The Tor Project, hailed as a bulwark against the encroaching surveillance state, has received funding from US government agency the BBG and cooperates with intelligence agencies, newly released documents reveal.
Tor, free software which enables anonymous communication over the internet, is a “privatized extension of the very same government that it claimed to be fighting,” claims journalist Yasha Levine, who obtained 2,500 pages of correspondence about the project via Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests.
Hailed as “NSA-proof” and used by journalists and whistleblowers alike to protect themselves and their sources from government retribution, Tor is painted in an entirely new light in the FOIA documents, which reveal cooperation between the software’s developers and US government agencies.
The documents released by Levine mostly focus on how Tor received funding from the Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG), which supervises Washington-funded media, including Voice of America and Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. But they also tell a story of how employees of the non-profit met regularly with the Department of Justice, the FBI, and other three-letter agencies for training sessions and conferences, where the agencies pitched their software needs, the documents show.
Commenting on the potentially explosive contents, Levine wrote in a blog post published on his website: “Why would the US government fund a tool that limited its own power? The answer, as I discovered, was that Tor didn’t threaten American power. It enhanced it.”