The Law Is Not Your Friend: Law and Order in the Trump Regime
by Jerry Boyle
The Message Is Now The Message, Not The Medium
Trump, like Reagan before him, has promised to “hit the ground running” and, for activists especially, that military metaphor should be taken literally. The first theme of Trump’s acceptance speech at the Republican National Convention was “law and order,” and his cabinet picks prove he meant what he said: a bigot in charge of Justice, a fascist in the Oval Office, a General at Homeland Security, and a creep at CIA. And that fascist in the White House will be aided and abetted by a Republican Congress and a Republican Supreme Court. With no formal check in the state, our only check on the state will be our actions online and in the streets. The good news is that no state has ever defeated an indigenous insurgency, but the bad news is that what we are resisting is counter-insurgency, not the application of authority pursuant to law. So it’s time to gear up, and buddy up.
Information War: In the Future Everyone Will Be Anonymous For 15 Minutes
Trump, of all candidates, appreciates disintermediation, the impact of mass access to the means of production and distribution of information. He knows that knowledge is power, and the ability to control information is therefore essential to his project. What we can expect from him is an opaque administration imposing transparency on the citizenry. The Obama Administration bequeathed to Trump a first-class spying operation, which will henceforth operate without the high-minded pretense of constitutional law.
You have a legal privilege to communicate with your lawyers in confidence. But mediated interactions are inherently insecure, so no electronic signal is safe, and that confronts us with both a problem, and an opportunity.
Lock It Down
The problem is signal protection and persistence. Protection requires encryption. That begins with good passwords, and a decent password manager. KeePassX is generally preferred by pros, but Dashlane works fine for those who want something more user-friendly.
Passwords provide some protection for the device or service containing your information, but message encryption is required for information exchange. Thunderbird is the standard for email encryption, although it’s somewhat clunky to install and use. For mobile devices, Signal is the standard, and ease of use recommends it.
But even when you scramble your signals, you can’t assume your messages are secure, so communicate accordingly. In the wake of Edward Snowden’s revelations, the German secret services reverted to an old-fashioned method for securing the most sensitive conversations—they adjourn to a local café, where background noise scrambles electronic interception.
Signal persistence becomes paramount when the state restricts access to cellular communication. In such cases, mesh networks, which rely on the WiFi and Bluetooth utilities on your phone to relay signals, are essential. FireChat is popular, but unencrypted and insecure, so use accordingly.
And don’t overlook metatada. Even when you aren’t communicating, your phone is—it’s transmitting where you are, who you’re with, and who you’re communicating with. So for those secret chats at the coffee shop it’s best to drop the phones into a Faraday pouch. And it is wise in any event to use a Faraday wallet to keep the chips in your credit cards from checking in with random devices scattered across the urban landscape.
Mix It Up
Covertly intercepted information is deemed to be inherently reliable. That’s your opportunity. When you know you’re being spied on you also know the spies will believe any bullshit you share with your trusted associates. The possibilities are limited only by your imagination. You can keep them chasing wild geese down blind alleys indefinitely. Metadata is harder to spoof, but that too is something you can use to your advantage, and should in any event be accounted for in any spoofing operation. There is nothing so satisfying as the look on the policeman’s face when he realizes, too late, that the Decoy Team he read about in his intercepts was really just a ploy to distract him from the Action Team which got fully deployed while he was distracted.
Buddy Up: Lawyer Up Before You Get Busted
It’s nice to have a lawyer in court—so nice the constitution guarantees you one in criminal cases. But knowing this, the Executive Branch moves the real action to the streets and lock-ups, so by the time you get to the courthouse, you’re already screwed—they’ve tied you up in a ribbon and handed you on a silver platter to the prosecutor, so most cases result in plea agreements.
You need lawyers where the action is: on the streets, and in the police lock-ups.
The Chicago Chapter of the National Lawyers Guild provides volunteer Legal Observers for street actions. Known on the streets by their bright green hats, Legal Observers keep an eye on the cops so you don’t have to. And they serve as witnesses in the event of police misconduct—and the cops know this, so they tend to behave better. Requests for Legal Observers can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org. That initial request will not be encrypted, so account for that—secure channels (preferably via Signal or an in-person meeting) can be established after initial contact if necessary.
In the lock-ups, First Defense Legal Aid provides lawyers for station visits. Only lawyers are allowed to visit people held in police lock-ups, and while everyone knows they have the right to remain silent, protecting that right is another matter entirely. Lawyers help. First Defense runs a 24/7 hotline—1-800-Law-Rep4 (1-800-529-7374).
Feds present very special problems. Even speaking to Feds can be dangerous because their interviews are often perjury traps, designed to induce you to lie so they can indict you for lying to them, so they can then pressure you to turn snitch. For that reason, it is never safe to talk to a fed without your lawyer. Ask the agents for their card, and tell them your lawyer will contact them. Then call the 24/7 FBI Hotline of the Chicago Chapter of the National Lawyers Guild for quick access to a volunteer lawyer: (312) 913-0039, press “0″ at the prompt for the Hotline. Never talk to a Fed without your lawyer.
Try To Avoid Making The Law Your Enemy
The Holocaust was legal. Slavery and segregation were legal. We are living in a time when the law is mostly a tool of oppression, not a force for liberation. The law is unlikely to help you, but you can take measures to minimize the likelihood or impact of legal intervention. Keep your guard up, keep your lawyers close, and keep Trump’s feet to the fire.