The Anonymous Remailer Page

A Down And Dirty Tutorial

Section I: The Basic Stuff

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1. What's An Anonymous Remailer?

Anonymous Remailers are computers (servers, to be more accurate) which take incoming email, strip all identifying junk off of it, and forward it to another address. In this way, email sent from X to Y stops off at the remailer while enroute, and all of X's information is stripped off and the email resent. The email that Y gets then appears to have come from the remailer, not X. A properly constructed anonymous remailer will keep no logs of this transaction, meaning that the furthest that Y can track the email back is to the remailer. Sounds simple, but as you will see, getting true anonymity can get pretty complicated.

2. Why Would I Need To Use Such A Thing?

You probably don't. On the other hand, you may be sending email, articles, opinions, thoughts, or other such dangerous materials to places where you'd just as soon not be identified because it would get you fired, sued, dead, or (even worse) promoted to middle management.

To quote the U.S. Supreme Court in McIntyre v. Ohio Elections Comm'n (93-986), 514 U.S. 334 (1995):
"The decision in favor of anonymity may be motivated by fear of economic or official retaliation, by concern about social ostracism, or merely by a desire to preserve as much of one's privacy as possible. Whatever the motivation may be, at least in the field of literary endeavor, the interest in having anonymous works enter the marketplace of ideas unquestionably outweighs any public interest in requiring disclosure as a condition of entry. Accordingly, an author's decision to remain anonymous, like other decisions concerning omissions or additions to the content of a publication, is an aspect of the freedom of speech protected by the First Amendment." (Emphasis added.)
It's a right, in other words. Like all rights, use it or lose it.
Example #1: You work for a company that's illegally dumping hazardous waste from their "Li'l Hooker" Children's Beauty Contest Cosmetics Division into a local stream, thereby stunting the growth of a certain endangered species of newts. You've got the smoking gun, or at least enough information that you can blow the whistle on these clowns. Now, you know as well as I do that there are a bunch of laws in place to protect whistleblowers, so you feel pretty secure in contacting the State's environmental gurus, right?

Hahahahahahaha! Silly you. The endangered newts are safer than you are.

As you spend the remainder of your life answering subpoenas and sitting around courthouses waiting for your turn to be "deposed" (a legal term meaning "beaten with baseball bats till you die") and returning to your new home (a refrigerator carton under an interstate overpass), you can take comfort in knowing that the law's on your side.

Example #2: The dope-dealer next door is beginning to get out of hand. Aside from the constant traffic, the noise, and needles and dead junkies turning up on your property every morning, the gunfire seems lately to be hitting your house with more and more frequency and, frankly, you're just to the teeth with the whole thing.

Having spent a considerable bit of time peering through the sandbags over onto his property, you KNOW that he gets a fresh load of junk and nose candy every Thursday at about 3:00 PM, delivered by a green van with New Mexico plates. Wouldn't it be nice if the police were to show up at about the same time and shut the whole thing down, preferably in some manner that involves an intense firefight and ends with burning the place to the ground? So you're going to call the cops and give them all the info they need, right?

Hahahahahahaha! Silly you.

Dope dealers (and other criminal sorts) are only slightly more likely to pay any attention to whistle-blower laws than corporations. On the up side, when they find your bloated corpse stuffed into a drainage pipe with an icepick stuck through your forehead, everyone will agree that you were pretty damned brave, cleaning up the neighborhood and all. The rest of the neighborhood (none of whom had the cajones to call the cops either) will have a block party in your honor.

"That Bob," they'll say (assuming your name is Bob), "a true hero. What a guy. Shame about the icepick. Uhmmm....anyone know if his wife's dating yet?"

As you can see, in these circumstances being able to send stuff to The Authorities anonymously in order to avoid refrigerator carton/icepick sorts of resolution might not be a bad idea.

So, other than being an anonymous tattle-tale (oh, come on - that's what it is, and you know it - don't sweat it, that's just how stuff's done sometimes) does being able to send anonymous mail or articles have any other purpose?

Sure, how about freedom of speech, freedom of association, and freedom to hold or (more importantly) express an opinion that's not exactly mainstream?

