Neil April 22, 2016 3:14 PM

Great series of cartoons which accurately depict the debate.

My favourite has to be the ‘digital back door’ by Signe Wilkinson as that is the one I think that enables the public to understand the problems it’d cause.

The court sketch is also good but some people place blind ignorance in their country’s judicial system so I think the clarity given by the others is better.

Steve Kinney April 22, 2016 7:53 PM

Dilbert is the most accurate and accessible depiction of tech firm corporate culture and the engineering trades in print. Scott Adams is a refugee from AT&T.

Wael April 22, 2016 8:12 PM

Uah! Friday (The fifth Monday of the week)! Only two cartoons to “analyze”…
5 is cute… Analogy? You mean you didn’t know it’s a working program?

The seen:
Apple in the background. Apple is all caps… (Everyone is paying attention to a “loud” situation)
The door is already pre marked (where to put spyware.)
“Digital Backdoor”, Quote, unquote! It’s an intrusive physical backdoor, in other words It will let all these people standing in line to enter. It’ll create a hole big enough for Putin to go through it on a horse (meaning the hole is big enough to drive a truck through it, along with everyone and their uncles and ants)

Hackers (grey hats): Boy oh boy! The FBI has a bigger hacksaw than mine. I’ll leverage that! Can you speed it up? (chop chop, time is money)

ISIS Junior member: Fuk me! I died and went to heaven! Sht, but I didn’t pull the switch yet, or have I? I’m confused! Who do I stab… Should I wait until they open the “back door” first??? (The confused and surprised look in his eyes)

Vladimir Putin Which horse should I ride today? Good day to ride my moral high horse! Look, world! I got nothing to say, nothing to hide, people — clear as day light and the sun behind me. Nothing up my sleeves, I took my shirt off, see grin?

Nigerian Prince Holly Sh*t. I’m rich!

Taliban member hmmm. So they want to snoop on me, eh? But they’re already advertising it! Hmm… Must be reverse physiology — fu*k’n a! BAU, then. I hope that ISIS prick doesn’t ruin the day.

free April 23, 2016 1:29 AM

The cartoons are laughable nonsense. Oh yes, the “hackers” and the “repressive regimes” are a bigger threat than the US government. In some deranged dream that is.

free April 23, 2016 1:42 AM

The cartoons are laughable nonsense. Oh yes, the “hackers” and “repressive regimes” are a bigger threat than the US government. That is of course true…only in the deranged dreams of american fascists.

ps: you just deleted my previous comment so I’m reposting.

False Dichotomy April 23, 2016 8:26 AM

Actually the entire surveillance debate is based on the false dichotomy of “privacy vs security” i.e. assumes we must sacrifice one to achieve the other.

First, the NSA can’t point to a single terrorist plot they have foiled. So that is pretty good evidence in and of itself that the surveillance state is a waste of time and money. Secondly, as also pointed out by Koerner at the Huffington Post:

To the defenders of the surveillance state, security means “saving American lives”. That is why Feinstein and her ilk justify governmental surveillance with statements like, “the NSA’s bulk collection of metadata might have prevented 9/11”.

That only makes sense as a justification if the mass violation of privacy is of less value than 2996 innocent American lives. Of course, it’s not just our privacy that has been sacrificed: our freedom of speech and our right to due process have been sacrificed by the same laws, and with the same justification, that paved the way to systematic and secret violation of privacy. So what the likes of Feinstein are really saying is that the American way of life has less value than 2996 innocent lives.

Moreover, most of the same people in government who advocate sacrificing the American way of life (liberty) to save American lives (security) support the sacrificing of American lives to save the American way of life. This inconsistency goes beyond the moral: it verges on the mathematical.

To date, the American government has, in the War of on Terror, sacrificed nearly 7000 American lives and somewhere between a hundred thousand and a million non-American lives to protect (we are told) the American way of life, which includes our privacy. Our way of life, of which our privacy is an important part, cannot simultaneously be worth fewer than the 2996 American lives lost on 9/11 and more than the approximately 7000 American service personnel and hundreds of thousands of innocents we have killed abroad.

Assuming Feinstein and friends are not being deliberately disingenuous, what she must really mean is that the surveillance state, and the War on Terror of which it is a part, would not just have saved 3000 Americans on 9-11, but that they are saving more American lives than –

(a) all the Americans we have lost through fighting “the War on Terror”, plus
(b) the non-American lives taken by our actions (presumably and somewhat sickeningly weighted by some factor that makes each one worth less than a “saved American”), plus
(c) whatever value we might give to the American way of life, which includes our privacy (measured, for mathematical consistency) in terms of a number of lives.


Since no one is arguing that killing innocent foreigners makes us any safer, but our government has killed huge numbers of them, it is apparent that the more closely an innocent non-American life is valued to an innocent American one, the more American lives must be saved by the sacrifice of liberty to reach this so-called balance between liberty and security.


