The end of Internet freedom? 2

It is a fearsome thought – that the freedom of the Internet may be coming to an end.

How can it happen?

Arnold Ahlert has investigated that question:

U.S. officials [have] announced plans to relinquish control of the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN), which manages Internet infrastructure to the so-called “global community.” Despite denials from the administration, the consequences of that move do indeed include the possibility of the Internet falling under U.N. control.

That reality has been pursued for years by pro-censorship factions led by Russia and China. As such, enormous questions exist about the future of the Internet under the stewardship of international interests — questions that the Obama administration seems wholly unconcerned with.

There we disagree. We reckon that Obama and his gang very much like the idea of bringing the Internet under the control of the UN. “I CANN and I will” is a likely motto for them in this context. 

Ahlert goes on, informatively:

The consequences of relinquishing control of the Internet involve more than censorship. U.S. security could be jeopardized as well. “Under invariably incompetent U.N. control, it could mean a hostile foreign power disabling the Internet for us,” former Bush administration State Department advisor Christian Whiton warned. He also sounded the warning on the possibility that any U.N. control of the Internet could engender taxes. “While the Obama administration says it is merely removing federal oversight of a non-profit, we should assume ICANN would end up as part of the United Nations,” Whiton said. “If the U.N. gains control what amounts to the directory and traffic signals of the Internet, it can impose whatever taxes it likes. It likely would start with a tax on registering domains and expand from there.”

Since the birth of the Internet, which grew out of a Defense Department program that began in the 1960s, America has always played the principal role in maintaining the master database for domain names, the assignment of Internet protocol addresses and other critical Web functions. That technical system is called the Internet Assigned Numbers Authority (IANA). An agency within the Commerce Department, the National Telecommunications & Information Administration (NTIA), has contracted out IANA’s operations to ICANN on a biennial basis since 2000. The latest contract expires in September of 2015.

NTIA Administrator Larry Strickling denied the possibility of a U.N. or equivalent type takeover, insisting that ICANN must meet four conditions to make the transition. “We will not accept a proposal that replaces the NTIA role with a government-led or an intergovernmental solution,” Strickling said in a conference call. He has asked ICANN to begin the process for making a formal transition that must “support and enhance the multistakeholder model” and “maintain the openness of the Internet.”

ICANN itself wants to get out from under U.S. oversight, and their effort has been abetted by European officials whose promotion of a globalization campaign has intensified in the wake of fugitive Edward Snowden’s leaks about the National Security Administration’s overarching surveillance programs. An NTIA official denied the connection, insisting U.S. stewardship of the Internet was always intended to be temporary.

Regardless of which scenario is accurate, ICANN’s motive is transparent. The organization has elicited the wrath of many in the business community who believe their decision-making is aimed at accommodating the industry that sells domain names, and whose fees provide the lion’s share of ICANN’s revenue. They believe ICANN’s contract with the U.S. mitigates some of those abuses, and that international control would amount to no control at all.

There is little question that the selling of domain names is a huge business, one with enormous potential for fraud. As a 2012 article in the Washington Post revealed, several groups have been out to get control of names that would give them a huge advantage over their competitors. Examples include Amazon bidding for control over all the Web addresses that end with “.book,” Google for “.buy.” and Allstate for “.carinsurance.”

They further sounded the alarm about Donuts Inc., a company with close ties to a documented Internet spammer. Donuts Inc. bid $57 million for 307 new domains, including “.doctor,” “.financial” and “.school.” At the time, David E. Weslow, a D.C.-based lawyer who represents several major corporations, contended that such top-level domains would precipitate a ”Wild West for fraud and abuse.” Law enforcement officials agreed, noting that the rapid expansion of new domains would increase the likelihood of cybercrime, even as identifying the perpetrators would become more difficult. In 2012, there were 22 “top level domains.” Here is ICANN’s current–and vastly expanded–list.

