- Like most others in Congress, Senator Patrick Leahy is
no progressive. He voted to fund imperial wars, regressive Obamacare, Wall
Street-friendly financial reform, and other pro-business measures, including
agribusiness-empowering bills, harming small farmers and consumers.
- Now he's at it again. On September 20, he introduced
S. 3804: Combating Online Infringement and Counterfeits Act (COICA), "A
bill to combat online infringement, and for other purposes." Referred
to committee, it awaits further action. In fact, it needs a dagger thrust
in its heart to kill it.
- According to the Electronic Frontier Foundation's Richard
- If enacted, this bill lets the Attorney General and Justice
Department "break the Internet one domain at a time - by requiring
domain registrars/registries, ISPs, DNS providers, and others to block
Internet users from reaching certain websites."
- Two online blacklists will be created:
- -- one for web sites the Attorney General may censor
or block, and
- -- most disturbing, domain names the Justice Department
decides (without judicial review) are "dedicated to infringing activities."
- The bill doesn't mandate, but "strongly suggests"
that second category domains be blocked "as well as providing legal
immunity for Internet intermediaries and DNS operators" that do it
willingly at the behest of authorities.
- Without question, "tremendous pressure" will
be applied to comply, the alternative perhaps being recrimination for refusing.
- Though fairly short, COICA may dangerously impair free
expression, "current Internet architecture, copyright doctrine, foreign
policy," and more. In 2010, "efforts to re-write copyright law
(targeting) 'piracy' online" have been shown "to have unintended
- Like other 2009 and 2010 bills, COICA "is a censorship
bill that runs roughshod over freedom of speech on the Internet,"
an outrageous First Amendment violation by "tr(ying) to define a site
'dedicated to infringing activities,' (by) block(ing) a whole domain,"
not that one part alone if legally proved, rather than by government edict.
- The 1998 Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) "already
gives copyright owners legal tools to remove infringing material piece-by-piece."
It also lets them get injunctions requiring ISPs block infringing offshore
sites. Misusing these provisions "have had a tremendously damaging
impact on fair use and free expression."
- If enacted, Leahy's COICA will take a giant leap, "streamlin(ing)
and vastly expand(ing)" existing damage. It'll let the Attorney General
shut down domains, including their "blog posts, images, backups, and
files." As a result, "legitimate, protected speech will be taken
down in the name of copyright enforcement," and basic Internet infrastructure
will be undermined.
- For example: when users enter web site URLs into their
browsers, the domain name system server identifies their Internet location.
COICA will let the Attorney General "prevent the players in (those)
domain system(s), (possibly including your ISP) from telling you the truth
about a website's location."
- It's also unclear what would be accessed - perhaps a
message saying "a site or page could not be found, without explaining
why? Would users receive some kind of notice," possibly saying "the
site they were seeking was made inaccessible at the behest of the government?"
- COICA will force Internet "middlemen" to act
like the "Internet doesn't exist," even though the site or page
wanted "may otherwise be completely available and accessible."
- Like many other pre and post-9/11 bills, COICA is police
state legislation. It says America "approves of unilateral Internet
censorship," no matter that it's constitutionally illegal.
- America is on a fast track toward despotism, civil liberties
threatened by bills like COICA, mandating "Unilateral censorship of
websites (Washington) doesn't like...."
- Moreover, its "poorly drafted definitions....threaten
fair use online, endanger innovative backup services, and raises questions
about how new (Internet intermediary) obligations....fit with existing
US secondary liability rules and the DMCA copyright safe harbor regime."
- Also, it's easy to get blacklisted because COICA streamlines
the procedure for adding domains - "including a McCarthy-like (one)
of public snitching." Then, once on, it's hard getting off, just like
persons unfairly vilified struggle to regain their reputations, often without
- COICA takes but doesn't give in letting Washington "play
an endless game of whack-a-mole, blocking one domain after another,"
even though sophisticated users will figure out a way to access censored
sites. Maybe them, but not ordinary ones denied free access to constitutionally
- Bottom line - COICA lets Washington "suppress truthful
speech and could block access to a wealth of non-infringing" material.
