Tor Project "Almost 100% Funded By The US Government": FOIA

The Tor Project - a private nonprofit known as the "NSA-proof" gateway to the "dark web," turns out to be almost "100% funded by the US government" according to documents obtained by investigative journalist and author Yasha Levine.

The Tor browser, launched in 2001, utilizes so-called "onion routing" technology developed by the US Navy in 1998 to provide anonymity over computer networks. 

In a recent blog post, Levine details how he was able to obtain roughly 2,500 pages of correspondence via FOIA requests while performing research for a book. The documents include strategy, contract, budgets and status updates between the Tor project and its primary source of funding; a CIA spinoff known as the Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG), which "oversees America's foreign broadcasting operations like Radio Free Asia and Radio Free Europe."

By following the money, I discovered that Tor was not a grassroots. I was able to show that despite its indie radical cred and claims to help its users protect themselves from government surveillance online, Tor was almost 100% funded by three U.S. National Security agencies: the Navy, the State Department and the BBG. Following the money revealed that Tor was not a grassroots outfit, but a military contractor with its own government contractor number. In other words: it was a privatized extension of the very same government that it claimed to be fighting.

The documents conclusively showed that Tor is not independent at all. The organization did not have free reign to do whatever it wanted, but was kept on a very short leash and bound by contracts with strict contractual obligations. It was also required to file detailed monthly status reports that gave the U.S. government a clear picture of what Tor employees were developing, where they went and who they saw. -Yasha Levine

The FOIA documents also suggest that Tor's ability to shield users from government spying may be nothing more than hot air. While no evidence of a "backdoor" exists, the documents obtained by Levine reveal that Tor has “no qualms with privately tipping off the federal government to security vulnerabilities before alerting the public, a move that would give the feds an opportunity to exploit the security weakness long before informing Tor users.”

Exit nodes

Cybersecurity experts have noted for years that while Tor may be technically anonymous in theory - the 'exit nodes' where traffic leaves the secure "onion" protocol and is decrypted can be established by anyone - including government agencies.

Anyone running an exit node can read the traffic passing through it. 

In 2007 Egerstad set up just five Tor exit nodes and used them to intercept thousands of private emails, instant messages and email account credentials.

Amongst his unwitting victims were the Australia, Japanese, Iranian, India and Russia embassies, the Iranian Foreign Ministry, the Indian Ministry of Defence and the Dalai Lama’s liaison office.

He concluded that people were using Tor in the mistaken belief that it was an end-to-end encryption tool.

It is many things, but it isn’t that.

Dan Egerstad proved then that exit nodes were a fine place to spy on people and his research convinced him in 2007, long before Snowden, that governments were funding expensive, high bandwidth exit nodes for exactly that purpose. -Naked Security

Interestingly, Edward Snowden is a big fan of Tor - even throwing a "cryptoparty" while he was still an NSA contractor where he set up a Tor exit node to show off how cool they are. 

In a 2015 interview with The Intercept's (Wikileaks hating) Micah Lee, Snowden said: 

LEE: What do you think about Tor? Do you think that everyone should be familiar with it, or do you think that it’s only a use-it-if-you-need-it thing?

SNOWDEN: I think Tor is the most important privacy-enhancing technology project being used today.

"Tor Browser is a great way to selectively use Tor to look something up and not leave a trace that you did it. It can also help bypass censorship when you’re on a network where certain sites are blocked. If you want to get more involved, you can volunteer to run your own Tor node, as I do, and support the diversity of the Tor network."



giovanni_f philipat Fri, 03/02/2018 - 03:48 Permalink

1. The fact that the Navy, the State Department and the BBG are the main sponsors doesn't necessarily mean TOR is a tool of the NSA et al.

2. The Snowden docs reveal that TOR is a challenge for the likes of NSA and CIA

3. This book and the publicity around it could be part of a hit job to discourage people from adopting TOR - a tactic mentioned in the Snowden docs

4. Fwiw, the story stinks

5. Quite a few Langley trolls in this thread

In reply to by philipat

Occident Mortal purplewarrior Fri, 03/02/2018 - 05:20 Permalink

The only secure way to pass secrets back and forth is to sit opposite one another at a table with a pencil, a pile of paper, a candle and an ashtray. You then switch on a radio and play static at full volume.

1). Shield

2). Write

3). Fold

4). Pass

5). Read

6). Burn

And even then you smash the radio, shatter the ashtray, snap the pencil and eat the candle before you leave.


Before you ever do anything with a machine remember this:

65% of all the cryptographers in the world work at Fort Meade. Why?

In reply to by purplewarrior

solidtare house biscuit Fri, 03/02/2018 - 08:09 Permalink


Pay attention !

There were three types of media operations commonly used in Iraq at the time ...

