Posts Tagged ‘Internet Service Providers’

Time for a National Conversation on Liberty

by Drew McKissick on Saturday, August 31st, 2013

This is article 163 of 183 in the topic US Constitution

libertyAfter every media sensationalized incident of racism, gun violence, or fill in the blank, we are told by our betters that it’s time for a “national conversation” on the subject.  This usually seems less about actually having a conversation and more about giving them a sense of moral superiority.

But if information is power and, as Lord Acton put it, “power corrupts”, we need to think very carefully about the power that we are handing over to government without demanding a national conversation on liberty.

It should be a conversation with Americans making informed decisions about what’s important to them, not secret edicts by politicians and bureaucrats who are quick to create systems that grow out of control and prove impossible to stop once in motion.

Each day seems to bring new stories of abuse.

A Washington Post report detailed how the government has secretly been paying tens of millions of dollars to tech and internet companies to underwrite the ability of the government to use these services to spy on everyone – not just terrorists.

The Wall Street Journal reported that employees and contractors of the NSA have been found to use the agency’s capabilities to spy on their own potential “love interests” and former spouses.  Call if cyber-stalking on steroids.  And just a week ago we found out that the government’s own secret reports document that the NSA had broken privacy rules nearly three-thousand times in the last year alone.

A recent CNET story details how the FBI has developed new custom “port reader” software that it is trying to force all Internet service providers to install in order to give them access to Internet data in real time.  (Who needs the NSA when you can wiretap the whole Internet yourself?)

To add insult to injury, the administration is petitioning the Supreme Court to review a case that could give government the right to search your mobile phone without a warrant.  When you consider that most mobile phones are now linked to the same data and applications of the average computer, the government’s ability to go through it without a warrant is effectively no different than being able to walk into someone’s home or office and go through their computer files at will.

This isn’t what our Founding Fathers had in mind when they wrote the Fourth Amendment’s language about being “secure in their persons, houses, papers and effects”.

As a result of the growing scandal, Obama has done what folks in Washington usually do when they want to defuse a political problem: appoint a committee.  The new panel is comprised of leaders from the intelligence community as well as White House staffers, and will take a look at how the NSA spies on Americans and then let us know if there is anything to be worked up about.  Fox, meet hen-house.

Of course all of these new revelations come several weeks after a coalition of conservative Republicans and liberal Democrats in the US House came within twelve votes of passing a resolution to prohibit the NSA’s collection of “bulk data” on Americans unless they were under suspicion of terrorism.

Clearly it’s time for another vote on the subject.

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Brazilian police, government agencies initiate criminal probe of NSA spying

by Jim Kouri on Tuesday, July 9th, 2013

This is article 16 of 33 in the topic Espionage

Federal law enforcement officials and other agencies in the Brazilian federal capital of Brasilia on Monday announced that they will conduct far-reaching criminal and civil investigations of the U.S. National Security Agency’s alleged illegal spying activities, according to a U.S. federal law enforcement source.

Besides Brazil‘s federal police department, its National Telecommunications Agency (Anatel) has also launched an investigation into whether any U.S. firms operating in the South American nation have gathered or surveilled personal data and phone calls of Brazilian government agencies or citizens, according to the federal police source who required anonymity.

Anatel confirmed that it would work in conjunction with federal police and other government agencies to investigate the recent newspaper reports that President Barack Obama’s NSA spy program collected more than one-billion telephone and e-mail conversations in Brazil.

The calls for investigations came in the wake of revelations published by Brazil’s prestigious O Globo newspaper over the weekend that the United States “undertakes blanket surveillance of all digital and telephone communications in Latin American.”

The newspaper said, “it had access to documents leaked by U.S. intelligence whistleblower Edward Snowden, adding that Washington used social networks and Internet service providers in its mass spying on Brazilian individuals and companies.”

Brazil’s Foreign Minister Antonio Patriota said on Sunday the government was “gravely concerned” by the spying allegations and has requested the U.S. government to explain.

