Encryption is Math; Math is Legal

Encryption is a fun and useful tool. It’s not magic; it’s just math. If you’re reading this content directly from my web site, you’re reading it over an encrypted connection. The words started out on my web server, got encrypted, sent over the Internet where many different servers and people could be listening, and ended up in your browser. Yet because of encryption, only you can read the words.

Public Key Encryption

I have tremendous respect for United States legislators, especially at the Federal level; however, I wonder if perhaps they sometimes attempt to pass ill-conceived laws before understanding the situation into which they’re legislating and the implications of their legislation. Consider the recent Compliance with Court Orders Act of 2016, sponsored by Senators Richard Burr (R-NC) and Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), the chair and vice-chair respectively of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence. An article in The Hill quotes Senator Feinstein as follows:

I think this world is really changing in terms of people wanting the protection and wanting law enforcement, if there is conspiracy going on over the Internet, that that encryption ought to be able to be pierced.

Normally I find myself in general agreement with Burr and Feinstein on most issues, and I respect both of them because they seem to me to both genuinely care about the real safety and security of the United States. They both put reality above politics. Unfortunately, this bill and Senator Feinstein’s quote demonstrate how little they understand about encryption.

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Rosario Resort and Eastsound

Both my wife and I had a particularly stressful week last week. Long days at work, not quite getting done everything we needed to each day, not sleeping well at night, not feeling like we had much time together as a family. It all added up to a bit of extra frustration. Thursday night, late, after both children begrudgingly agreed to stay in bed, we found ourselves plopped on the sofa downstairs. It was at that point I blurted out, “Want to hear a crazy idea?”

I don’t remember exactly what my wife said, but it was something like, “Yes,” so I suggested we make an impromptu flight up to Orcas Island and stay overnight at the Rosario Resort, which is about half-way down from Eastsound (the town) along Eastsound (the eastern sound of water made by the coastline of Orcas Island).

View of Orcas Eastsound

We decided to make the decision in the morning so I’d have a chance to check the latest weather forecasts. Friday morning arrived, and after a detailed weather check, we decided to make the attempt. I’ve flown to Orcas Island a couple of times before, and I’d taken the family up once to Eastsound (the town) for a day trip. But this would be our first overnight there.

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To Portland and Back Again

Owning an airplane comes with some advantages. Given that it’s February, it’s that time of the year when I need to meet up with my CPA to work out the details of filing 2015 taxes. The trouble is my CPA lives in Portland. So earlier this week on Monday, I flew down to Portland in the morning, then flew back later in the afternoon.

This in an of itself is not particularly interesting. It’s a path I’ve flown a few times before. But this time was probably one of the strangest flights I’ve ever been on. Let’s start with the flight track, which as you can see is quite predictable and normal-looking:

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