ICANN manages that list via an international structure of governance comprised of “stakeholders” that include governments, corporations, and civil society activists. Under its contract with the NTIA, it could theoretically be forced to render a website nameless, effectively removing it from the Internet. When that contract ends, a new form of global governance will take its place–one that has yet to be determined. There have been several efforts over the course of the last decade to transfer control of the Internet to the U.N.’s International Telecommunications Union (ITU), whose website claims it is “committed to connecting the world.” Yet those efforts have been led by Russia and China, two countries whose commitment to “connecting the world” begins and ends with censoring content inimical to their interests.

Unsurprisingly, both believe the only stakeholders that really matter are countries. That’s because under the current contract, nations can only suppress Internet content. They can’t prevent websites from registering domain names. If those parameters change, domain name registry could be censored under the auspices of protecting one’s national sovereignty.

ICANN president Fadi Chehade dismisses that concern as well as others. “Nothing will be done in any way to jeopardize the security and stability of the Internet,” he promised. He called the Obama administration’s decision “historic”.

Republicans weren’t buying it. “While I certainly agree our nation must stridently review our procedures regarding surveillance in light of the NSA controversy, to put ourselves in a situation where censorship-laden governments like China or Russia could take a firm hold on the Internet itself is truly a scary thought,” said Sen. Tim Scott (R-SC). “I look forward to working with my colleagues on the Senate Commerce Committee and with the Commerce Department on this, because–to be blunt–the ‘global Internet community’ this would empower has no First Amendment.”

Former Rep. Mary Bono (R-CA), who sponsored a unanimously-passed 2012 resolution to keep the Internet free from governmental control, concurred. “We’re at a critical time where [Russian President Vladimir] Putin is proving he is capable of outmaneuvering the administration. … As they digest it, I think people are going to be very upset,” she contended.

As if on cue, Amnesty International revealed that Russia instituted a media blackout that included blocking a number of Internet sites in the Russian Federation prior to secession vote in Crimea. That censorship was enabled by an amendment to the Law on Internet Information signed by Putin on Feb. 1, giving the Prosecutor General’s office the authority to block websites that publish any calls for activities considered to be unlawful.

An op-ed by Daniel Castro, a senior analyst at the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation (ITIF), reveals what’s at stake. He notes that two years ago, on the 25th anniversary of the registration of the first .com domain name, his company released a report revealing that “the annual global economic benefit of the commercial Internet equaled $1.5 trillion, more than the global sales of medicine, investment in renewable energy, and government investment in R&D, combined.” He believes all of it would be at risk if the Obama administration doesn’t resist giving up control of the Internet. He contends such a move would bring about a “splintered Internet that would stifle innovation, commerce, and the free flow and diversity of ideas that are bedrock tenets of the world’s biggest economic engine.”

Nonetheless, the effort has its defenders. Senate Commerce Committee Chairman John D. Rockefeller IV (D-WVA) called the move “consistent with other efforts the U.S. and our allies are making to promote a free and open Internet, and to preserve and advance the current multi-stakeholder model of global Internet governance.” Gene Kimmelman, president of Public Knowledge, a hard-left group promoting itself as a public interest vehicle, concurred. “This is a step in the right direction to resolve important international disputes about how the Internet is governed,” he said.

This so-called step in the right direction is anything but.

It is useful to remember that along with Russian and China, the EU criminalizes free speech, and the Organization of the Islamic Conference [now the Organization of Islamic Co-operation – ed.] is determined to silence those who resist terror and jihad.

Steps are being taken towards the disaster even as we speak .”Discussions for laying out the appropriate transitional process” are starting this month in Singapore.

ITIF’s Daniel Castro sounds the ultimate alarm, one that should concern every American. “Yes, Internet architecture is technical and, frankly, quite boring to outsiders,” he acknowledges. “But it is an issue with huge consequences that demands attention from policymakers. It is too important to get wrong. And if the Obama Administration gives away its oversight of the Internet, it will be gone forever.”