“White is attributed, it says who produced it on the label,” the contractor said. “Grey is unattributed, and black is falsely attributed. These types of black ops, used for tracking who is watching a certain thing, were a pretty standard part of the industry toolkit.”

The CDs were set up to use Real Player, a popular media streaming application which connects to the internet to run. Wells explained how the team embedded a code into the CDs which linked to a Google Analytics account, giving a list of IP addresses where the CDs had been played.


"Tor Browser is a great way to selectively use Tor to look something up and not leave a trace that you did it."

Tor is hacked, for sure, almost all exit node go thru NATO countries, or NATO wannabees

And yes, have experienced it, especially during politically tense moments when tor through-put slows down.…

Noam Chomsky:

Do you encrypt? I stay transparent. When I was organising resistance against the government I was open - that's the best protection. Somebody will be able to overcome any encryption technique you use! Our only weapons are truth, honesty and openness.…

Judge confirms what many suspected: Feds hired CMU to break Tor…

The Tor network is secure and has only rarely been compromised.…

“The [National Security Agency] gets around encryption every day of the week. And twice on Sundays.” Quote of the day from Snowden.

The researches claims to have revisited the trustworthiness of Tor exit relays by their study. As per the results many tor exit nodes are unsafe and prone to attack. Their results further suggest that the attackers may set up rogue exit nodes for the purpose of spying and can remain hidden, snooping all the user data and activities.…

How the NSA (Or Anyone Else) Can Crack Tor's Anonymity

Researchers identified 81 percent of people using the service with a honeypot scheme and some statistical analysis.

There is also another option for authorities: to try secretly to destroy the overall Tor architecture or attack the hidden services to interfere with the traffic that flows to them.

In reply to by house biscuit

BabaLooey Occident Mortal Fri, 03/02/2018 - 07:45 Permalink

It's a genie that got out of their bottle.

The thing has taken on a life of it's own.

The Navy had their reasons, and they still do, and other "official" players do as well, but, as with so very much technology, it got picked up and used by people the original founders never even thought about, and used in way they never really considered, and now there's TOR relays all over the place (pretty much anybody can set one up), and we're off to the races. 

In reply to by Occident Mortal

hxc giovanni_f Fri, 03/02/2018 - 10:01 Permalink

The docs he revealed may be genuine, but we already had evidence of those things from other people. However Hollywood made a movie glorifying him, he recommends TOR which is a govt-run project, and he even has his own crappy little home "security" phone app that the govt and its associated neocon spies are balls-deep in.

I am not a government plant, but someone here is. Hint: Ed Snowden

In reply to by giovanni_f

jefferson32 giovanni_f Fri, 03/02/2018 - 04:47 Permalink

Also the code is open source, so anyone can look at it, and many people do look at it.


If there is a long-standing backdoor in Tor it must be a mathematical backdoor in the crypto functions.


That would mean any crypto/hash algorithm ever released by the NSA/.gov (such as SHA-256, underlying bitcoin) probably has a backdoor too.


The good side: bitcoin and tor, even in the worst case scenario of a mathematical backdoor, STILL undermine most LE and power crazies in the world - even if it does not truly endanger those at the very top. Such backdoors would be EXTREMELY secret, and they would be very unlikely to leverage them against non-State actors, let alone for mundane purposes.


TLDR: you are very likely safe on the darknet with tor/tails, as your risk profile does not fit the threat scenario. Bitcoin is also an excellent stepping stone for the separation of money and state, even if we’ll have to move past it (and SHA-256) at some point.

In reply to by giovanni_f

Maghreb giovanni_f Fri, 03/02/2018 - 07:13 Permalink

Giovanni_F Its more complicated than just being a "challenge". Biggest challenges for the NSA relate to thermodynamics. It takes huge amounts of computing power and energy to filter information from the bullshit. Tor ironically provides that filter by getting the tech literate individuals to move their information through a closed network. The NSA deal in secrets. What better to find secret information by creating a suposedly secure system that attracts people with secrets to keep? 

Another factor is the NSA competes with other Signals Intelligence Agencies. Creating something like Tor may have been useful to weaken other intelligence agencies who now struggle to eaves drop on individuals. Its the intelligence equivalent of arming ISIS. It does more damage to U.S enemies. Also creates the excuse for an even greater budget  

In my most humble opinion the main weakness of Tor was that the NSA could hijack the network buy buying and activating a certain number of nodes. Information was routed through the NSA making it easier to trace and decrypt. It was marketed as a closed community but really it was just a trust building exercise. If it had ten million users the NSA could build a network of 5 million fake users and just watch how messages moved through their half of the network. If the security services really are out numbered they need to hide from the public more than the public needs to hide from them. Anonyamous was just a cover to protect their own people. 

