Have you heard of “Cryptocat”? If not, you probably will be hearing about it soon. Cryptocat is a web-based program that allows users to communicate and share files over a secure, encrypted chat session that is not subject to commercial or government surveillance.
It was created by Nadim Kobeissi. According to his Wikipedia page, Kobeissi was born in Beirut, Lebanon in 1990 and lists his occupation as “computer security specialist, freedom of information activist”.
You may not have heard of Kobeissi or Cryptocat. However, according to cryptocat founder, Nadim Kobeissi, US border patrol confiscated his passport. The founder claims that he has used his passport to travel from Canada to the United States 4 times in the past three weeks. The last time that he used his passport, he says that he was interrogated by US border patrol and his passport was confiscated.
Kobeissi has been on US radar for a while as a person of interest with regard to internet security and according to his Wikipedia page, “In 2012, the FBI attempted to entrap Kobeissi using Sabu – an American hacker involved with Lulzsec, an offshoot of Anonymous – as an undercover informant.” That story is also backed up by a NY Times article.
Kobeissi cannot understand why his passport would be confiscated. He sees Cryptocat as an application that “can save lives, because during the tense moments of the Arab Spring the sources of certain instant messages and other online communications were tracked down and killed for their political views and organizational skills.”
While Kobeissi admits that Cryptocat can be used for bad as well as good, he thinks its worth the risk. “It’s like if someone says ‘Hamburgers: they can be used to feed the good and they can be used to feed the Taliban. I guess that means we should get rid of hamburgers then.’ It bothers me that we’re so afraid that our freedom will be used against us that we’re willing to just give it up.”
I don’t know whether or not you’re convinced by his hamburger analogy, but it seems that Kobeissi’s decision to use his passport is under scrutiny.
Kobeissi is not the only computer developer who has been detained by US customs. Last year a bitcoin developer using his passport to travel from China to the United States was questioned for hours by US Customs agents and then denied entry into the United States.
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