It will do little to end online infringement, but plenty of constitutional
damage, besides other vast erosion in recent years heading toward ending
democratic freedoms unless public awareness gets aroused enough to stop
it in time.
- On September 29, Tech Daily Dose.nationaljournal.com
reported possible COICA changes, "addressing some of the concerns
raised by technology and public interest groups," pertaining to online
piracy and counterfeiting. COICA remains a work in progress. What emerges
in final form demands close scrutiny.
- Obama's Proposal to End Online Privacy - Another Police
State Measure if Enacted
- Merriam-Webster defines a police state as follows:
- "a political unit characterized by repressive government
control of political, economic, and social life usually by an arbitrary
exercise of power by police and especially secret police in place of regular
operation of administrative and judicial organs of the government according
to publicly known legal procedures."
- In other words: overt and covert hardline control, maintained
by loss of personal freedoms, civil liberties, and constitutional protections
though legislation, pervasive surveillance, lawless privacy intrusions,
and midnight or pre-dawn arrests on whatever grounds authorities charge
against which there's no defense.
- In the last decade especially, America has recklessly
gone that route, one government edict, pronouncement or congressional bill
at a time. Obama has advanced the Bush agenda further for totalitarian
control, including the right to imprison anyone for their beliefs, assassinate
American citizens extrajudicially, and much more.
- Since taking office, he's done the impossible, compiling
a worse record than his fiercest critics feared, exceeding Bush in militarism,
harshness, lawlessness, and betrayal of the public trust. Besides waging
imperial wars, he wrecked the American dream, and hardened a police state
apparatus to protect privilege from progressive change. He also waged war
on free expression, dissent, due process, judicial fairness and privacy
- He calls heroic activism "violent extremism"
and persecutes Muslims for their faith and ethnicity. He says anti-war
supporters are anti-American, providing "material support to terrorism,"
a serious charge carrying 15 years imprisonment. It's why former Reagan
administration Assistant Treasury Secretary, Paul Craig Roberts, says "the
Bush and Obama regimes" wrecked the country. "America, as people
of my generation knew it, no longer exists."
- But wait, the worst is yet to come, including subverting
privacy, what former Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis called "the
most comprehensive of rights, and the right most valued by a free people."
The Fourth Amendment and numerous laws embody it, requiring judicial warrants
for most searches and seizures. Yet today's sophisticated technology enables
lawless intrusions, absent congressional legislation prohibiting them.
- New legislation, however, may mandate them, according
to an Electronic Frontier Foundation alert saying:
- "an Obama Administration proposal (will) end online
privacy as we know it by requiring all Internet communication service providers
- from Facebook to Skype to your webmail provider - to rebuild their systems
to give the government backdoor access to all of your private Internet
- Planned legislation, so far not introduced or named is
expected in 2011, the Center for Democracy & Technology (CDT) saying
"Federal law enforcement and national security officials are preparing
to seek sweeping new regulations for the Internet, arguing that their ability
to wiretap criminal and terrorism suspects is 'going dark' as people increasingly
communicate online instead of by telephone."
- CDT's vice president, James Dempsey said:
- "They are really asking for the authority to redesign
services that take advantage of the unique, and now pervasive, architecture
of the Internet. They basically want to turn back the clock and make Internet
services function the way" telephones work, making them simple to
wiretap the same way but do it online digitally.
- Currently, the 1994 Communications Assistance to Law
Enforcement Act requires broadband networks to have intercept capabilities
to permit digital and cellphone surveillance. However, for encrypted messages,
ISPs must be ordered to unscramble them because they're not covered under
the 1994 law. Further, providers can't unscramble some encrypt messages
- As a result, proposals may include the following:
- -- mandate that communication services, including foreign-based
ones doing business in America, have full unscrambling technology capabilities;
- -- require peer-to-peer software communication developers
to redesign their intercept capabilities.
