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And speaking of helpful hackers of Arab extraction …

Yesterday I began a post about the novel Alif the Unseen with this quote:

“We’re living in a city run by an emir from one of the most inbred families on earth, where a few censors can throw someone in jail for writing things on the Internet and falling in love with the wrong person.” Dina reached out to be helped to her feet. “It went out of control a long time ago.”

The book is about a young hacker of East-Indian and Arab extraction doing his best to foil the security state — and paying a price for it.

At the very moment I was typing up my review, old friend JG sent a link. About a young hacker of Arab (actually Lebanese, which is pretty much a melting pot of ethnicities, though Arabic is the national language) extraction doing his best to foil the security state — and paying a price for it.

The site Nadim Kobeissi has created, Cryptocat, is very much worth a look. After investigating I may use it with friends who haven’t set up email encryption, though it’s a live chat site and live chat drives me screaming bonkers.

But speaking of the paranoid security state trying to quash freedom of speech, I had to laugh (in a bitter, nasty way) at this:

When he flies through the US, [Kobeissi has] generally had the notorious “SSSS” printed on his boarding pass, marking him for searches and interrogations — which Kobeissi says have focused on his development of the chat client. …

His SSSS’s can mean hours of waiting, and Kobeissi says he has been searched, questioned, had his bags and even his passport taken away and returned later. But he’s kept his sense of humor about the experience, even joking from the airport on his Twitter account.


— Nadim Kobeissi (@kaepora) June 17, 2012

The young and cheerfully sarcastic Kobeissi is somewhat baffled by the border attention. Kobeissi said that in one of his last U.S. trips through Charlotte, NC, “In total I was searched either three or four times,” — in a single visit. “Why? Do bombs materialize? I don’t understand,” he continued. If the searches, delays, and interrogations about Cryptocat are an intimidation tactic, they haven’t worked.


  1. Matt, another
    Matt, another July 31, 2012 6:44 am

    Now, what happens if several people with SSSS rating hit the same security checkpoint at about the same time? How much might it slow things down? What if you add several people in a row requesting to be hand searched, or having small items (4oz maybe) that makes their bags have to all be searched? Denial of service?

  2. Chaz
    Chaz August 3, 2012 9:40 am

    When I was regularly flying in and out of the US on a work visa I almost invariably had the dreaded SSSS on my boarding card. Perhaps it was because I’m Scottish, but I found that it sped up my security process immensely as I was immediately taken out of the queue and and taken through screening. The screening was never more for me than anyone else in the normal queue got, certainly I was never delayed or interviewed.
    Now that I am a permanent resident I no longer get the SSSS and have to wait with everyone else.

  3. gooch
    gooch August 5, 2012 4:39 pm

    With a hat tip to Matt, another …

    I don’t fly or travel by “Public Transport” so I don’t know the system BUT isn’t the SSSS written in red magic marker on the boarding pass?
    I wonder what many many passes with SSSS written on them [by the pass holders] would do to the TSA “system”?


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