Example #3: You are the SS-Sturmbannführer Of Security for a certain unnamed group who spends most of their time building bunkers and squatting around flaming crosses. Lately, you've been having second thoughts about some of their more extreme views, particularly those that involve you and your entire family moving into caves along with a couple of tons of small-arms ammunition to await the Coming Revolution. Your wife doesn't even do well camping out in the back yard, and you're expecting considerable resistance to asking her to live in a bunker on a diet of possum jerkey and military MREs 'till the FBI shows up to turn you all into crispy critters. Come to think of it, even YOU can't get too much behind the whole thing. On the other hand, you like your job (good hours, snappy uniform, random gunfire), and you know that any sort of political disagreement is likely to have unfortunate consequences. How do you go about expressing your views on the issue, or any other, for that matter?

Since freedom of speech is one of the foundations of our nation, it should be pretty straighforward. Just send a letter to the higher-ups and the rest of the membership recommending that the group await the revolution in a jolly nice Radisson Hotel instead of a cockroach-infested bunker in the wilds of Idaho, and, while they're at it, they should stop being so mean to black folk. This should at least instigate some reasoned discussion as to the different point of view, right?

Hahahahahahaha! Silly you.

When you exercise your "freedom of speech," you will, of course, be reduced in rank to SA-Unterscharführer. And your head stuck on a stake at the compound entrance as a warning to the rest. No, if you want to let the Ultimate Leader and the rest of the membership know that not EVERYONE's behind the plan, that there are other options, and that anyone who can't see that this nutbar is leading you all to Waco is screwier than he is, anonymous is the only way to go.

Example #4: You attend or work for a University or a corporation which is so Politically Correct that it makes a Pol Pot "Cultural Re-Education Center" look like spring break in Cancun. If you happen to even THINK something that conflicts with current political thought, you will be expelled and/or fired. Your picture will be posted on the Lambda sorority's web-site and bulletin boards throughout the university with the caption "Enemy Of The People," and a substantial reward offered for whoever places your head on a stake for display at the University entrance as a warning to the rest.

You'd be money ahead if you were a child pornographer rather than holding the view (for example) that morons attending Cultural Study classes and Womens' Empowerment Groups should instead be sent off to Home Economics to learn something useful which would, incidentally, free up the space they're clotting up for real educational purposes.

Surely not a problem, right? Universities are, after all, the bastion of free speech and unfettered thought, right? You should be able to stand up at the next Student Council meeting and say "Hey, why don't we clear those whiny bimbos out of Room 237 and put in a video game center?"

Hahahahahahaha! Silly you. Refer to "Expelled" and "Head On Stake" above. Again, expressing your opinion falls victim to the facism of the Most Sensitive, and again, anonymity is your friend if you have any slightest interest in letting your opinion be known or engaging in a debate or conversation.

Example #5: You hold some bizarre belief or political idea that's important to you, but which will get you classified as a screaming loony-tune by the people who sign your checks, your neighbors, your beer-drinking buddies, your fellow church personnel, your mommy, or anyone else who finds out about it. On the other hand, you want to present it without fear of retaliation by the unworthy slugs who will benefit most by it.

No problem. This is America. Everyone has the right to an opinion, and no one's going to hold it against you because you think aliens have been stealing your genetic material to make a new master race and have planted a transmitter in your head to direct you on your path to world domination. After all, it's not like you're a closet Democrat, or some other despicable social outcast.

But, just to be on the safe side, maybe you ought to keep your squirrelly ideas under the cover of anonymity, on the off chance that your company will have second thoughts about entrusting you with anything bigger than a mop-bucket.

Once again, anonymity is your buddy.

3. What Do I Need To Make Any Sense Of This Tutorial?

First, send me money. No, wait. That's over on my Evangelist page. Never mind. Well, if you really want, you can. But you don't really NEED to, I guess. Just let me toil along here for free, that'd be just peachy.

Cheap bastard.

Anyhow, you WILL need:
  1. Some familiarity with email and your email client (program).

  2. Pretty Good Privacy (PGP), an encryption program.

  3. At least some successful experience with PGP. Do NOT get into this if you've never used PGP or if you're really new to it. I'm going to assume that when I'm talking about public and private keys, ASCII Armor, and that sort of thing, you've got a clue. If you don't, you'll be lost as a babe in the woods. If you're trying to learn PGP, find a PGP tutorial - this ain't the place.

OK, we all ready? Let's move on to Section II: "EMail, The Spy In Your Computer".

Well, click the link, don't just sit there.

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