Patriota stated, “The Brazilian government has asked the United States to give explanations for espionage against Brazilian citizens and institutions in its global surveillance program.”

Several Latin American nations, such as Ecuador, Venezuela, Nicaragua and Bolivia, have offered asylum to rogue NSA contractor Edward Snowden, who revealed allegations of NSA spying on tens of millions of Americans and on foreign governments.

Snowden is wanted by the U.S. Justice Department for his theft of classified intelligence and the release of the intelligence to a British newspaper reporter.

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Newt the libertarian on technology issues?

by John Lott on Wednesday, December 14th, 2011

This is article 20 of 45 in the topic Cyber space

How would the world look differently today if Newt hadn’t been there to stop many attempts to regulate technology? From Politico:

. . . Twenty years ago, Gingrich’s appreciation of technology was more novel among Republicans, showing that there was a conservative libertarian interest in preserving the burgeoning Internet from efforts to regulate it. The 1995 Wired magazine cover interview was headlined “Friend and Foe.” At the time, Gingrich talked up the transformative power of the Internet and a world where schools and hospitals would be wired.
Media in his home state dubbed him “Newt Skywalker.”
As House speaker, Gingrich marshaled forces on issues such as data scrambling technologies, freedom of speech on the Internet and securities litigation reform. He helped launch Thomas, the Library of Congress website that provides information about bills. He started the High Technology Working Group, now the Technology Working Group, composed of Republican leaders involved in a wide swath of tech issues.
Gingrich is “sensitive to innovation, to job creation, to startups and not having the government doing — but getting out of the away,” said McNealy, who is now chairman of social media startup Wayin. Gingrich “is a spectacular idea guy.”
Some of the early, libertarian-leaning views that won him fans in Silicon Valley were potential time bombs with the GOP faithful, but he stood his ground. In 1996, Gingrich — then the speaker of the House — resisted an attempt to fight porn on the Internet.
When the Senate began to push for the Communications Decency Act of 1996, Gingrich put up a road block that helped to undermine the act, which was later struck down by the Supreme Court. The act, introduced by then-Sen. Jim Exon (D-Neb.), would have made indecent materials on the Internet illegal and made intermediaries — such as Internet service providers — responsible for policing content on the Web. . . .

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The Patriot Act: 10 years of Illegal Searches and Seizures and you still don’t care?

by Greg Hedgepath on Wednesday, November 2nd, 2011

This is article 71 of 183 in the topic US Constitution

Patriot_Act_Certificate

Its time to end this!



The USA Patriot Act, the law granting the government vast surveillance powers that was adopted in the wake of September 11, turns a decade old Wednesday.

But despite its namesake of “Uniting and Strengthening America by Providing Appropriate Tools Required to Intercept and Obstruct Terrorism,” the law seemingly is being invoked far more to target domestic crime than for fighting terrorism.

The act, which has remained largely the same since President George W. Bush signed the legislation six weeks after 9/11, among other things gives the government powers to acquire phone, banking and other records via the power of a so-called “national security letter,” which does not require a court warrant.

National security letters, perhaps the most invasive facet of the law, are written demands from the FBI that compel internet service providers, financial institutions and others to hand over confidential records about their customers, such as subscriber information, phone numbers and e-mail addresses, and arguably websites you have visited.

The FBI need merely assert, in writing, that the information is “relevant” to an ongoing terrorism or national security investigation. Nearly everyone who gets a national security letter is prohibited from even disclosing that they’ve received one (the automatic gag order provision was struck down in a rare legal loss for the Patriot Act, but they persist in practice). More than 200,000 letters have been issued by the FBI.

Amendments requiring that the letters seek data relevant to a “terror” investigation have failed.

A decade after Bush’s signature, information is sketchy about how the law is being used in practice. For instance, Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Oregon) claims the government applies a far broader, and classified legal interpretation of the Patriot Act.

“We’re getting to a gap between what the public thinks the law says and what the American government secretly thinks the law says,” the Senate Intelligence Committee member said in a recent interview with Wired.com. “When you’ve got that kind of a gap, you’re going to have a problem on your hands.”

