? Those LAN cable's... do they go straight out the building, or do they go into a panel marked "NSA Property - Keep Out"?

  16. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    "...like a new teacher punishing the entire class for one student's bad behavior."

    "...that the city should not shut down its roads just because some people drive drunk."

    There's an assumption in the use of those analogies that TOR is primarily used for browsing for independent news and information from a country where such information is suppressed and possession likely to result in bad personal consequences. That is, the true noble use of TOR.

    However, if TOR is primarily used for hiding drugs trades, child pornography, and other socially unacceptable behaviour, those analogies should be re-written as

    "...like a new teacher punishing the only good child in the class despite all the other student's bad behaviour"

    "...that the city should not shut down its roads despite most people driving drunk"

    Given the difficulty and danger associated with using TOR in a repressive regime (Chine, Iran, etc), I can't see how TOR is actually being used by anyone anywhere to access independent news and information suppressed by the governments. In that sense TOR is a failure.

    That means that most TOR traffic in the world probably carries highly undesirable traffic such as child porn, etc. If that were so, I suspect the librarians would be happy to reconsider their analogies.

    On a more general note, there is a massive disconnect in the attitudes privacy advocates espousing things like TOR and policing.

    Effective policing in a democracy can happen only with the consent of the people. Crime happens anyway, and it's the police's job to ensure that as many perpetrators get called to account as possible. So long as detecting crime is feasible, you have a harmonious well balanced society with a minimum of unpleasant incidents that result in the worst elements of criminal society being put behind bars.

    If the population withdraws that consent (in this case, uses encryption the police cannot break), then the population will have to get used to an increased crime rate. Criminals getting away with it are not being called to account, and they remain free to carry out more crimes. To make things worse, the official crime rate might actually drop because no one has any means to know that a crime is actually being committed.

    A population always gets what it asks for. The USA seems to have an irrational dislike of their own government despite the fact that they vote passionately for it every four years. If they (irrationally) carry on making it impossible for their government and police forces to do their jobs then they are well on their way to anarchy. Some might argue that they're already there.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Anarchy?

      Perhaps you're on the other side of the pond, but no one living in the US would confuse the Police States of America with an government-free, anarchist paradise. The repeated violations of human rights by Federal, state, and local authorities really does make one feel like we're living out a real life V for Vendetta.

      Anon, obviously!

    2. Alistair Silver badge
      Windows

      I see the FBI executive(s) (has/have) been keeping up with the Reg......

  17. M7S
    Thumb Up

    Hopefully there will eventually be a connection to Hex

    Oook

  18. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    all it takes for FBI now is to plant something

    after all, police "provocation" is legit in the US, non?

  19. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    If Tor shut down, criminals would find other ways to carry out their activities

    however, the other side, no matter how evil (I mean the agencies, not the criminals), do have a point: make a safe and efficient technology _widely_ available, and the criminals will use it, increasingly, so supporting tor does make life of crime easier.

    Same with gataway cars to replace galloping off with a fistful of dollars though.

  20. DocJames
    Pint

    Librarians always spotted people talking crap.

    I wonder if this is due to the combination of liking fiction (with its analysis of character) and filing/searching (with its basis in logic).

    A beer for all the unsung librarian heroes out there (that's a lot of beer; I'm glad its a virtual pint with virtual cost only)

  21. Adair

    Up with this kind of thing!

    [see title]

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Up with this kind of thing!

      Hurrah!

  22. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    "Shutting the service down because of what one person might do was, in the words of a visiting library trustee from nearby Reading, like a new teacher punishing the entire class for one student's bad behavior."

    Or like arresting and fingerprinting a schoolboy for building a clock.

  23. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Not a problem

    As long as those who voted to connect to a Tor are held 100% personally responsible for ALL illegal activities associated with their use of the Tor, I see no problem. Activities include piracy, hacking, malware, etc. but are not limited to just those areas. As in Japan the perps and in this case the voting members would all be required to serve a minimum of two years in prison for each count of piracy and 10 years minimum for each hacking event, in addition to huge fines. There would be no get out of jail free pass to anyone. All responsible for electing to use the Tor would be fully responsible for all public use of that Tor for all illegal activities - because they willingly chose to be connected to the Tor knowing full well it is used for nefarious purposes in violation of law.

    1. LaeMing Silver badge
      Facepalm

      Re: Not a problem

      I see you posted AC? Nothing to hide, nothing to fear, eh? You must be absolutely terrified of something!

    2. Trevor_Pott Gold badge

      Re: Not a problem

      So post your real name, Anonymous Coward. You deserve to go to jail for the crimes committed by those who manufactured your comptroller. Child labour, industrial espionage...all of it! You are sanctioning it explicitly through your purchase of the relevant equipment. By your own logic you are to be held accountable for the crimes of those others, and will be punished according to the most stringent regulations available on the planet for those crimes.

      Maybe we should just line you up against a wall and have you shot.

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