The Tor Project, a non-profit organisation that runs one of the world's most popular anonymous online communication platform, has in the past come under fire from the government as well as the public. As a result, the non-profit is fairly protective of its public image. However, recently uncovered internal chat logs reveal that the firm had briefly employed an alleged ex-CIA agent, which may be a cause for concern for Tor users.
According to a report by Motherboard, the internal chat logs show how the staff of the non-profit struggled over the hiring of a person from the intelligence community. The logs show hours of conversation between the alleged ex-CIA agent and the staff, during which the staff expressed serious concerns over how this would affect the image of the Tor Project and the safety and security of activists and their family members.
Archival and data leaking site Cryptome shared the chat logs Pastebin via Twitter on 26 June. However, the Pastebin is dated 29 August 2015. The log reads: "This is an IRC log from #tor-internal—our water cooler irc channel. It was made on November 10th, 2014. Please be considerate with this log file - it is probably not a good idea to leak it to anyone but transparency for this is absolutely essential. We're headed for some soul searching as a result of the recent messaging thread and this is probably going to be an involved process."
The hours of conversation in the chat involved the hiring of a supposed ex-CIA agent "DaveC1", who had apparently been added to the Tor Project's team without some of the staff being aware of his previous connections with the intelligence community. According to Dave C1, he joined to "help the Tor Project" as he had a better understanding of the decision making systems of "bureaucrats who debate whether or not to keep paying the bills at Tor."
Tor Project members were vociferous in airing their shock and dismay at discovering DaveC1's previous affiliations. Among other things, they brought up the legitimate concern of the safety of activists and their families as well as the potential PR gaffe of hiring an ex-CIA agent. Security researcher and former Tor developer Runa Sandvik asked DaveC1, "I'm curious, how do you picture an ex-CIA within the Tor Project as being good for Tor's public image?" She also added "I'm concerned we are going to lose a lot of public support. Another Tor Project member (ioerror) said, "If we have a CIA person working at Tor, many of us will be put in danger."
Tor Project has had its share of battles with the media as well as government officials, both of whom have criticised the Tor network for providing criminals with the means necessary to conduct and participate in online crime. The non-profit has also been censured by some, for depending on US government funding, justifying their mistrust of the anonymity of the software as a whole.
According to Motherboard, DaveC1 left the Tor Project's team shortly after joining. IBTimes UK has reached out to the Tor Project but is yet to receive a comment.