Wyden says he “can’t answer” any specific questions about how the government thinks it can use the Patriot Act. That would risk revealing classified information, he said.

There have been plenty of Inspector General reports published about the act. Some point to government abuse of it, and others highlight that the Patriot Act is often invoked for reasons unrelated to terrorism.

One report shows that of the 143,000 national security letters issued between 2003-2005, the FBI said it referred 53 cases for prosecution. (.pdf) None were for terrorism.

The law also grants so-called “black bag” or “sneak and peek” searches in which the authorities may delay notifying a property owner that an area has been searched. In 2010, less than 1 percent of the 3,970 such searches were terror-related. About 76 percent were drug-related.

Another Inspector General report showed in 2007 that the FBI evaded limits on, and sometimes illegally issued, national security letters for phone, e-mail and financial information on American citizens andunderreported the use of these self-issued orders to Congress.

Congress’ only response has been to leave the law virtually unchanged.

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Congressmen seek law to help investigate Internet kiddie porn

by Jim Kouri on Sunday, March 20th, 2011

This is article 14 of 188 in the topic Government Regulations

This week, several members of the U.S. House of Representatives continued the government’s infatuation with controlling the Internet by using the frequently used rationale “we’re doing it for the children.”

Child porn is not a victimless crime. Photo: Police Times

Democrat and Republican lawmakers are busily creating a House bill that will mandate Internet service providers to keep computer records — including identification information – of users to be used by federal law enforcement agencies during their child pornography investigations,

According to the Federal Bureau of Investigation, if the bill is passed in both houses of Congress and signed into law by President Barack Obama, it will help FBI agents investigating child-pornography cases.

While proponents of the bill claim there is bipartisan support for such a law, opponents say it is an attempt by big government politicians to “backdoor their way to controlling the Internet and those who use it,” said political strategist Mike Baker.

House Judiciary Committee Chairman Lamar Smith (R-Texas) is expected to introduce a draft of the bill in April. He stated that his legislation will require Internet service firms to maintain records of users’ Internet Protocol, or IP, addresses for a mandatory period of at least 24 months.

Child protection organizations and some law enforcement executives groups applaud the effort to help identify suspects. However, civil-rights proponents such as the American Civil Liberties Union claim such a measure would infringe on citizens’ right to privacy and create a cyber Big Brother culture on the worldwide web.

FBI officials have repeatedly complained that agents are unable to successfully investigate numerous child porn cases due to secrecy of Internet-user records, which could help federal law enforcement with identifying the user and providing information on suspects. Rep. Smith claims that his bill address the privacy issues and will not infringe on the rights of law-abiding Internet users.

Currently there are few, if any, standards for how long Internet providers keep user information. The longest a service provider maintains user information is six months. Eventually, user information including online activity is completely and permanently deleted.

In a press statement, the ACLU used “the chilling effect” argument to voice its opposition to such a law.  The civil-liberties organization argues that part of the appeal of Internet use is its anonymity. ACLU attorneys said the proposed law targets First Amendment freedom of expression.

During his testimony before the House Judiciary Committee last week, Director of the FBI Robert Mueller said that allowing his agents an opportunity to review Internet users’ information will not invade the privacy of those users.

The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children is a strong supporter of Smith’s proposed legislation. The organization aids federal, state and local law enforcement agencies and departments with an enormous number of abused and abducted children cases.

“There are already laws that allow federal law enforcement agencies to compel Internet service firms to save data that pertains to a criminal investigation,” said a former police detective from New York.

“As a law enforcement investigator, [Smith's] legislation would be a Godsend. As a private citizen, it would be yet another instance of government expansion of its power over Americans,” said Det. Sid Franes.

Rep.

