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[ossig] rms and tinfoil hats

For your Sunday morning entertainment, from Bruce's blog:


Friday, November 18: Richard Stallman Gets in Trouble with UN Security
for Wearing a Tin-Foil Hat
Richard Stallman, Mark Shuttleworth, and I are in Tunis, Tunisia for the
UN World Summit on the information society. We've had an interesting
day :-)

Richard is opposed to RF ID, because of the many privacy violations that
are possible. It's a real problem, and one worth lobbying about. At the
2003 WSIS in Geneva, there was objection to the RF ID cards that were
used, resulting in a promise that they would not be used in 2005. That
promise, it turns out, was not kept. In addition, Richard was given a
hastily-produced ID with a visible RF ID strip. Mine was made on a
longer schedule, it seems, and had an RF ID strip that wasn't visible. I
knew it was there because they clearly had us put our cards to a reader
at the entrance gate.

You can't give Richard a visible RF ID strip without expecting him to
protest. Richard acquired an entire roll of aluminum foil and wore his
foil-shielded pass prominently. He willingly unwrapped it to go through
any of the visible check-points, he simply objected to the potential
that people might be reading the RF ID without his knowledge and
tracking him around the grounds. This, again, is a legitimate gripe,
handled with Richard's usual highly-visible, guile-less and absolutely
un-subtle style of non-violent protest.

During his keynote speech at our panel today, Richard gave a moment's
talk about the RF ID issue, and passed his roll of aluminum foil around
the room for others to use. A number of people in the
overcrowded-to-the-max standing-room-only meeting room obligingly
shielded their own passes. UN Security was in the room, not only to
protect us but because of the crowd issue, and was bound to notice.
Richard and I delivered our keynotes, followed by shorter talks by the
rest of the panel and then open discussion.

At the end of the panel, I went out in the hall to be interviewed by
various press entities including Al Jazeera. Another item for my CIA
dossier, but I'm sure my association with Richard would have caused more
notes to be taken today. I was busy with the press for two solid hours.
So, I didn't see what happened with Richard. But a whole lot of the
people in the room did, and stayed with Richard for the entire process.

Apparently, UN Security would not allow Richard to leave the room.

Richard and I are actually here representing the United Nations, and are
carrying UN Development Program IDs. I would otherwise merit a "business
entity" ID, but I guess because of our kenote-speaker status our UN
Development Program hosts ordered us better treatment. Richard and I
also have some limited immunity as delegates to this conference. So,
this was no doubt an interesting problem for the security folks, who had
no real idea who Richard was except that he was someone reasonably
distinguished who was visibly violating their security measure.

All of this completely disrupted the panel that was supposed to follow
ours in that room, and the folks operating that panel were rightly

UN Security eventually let him out, and then would not allow him to
enter the room where he was appearing on another panel.

I got to the room just as the panel was about to start, at the moment
that the problem suddenly evaporated and Richard was allowed to enter.
No doubt some of our UN hosts had been dealing with security during
those two hours, and eventually got an order from a high-enough officer
or something. We'll probably never know who, but imagine the headlines:
Kofi Anan frees Richard Stallman. So, I walk in and Richard relates the
entire situation to me in front of the audience present, including more
than one government minister, and other folks arriving for the panel. I
humorously remind Richard that he and I both have immunity as delegates,
and he responds "Well, perhaps then I should have killed Bob Kramer".
Kramer is the CompTIA representative who comes along to these things to
relate an pro-software-patenting and generally anti-Free-Software
viewpoint which gets Richard very steamed up. There's a laugh, and I
explain that our immunity probably doesn't go that far. Richard goes on
to say that he wouldn't really kill anyone, but no doubt UN Security has
heard this entire exchange too.

I didn't see anyone further molesting Richard, but I'd imagine he was
followed around by plainclothes agents for the rest of the day. This,
however, may not be unusual. Perhaps Kramer even got his own protective

I guess I'm permanently on the books now as a dissident, if I wasn't
already. Viva la Revolution!


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