Tor Puts NSA at Odds With Browser's U.S. Navy Creators, Other Agencies
NEWS ANALYSIS: The encrypted Tor browser that's making extra work for the National Security Agency was created by the U.S. Navy with support from other agencies.There’s a saying about the left hand not knowing what the right had is doing. Nothing illustrates this more clearly than the federal government’s dysfunctional relationship with the Tor browser and the onion router. By now, you’re heard that the National Security Agency is having a tough time unraveling Tor. This bundle of software based on the Firefox browser enables a process in which Internet traffic is routed among a series of routers, each of which adds a layer of encryption and anonymity as it happens. The Tor browser is freely available to anyone who wants to use it, including dissidents in nations with oppressive governments and even child abusers. The problem with Tor from the NSA’s viewpoint is that it works too well. Actually nailing down who’s using it, decrypting what they’re doing, and doing all of that in a timely fashion is driving the NSA crazy. So, naturally, you have to ask yourself what band of privacy advocates dreamed up this nearly uncrackable communications pathway? The answer may surprise you. Tor is the brainchild of the U.S. government. In fact, Tor was invented with the support of the U.S. Naval Research Laboratory, located near Washington, D.C., in suburban Maryland, just inside the Beltway. And yes, this is pretty close to the NSA, which is also located in suburban Maryland, although it’s outside the Beltway.
And I know what you’re thinking. The U.S. Navy is part of the same Department of Defense that also operates the NSA, which is theoretically part of the U.S. Army and is run by an Army general, Keith Alexander. The Naval Research Laboratory has continued to fund the development of Tor. But the Navy has help.