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Internet access is not a “civil right”

by Michelle Malkin on Wednesday, December 22nd, 2010

This is article 7 of 45 in the topic Cyber space

Internet access is not a “civil right”
by Michelle Malkin
Creators Syndicate
Copyright 2010

Meet the new Internet traffic cops

When bureaucrats talk about increasing your “access” to X, Y, or Z, what they’re really talking about is increasing their control over your lives exponentially. As it is with the government health care takeover, so it is with the newly-approved government plan to “increase” Internet “access.” Call it Webcare.

By a vote of 3-2, the Federal Communications Commission on Tuesday adopted a controversial scheme to ensure “net neutrality” by turning unaccountable Democrat appointees into meddling online traffic cops. The panel will devise convoluted rules governing Internet service providers, bandwidth use, content, prices, and even disclosure details on Internet speeds. The “neutrality” is brazenly undermined by preferential treatment toward wireless broadband networks. Moreover, the FCC’s scheme is widely opposed by Congress – and has already been rejected once in the courts. Demonized industry critics have warned that the regulations will stifle innovation and result in less access, not more.

Sound familiar?

The parallels with health care are striking. The architects of Obamacare promised to provide Americans more access to health insurance – and cast their agenda as a fundamental universal entitlement. In fact, it was a pretext for creating a gargantuan federal bureaucracy with the power to tax, redistribute, and regulate
the private health insurance market to death – and replace it with a centrally-planned government system overseen by politically-driven code enforcers dictating everything from annual coverage limits, to administrative expenditures, to the make-up of the medical workforce. The costly, onerous, and selectively-applied law has resulted in less access, not more.

Undaunted promoters of Obama FCC chairman Julius Genachowski’s “open Internet” plan to expand regulatory authority over the Internet have couched their online power grab in the rhetoric of civil rights. On Monday, FCC Commissioner Michael Copps proclaimed: “Universal access to broadband needs to be seen as a civil right…[though] not many people have talked about it that way.” Opposing the government Internet takeover blueprint, in other words, is tantamount to supporting segregation. Cunning propaganda, that.

“Broadband is becoming a basic necessity,” civil rights activist Benjamin Hooks added. And earlier this month, fellow FCC panelist Mignon Clyburn, daughter of Congressional Black Caucus leader and Number Three House Democrat James Clyburn of South Carolina, declared that free (read: taxpayer-subsidized) access to the Internet is not only a civil right for every “nappy-headed child” in America, but essential to their self-esteem. Every minority child, she said, “deserves to be not only connected, but to be proud of who he or she is.”

Calling them “nappy-headed” is a rather questionable way of boosting their pride, but never mind that.

Face it: A high-speed connection is no more an essential civil right than 3G cell phone service or a Netflix account. Increasing competition and restoring academic excellence in abysmal public schools is far more of an imperative to minority children than handing them iPads. Once again, Democrats are using children as human shields who provide useful cover for not-so-noble political goals.

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Obama’s Marxists attempting to control the Internet …

by Stephen Levine on Tuesday, December 21st, 2010

This is article 4 of 45 in the topic Cyber space

For those of you who haven’t visited Matt Drudge’s site today…

Capture12-20-2010-12.57.46 PM

Capture12-20-2010-12.56.30 PM

It is now time to stop Obama’s plan to seize control over the internet …

It is not about stopping WikiLeaks

It is not about protecting the children

It is not about file sharing and piracy

And it certainly is not about controlling the access and rates offered by Internet Service Providers

It is about keeping you from finding our what corrupt politicians are doing to gain or maintain perpetual control over our country while they loot our national treasury to purchase and reinforce their power – and to move us towards a Marxist dictatorship like those in Cuba and Venezuela.

The Internet does not need government intervention and regulation …

1.  The interoperability standards are developed by the IETF – the Internet Engineering Task Force.

2.  The assignment of top-level domains and routing information is handled by ICANN – the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers.

3.  Access and pricing is handled by individual Internet Service Providers that is based on competition in a relatively free market economy as found under capitalism.

To force agreement with Obama’s Marxist nationalization of the Internet, the special interests are promised much in return for their support, campaign contributions, media coverage and voter turnout.

