Fight disinformation: Sign up for the free Mother Jones Daily newsletter and follow the news that matters.


A few years ago, Boulder software engineer and peace activist Philip Zimmermann wrote a computer program called Pretty Good Privacy, designed to let ordinary people keep their electronic mail private. Calling it “a politically motivated product,” he allowed PGP to be posted for free on the Internet.

Though there are hundreds of encryption programs, PGP is so good that it’s used around the world and no one–not even the federal government–has been able to break it. Therein lies the rub. Worried about national security, the feds are discouraging privacy software that they can’t crack. Last spring, the Clinton administration pressured companies to use the “Clipper chip,” an encrypting microchip with passwords known to the government. This has Zimmermann and other cypherpunks, a loose-knit group of programmers dedicated to preserving electronic civil liberties, up in arms. “A lot of leftist activists think secrecy is something for Ollie North, that it’s not for people engaged in the righteous struggle,” he says. “But this is not a matter of secrecy. It’s a matter of privacy.”

Zimmermann, who was once arrested with Carl Sagan and Daniel Ellsberg at a Nevada nuclear test site, now faces a new threat. Last fall U.S. Customs began an investigation to see if he had broken laws against the unlicensed export of munitions (which is how encryption is classified). Zimmermann as terrorist? Hardly; in October he appeared before a congressional subcommittee considering cryptography export regulations, and testified that in the post-Cold War era, such controls don’t serve a national security interest, but merely leave people open to invasions of privacy.

“Some Americans don’t understand why I should be this concerned about the power of government,” he told the subcommittee. “But talking to people in Eastern Europe, you don’t have to explain it to them. They already get it–and they don’t understand why we don’t.”

THE FACTS SPEAK FOR THEMSELVES.

At least we hope they will, because that’s our approach to raising the $350,000 in online donations we need right now—during our high-stakes December fundraising push.

It’s the most important month of the year for our fundraising, with upward of 15 percent of our annual online total coming in during the final week—and there’s a lot to say about why Mother Jones’ journalism, and thus hitting that big number, matters tremendously right now.

But you told us fundraising is annoying—with the gimmicks, overwrought tone, manipulative language, and sheer volume of urgent URGENT URGENT!!! content we’re all bombarded with. It sure can be.

So we’re going to try making this as un-annoying as possible. In “Let the Facts Speak for Themselves” we give it our best shot, answering three questions that most any fundraising should try to speak to: Why us, why now, why does it matter?

The upshot? Mother Jones does journalism you don’t find elsewhere: in-depth, time-intensive, ahead-of-the-curve reporting on underreported beats. We operate on razor-thin margins in an unfathomably hard news business, and can’t afford to come up short on these online goals. And given everything, reporting like ours is vital right now.

If you can afford to part with a few bucks, please support the reporting you get from Mother Jones with a much-needed year-end donation. And please do it now, while you’re thinking about it—with fewer people paying attention to the news like you are, we need everyone with us to get there.

payment methods

THE FACTS SPEAK FOR THEMSELVES.

At least we hope they will, because that’s our approach to raising the $350,000 in online donations we need right now—during our high-stakes December fundraising push.

It’s the most important month of the year for our fundraising, with upward of 15 percent of our annual online total coming in during the final week—and there’s a lot to say about why Mother Jones’ journalism, and thus hitting that big number, matters tremendously right now.

But you told us fundraising is annoying—with the gimmicks, overwrought tone, manipulative language, and sheer volume of urgent URGENT URGENT!!! content we’re all bombarded with. It sure can be.

So we’re going to try making this as un-annoying as possible. In “Let the Facts Speak for Themselves” we give it our best shot, answering three questions that most any fundraising should try to speak to: Why us, why now, why does it matter?

The upshot? Mother Jones does journalism you don’t find elsewhere: in-depth, time-intensive, ahead-of-the-curve reporting on underreported beats. We operate on razor-thin margins in an unfathomably hard news business, and can’t afford to come up short on these online goals. And given everything, reporting like ours is vital right now.

If you can afford to part with a few bucks, please support the reporting you get from Mother Jones with a much-needed year-end donation. And please do it now, while you’re thinking about it—with fewer people paying attention to the news like you are, we need everyone with us to get there.

payment methods

We Recommend

Latest

Sign up for our free newsletter

Subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily to have our top stories delivered directly to your inbox.

Get our award-winning magazine

Save big on a full year of investigations, ideas, and insights.

Subscribe

Support our journalism

Help Mother Jones' reporters dig deep with a tax-deductible donation.

Donate