- These ideas not only fly in the face of a free society,
they contradict a congressionally-ordered 1996 National Research Council
report that found back door access bad government policy, its committee
chair, Professor Kenneth W. Dam, saying:
- "While the use of encryption technologies is not
a panacea for all information security policies, we believe that....our
recommendation would lead to enhanced protection and privacy for individuals
and businesses in many areas, ranging from cellular and other wireless
phone conversations to electronic transmission of sensitive business or
- "It is true that the spread of encryption technologies
will add to the burden of those in government who are charged with carrying
out certain law enforcement and intelligence activities. But the many benefits
to society of widespread commercial and private use of cryptography outweigh
- Further, according to government records, encryption
rarely subverts law enforcement, statistics showing few case examples.
In 1998, crytography expert, Professor Matt Blaze, questioned the technical
capabilities of back door access. Now he says:
- "This seems like a far more baffling battle in a
lot of ways. In the 1990s, the government was trying to prevent something
necessary, good and inevitable. (Now) they are trying to roll back something
that already happened and that people are relying on."
- Blaze added:
- "We need to protect the country's information infrastructure....So
how do you reconcile that with the policy of discouraging encryption broadly,"
or making it vulnerable to surveillance. Hackers and other experts have
the same capabilities as government. Mandate back door access, and they'll
find a way to block or otherwise subvert it.
- According to computer expert Peter Neumann:
- "The arguments haven't changed. 9/11 was something
long predicted and it hasn't changed the fact that if you are going to
do massive surveillance using the ability to decrypt - even with warrants,
it would have to be done with enormously careful oversight. Given we don't
have comp(uter) systems that are secure, the idea we will have adequate
oversight is unattainable. Encryption has life-critical consequences."
- Current and possible new legislation worries organizations
like the CDT and its efforts "to keep the Internet open, innovative
and free," what's fast eroding in America and may soon entirely dissappear.
Apparently like Bush, Obama is committed to assuring it unless mass public
outrage stops him. Even so, a kinder, gentler America "no longer exists."
- Some Final Comments
- On September 27, Tech Daily Dose.nationaljournal.com
writer Eliza Krigman headlined, "Net Neutrality Bill Gives FCC No
New Rulemaking Power," saying:
- Leaked House Energy and Commerce Committee (chaired by
so-called liberal Henry Waxman) draft bill information aims to subvert
Net Neutrality, according to an unnamed source saying:
- "This bill represents a giant retreat by some of
those who claim to support net neutrality and sends the wrong signal to
the FCC (that) will ultimately deal with this issue."
- If enacted, it will let cable and telecom giants establish,
among other provisions, premium higher-priced lanes (two Internets), effectively
destroying Net Neutrality, subverting the last free and open space. Dirty
politics and back room deals put the Internet up for grabs to the highest
bidders, creating a two-tiered system, besides blocking entry for those
who can't pay.
- Waxman hopes for passage in the lame duck session. So
far, efforts to advance Net Neutrality legislation have stalled, some congressional
leaders saying anything this year is doubtful.
- Post-election, cybersecurity will also come up in the
form of a bill combining earlier ones introduced:
- -- S. 773: Cybersecurity Act of 2009, and
- -- S. 778: A bill to establish, within the Executive
Office of the President, the Office of National Cybersecurity Advisor
- Information on them can be accessed through the following
- The revised measure will let Obama shut down parts of
the Internet, as well as businesses and perhaps organizations, not complying
with national emergency declared orders. Specifically, his order will last
30 days, renewable for another 60 before Congress may, if it wishes, intervene.
- At issue, of course, is whether government can unconstitutionally
regulate, restrict, censor or suppress online free expression, the direction
Congress and the administration are heading.
- Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago and can be reached at
firstname.lastname@example.org. Also visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com
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