The content providers and distributors will be offered the services of the federal government to investigate and prosecute copyright infringement, piracy and file sharing.

The large telecommunications companies will be offered the opportunity to maintain their existing pricing monopolies and to revive their failing business model by granting them access to charging – in addition to the connection costs – a piece of the content price.

The newspapers will be offered a chance to convert their coverage to a digital format that can’t be easily shared without payment.

The states will be granted the right to tax all purchases on the Internet – regardless of where the merchandise is purchased.

The law enforcement agencies will be provided with even greater access when the Internet Service Providers openly engage in “deep packet mining” to examine the contents of each packet for the purpose of surcharging the transmission.

And the hypocrisy of the government containing spam and porn is absolutely ludicrous …

If the government wanted to limit porn on the Internet, they could have simply mandated the use of an .xxx top-level domain and fined those who did not adhere to the addressing scheme.

Of course, there were three groups that opposed this plan. One, the religious crazies who believed that this would make porn easier to obtain because it would all show up under an .xxx search. Two, the porn providers who wanted to showcase their wares to a wider audience and did not want to be marginalized under a single top-level domain. And three, the major telecommunications companies who are handsomely rewarded for carrying porn on their networks. Yes, the large companies love profitable porn traffic.

As for the spammers, most use Internet access located outside of the United States and beyond its jurisdiction.

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FCC: Symptomatic of Government abuse of power …

by Stephen Levine on Tuesday, December 7th, 2010

This is article 56 of 188 in the topic Government Regulations

It appears that the Obama Administration is continuing to take a page out of the Marxist playbook by rationing goods and services to create additional power for those (the government and the special interests) controlling the process. Especially by pandering to certain special interests, the politicians assure themselves of continuing campaign funds and voter support.

Unfortunately, the broadcast industry is both dishonest and disingenuous when they lobby for monopolistic and restrictive rules to offset the losses of their failing business models.

It is now time to punish the self-indulgent broadcast industry using a common-sense approach …

One, the claim that the purpose of the FCC is to regulate the public airwaves by awarding lucrative portions of the broadcast spectrum to the major players can be turned around by making the bids and bidding process totally open and transparent.

Two, how many citizens realize that millions of dollars in political advertising that are flowing through the system. Perhaps each candidate should be given a set block of free time on the “public’s airwaves” and that time-slots are awarded by a random draw. After all, wouldn’t this be a fair system and a starting point of campaign finance reform. Just like the government uses the analogy of a drivers license being a privilege, not a right – so the access to the “public’s airwaves” is a privilege and not a right – hence no First Amendment issues to hide behind.

Three, restrict the mission of the FCC to exclude any regulatory power over the Internet and Internet Service Providers. The Internet does not require regulation since it is self-governing through IETF (Internet Engineering Task Force), ICANN (Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers) and other such “public” forums.

It appears that the current goal of the FCC is threefold: to control the Internet’s content, both federalizing all alleged or real copyright infringement acts and to provide some control over pornographic and public free speech; to act as a gatekeeper to extort lobbyist-related campaign funds and voter support from those appearing before the commissions; and to insure that vendors are provided with rising prices for crumbling infrastructure so they are immune from competition. Which is far different from their original mission to regulate the assignment and use of the “broadcast” spectrum.

Reuters is reporting …

“FCC chief backs some rationing of Internet traffic”

“Internet service providers would be allowed to ration web traffic on their networks under a strategy unveiled by the top U.S. communications regulator that no longer focuses solely on open access.”

“Federal Communications Commission Chairman Julius Genachowski proposed banning the blocking of lawful traffic but allowing Internet providers to manage network congestion and charge consumers based on Internet usage.”

“Some analysts said usage-based pricing could benefit landline Internet providers like Comcast Corp and Time Warner Cable Inc., with them charging more for data-intensive activities like the downloading of movies.

There is no doubt in my mind that Internet providers want to go beyond providing the communication’s infrastructure in a competitive marketplace with set fees for their data transmission services, to becoming a player that is paid a portion of the price the consumer pays for access to content.

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