I’ll offer up my own base-case strategy for preserving American liberty and lives. It’s in two parts, and it’s really complicated. Here goes.

1) Don’t give up any liberties. 2) Don’t put Americans in harm’s way.

albert April 23, 2016 10:26 AM

@False Dichotomy,
It’s just a small example of Western Culture, which dichotomizes everything.

“…deliberately disingenuous…” 🙂 Around here, we call that -lying-.

9/11 may have been preventable (in theory, it certainly was), but to couch that act as an existential threat to the Homeland is deliberately disingenuous. The real threat to the Homeland is coming from within.

“We have me the enemy, and he is us”.

  • Don’t let ‘them’ take away our liberties.
  • Don’t make Americans canon fodder for virtual wars.
    . .. . .. — ….

Clive Robinson April 23, 2016 11:17 AM

@ Albert,

I guess you are a coffee drinker, as you appear to have missed your T,

“We have me the enemy, and he is us”.

Thanks for the smile 🙂

Mike Gerwitz April 23, 2016 11:47 PM

Oh, great, more comics to further vilify those of us who identify as hackers, not crackers. They are quite offensive. (It’s one thing for a cracker to identify as a hacker, another entirely to demonize indiscriminately.)

Please don’t encourage this. Especially as someone who works intimately with hackers.

The Dilbert ones are fine from that regard, though.

Marcos El Malo April 24, 2016 2:44 AM

@Mike Gerwitz
I fully sympathize with your position, but I think that ship has sailed. If you think it’s a semantic cause worth fighting for, more power to you. (Personally, I just use the term “cybercriminal”, rather than cracker, if I want to signify a wrongdoer.

Who? April 24, 2016 8:46 AM

@Mike Gerwitz, Marcos El Malo

Completely agree. People should stand at the original meaning of the term “hacker,” as outlined on the jargon file. Journalists, even the ones working at supposedly reputable media, use the wrong meaning self-adopted three decades ago by cybercriminals to apply themselves an honour title that obviously they do not earn.

I would use the terms cracker, cybercriminal or stupid egotist monkey instead.

r April 24, 2016 9:56 AM

Okay, let’s try this again…

@Mike Gerwitz, Mr. Marshmallow & Who?

While I sympathize with that plight, and yearn for it to be resolved might I point out that it is very dangerous to be on that side of the fence in this day and age… Your very freedom may depend on it:

The link at the bottom of that post will explain my position here.


I almost didn’t know how to respond to that… Especially if the studies are accurate about autism spectrum disorders and parallels…

Mike Gerwitz April 24, 2016 1:04 PM


might I point out that it is very dangerous to be on that side of the fence in this day and age

I’m part of a community of proud hackers, a number of whom identified as such back when the term didn’t need any defending. That’s not something we’ll let go; I explain to people when I get odd looks. The term has an entire history, culture, and stereotypes behind it; it has no substitute.

I’m not implying that you don’t understand that; I think you were just expressing caution.

Especially if the studies are accurate about autism spectrum disorders and parallels…

Ugh…it’d be worth writing that author, even though the article is a few years old.

r April 24, 2016 4:08 PM


About writing that author, I’ve got a buddy – that is. he’s also a robotics engineer – he has one hell of a time with people, out doors and lots of other stuff directly related to that. Now I’m not saying the preliminary attention that’s gotten is right: but just because there’s noise doesn’t mean there isn’t a signal behind it. Believe me, I don’t want to see insanity pleas over OPM because some schizophrenic sincerely thought the government was out to get him… But let’s treat it as we’re a group with horses of all colors.

Jim Van Zandt April 25, 2016 11:58 AM

@False Dichotomy,
While I agree with the two parts of your grand plan, I submit that the sooner we stop the massive flow of money into the middle east, the safer the rest of us will be. So I’d suggest a third part: Develop and export the next generation of nuclear energy.

Jim Van Zandt April 25, 2016 12:01 PM

Clicking on the “subscribe to comments on this entry” link displays a massive block of XML on my screen. Something is amiss there.

Bob T April 25, 2016 3:12 PM

Why hasn’t the discussion changed to the fact that the iPhone encryption was fairly easily cracked?

I mean, how big of a deal is it, if they can hire someone to crack it in a month anyway?

Dan3264 April 26, 2016 7:23 PM

The SMBC one is good, but the analogy is incorrect. The fourth panel should be “We make it so that all your clothes are see-thru all the time, but only for people who know the secret password. The password is long and rather hard to guess, but, once you are told it(or guess it correctly), you can undetectably see through everyones’s clothes all the time. The password was originally given to a group of people whos identities and motives are secret to you. This does not necessesarily mean that they are the only one’s who know the password. There is no way to tell who knows it and who doesn’t.”

Steve April 28, 2016 9:26 PM

@Bob T: Basically, the whole fiasco was a billion dollars of free advertising (minus legal fees) for Apple.

Somewhere, Steve Jobs is laughing.

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