As for Snowden who fucking knows what that guy is up to. End of the day most defectors wind up dead or atleast disavowed. No one gets a fucking Hollywood movie deal. Greenwald and the Guardian being involved make me think he might have had something to do with Israel who ironically have the most to hide......

Same story with Bit Coin and no one knowing what the fuck those mining machines are actually doing. Global surveillance is always A symetric. The  public will always generate far more information than the NSA. They need to use the publics own power against them. Creating Trojans or harnessing the bloc chain mining systems are the best way to do that. The hype just gets the nerds going.

They are deputizing the public to do their work because there is now way else. Sooner or later we will see the rise of closed networks backed by one time pads at which point the NSA will probably be fucked. It will require a great deal of innovation and perhaps require physical couriers but for now anything that hits the market and is free will most likely be back doored.

In reply to by giovanni_f

Maghreb Maghreb Fri, 03/02/2018 - 07:43 Permalink

On the One Time Pad situation random number generators are surprisingly common. There are some linked to the internet now so they may be getting the public to provide the NSA with the random strings that create the One Time Pads. Basically a cheap way to outsource complex and expensive work to the general public.  

This one the Psyleron is sold as a New Age psi research device but if it really does generate random digits the tech to generqte one time pads exists in the civillian hands. A couple of thousand of these producing random binary strings might be enough to create one time pad systems. Uploaded onto chips with software to handle the decryption and handled on secure hardware you could easily build a real 100% secure network. Depending on how cheap the one time pads were it could be priced into the hardware or connection fees. It would only be useful for text with sound transmissions in Mp3 being prohibitively long to use the one time pad system.

It would require couriers but why the fuck would you worry about sending encrpyted messages to total strangers in the first place?More complex encrpytion could be added on top to replace couriers. Lobotmizing your hardware might also help stopping all the backdoors built into the chips from giving of information as well. One Time Pads have been considered unbreakable for almost 60 years now. They have the problem of both users requiring a unique key but why exactly would any one who had something to hide not be interested in a more secure system.The encryption used by the financial system is meant to be easy to handle billions of secure transactions every day. Be lazy or be a fucking criminal don't fuck around and be both...... 

I think the reason this game is being played is because the tech industry wants an arms race because it is lucrative. IBM have been contracting to the NSA for almost 50 years now. Computing was invented by the millitary industrial complex. Same story with the post office and the government. The point of all this isn't security it is just budget increases......  

In reply to by Maghreb

Buck Johnson giovanni_f Fri, 03/02/2018 - 11:43 Permalink

I'm 100 percent with you, this is a hit piece to discourage people from using TOR.  If it wasn't and all this is/was is a NSA/CIA/FBI intel gathering program for them, then why haven't they stopped and taken down all these sites and such that are highly illegal and also website/tor sites that are aiding and abetting movement of intelligence information especially from the US.

They aren't because they have no way to knowing where that traffic is going through via Tor.

In reply to by giovanni_f

Count Cherep giovanni_f Fri, 03/02/2018 - 13:20 Permalink

Not everyone who is or was in the military is or was an enemy of truth. Case in point:

The Ultimate World Order

By Robert H. Williams…

As for Tor, I don't use it and never have because I was always suspicious of it.

I say what I mean and mean what I say. I threaten no one. If anyone in the alphabet agencies should care to read my posts (under my current or former screen names on various sites) they would receive an education for their trouble.

In reply to by giovanni_f

ChaoKrungThep Shillinlikeavillan Fri, 03/02/2018 - 04:23 Permalink

Yasha, dear child. The origins and financing of TOR are clearly written in its manifesto. Did you read it? Nevertheless, it is almost impossible to crack (not "hack"), except for spurious "exit nodes". This is also known. 

What you missed: Tor is open source, ie Thousands of cynical, smart, angry, anti-govt hackers (not crackers) check the source code constantly for bugs, back doors and govt (NSA, CIA) tricks. 

Now for your next big story: Gold prices could be rigged! Go get 'em, tiger.

In reply to by Shillinlikeavillan

Pernicious Gol… Fri, 03/02/2018 - 01:08 Permalink

This should not be a surprise at all. Tor's own release notes state it was developed by the US with the aim of allowing citizens in repressive countries to communicate over the Internet without their governments being able to read the traffic. People who don't read the instruction manual deserve what happens to them.

Citizen_x Ignatius Fri, 03/02/2018 - 09:33 Permalink

" P.S.  There is no such thing as private electronic communications, only the illusion of it. "

Darn right.  People wake up, we wonldn't be able to have Tor; unless it had a back door! 

This country was founded on GREED.  That's why there was slavery.  Our beloved founding fathers were slave owners.  They let those on European descent into this country to kill indians and work in the mines and mills.  Today, they let mexicans and hindie in to keep the social security pay-out from going insolvent.  George Carlin....the big club...……                         

In reply to by Ignatius