It obviously has not been safe with the Obama gang. They were bound to give it away. They are no more for freedom than are Russia, China, or the Organization of the Islamic Conference.

Edward Snowden: loyal to the people of America 2

These are extracts from a Washington Times report of an interview it had in Moscow with Edward Snowden, the man who “betrayed” the secrets of the National Security Agency (NSA):

Snowden is an orderly thinker, with an engineer’s approach to problem-solving. He had come to believe that a dangerous machine of mass surveillance was growing unchecked. Closed-door oversight by Congress and the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court was a “graveyard of judgment” he said, manipulated by the agency it was supposed to keep in check. Classification rules erected walls to prevent public debate.

Toppling those walls would be a spectacular act of transgression against the norms that prevailed inside them. Someone would have to bypass security, extract the secrets, make undetected contact with journalists and provide them with enough proof to tell the stories.

The NSA’s business is “information dominance”, the use of other people’s secrets to shape events. … Snowden upended the agency on its own turf. …[and] succeeded beyond plausible ambition. The NSA, accustomed to watching without being watched, faces scrutiny it has not endured since the 1970s, or perhaps ever.

The cascading effects have made themselves felt in Congress, the courts, popular culture, Silicon Valley and world capitals.

The basic structure of the Internet itself is now in question, as Brazil and members of the European Union consider measures to keep their data away from U.S. territory and U.S. technology giants including Google, Microsoft and Yahoo take extraordinary steps to block the collection of data by their government.

For months, Obama administration officials attacked Snowden’s motives and said the work of the NSA was distorted by selective leaks and misinterpretations.

On Dec. 16, in a lawsuit that could not have gone forward without the disclosures made possible by Snowden, U.S. District Judge Richard J. Leon described the NSA’s capabilities as “almost Orwellian” and said its bulk collection of U.S. domestic telephone records was probably unconstitutional.

The next day, in the Roosevelt Room [at the White house], an unusual delegation of executives from old telephone companies and young Internet firms told President Obama that the NSA’s intrusion into their networks was a threat to the U.S. information economy. The following day, an advisory panel appointed by Obama recommended substantial new restrictions on the NSA, including an end to the domestic call-records program. …

In the intelligence and national security establishments, Snowden is widely viewed as a reckless saboteur, and journalists abetting him little less so. …

It is commonly said of Snowden that he broke an oath of secrecy, a turn of phrase that captures a sense of betrayal. NSA Director Keith B. Alexander and Director of National Intelligence James R. Clapper Jr., among many others, have used that formula. …

Snowden noted matter-of-factly that Standard Form 312, the classified-information nondisclosure agreement, is a civil contract. He signed it, but he pledged his fealty elsewhere.

“The oath of allegiance is not an oath of secrecy,” he said. “That is an oath to the Constitution. That is the oath that I kept that Keith Alexander and James Clapper did not.”

Beginning in October 2012, he said, he brought his misgivings to two superiors in the NSA’s Technology Directorate and two more in the NSA Threat Operations Center’s regional base in Hawaii. For each of them, and 15 other co-workers, Snowden said he opened a data query tool called BOUNDLESSINFORMANT, which used color-coded “heat maps” to depict the volume of data ingested by NSA taps.

His colleagues were often “astonished to learn we are collecting more in the United States on Americans than we are on Russians in Russia,” he said. Many of them were troubled, he said, and several said they did not want to know any more.

“I asked these people, ‘What do you think the public would do if this was on the front page?’ ” he said. He noted that critics have accused him of bypassing internal channels of dissent. “How is that not reporting it? How is that not raising it?” …

By last December, Snowden was contacting reporters, although he had not yet passed along any classified information. He continued to give his colleagues the “front-page test”, he said, until April. …

Just before releasing the documents this spring, Snowden made a final review of the risks. He had overcome what he described at the time as a “selfish fear” of the consequences for himself.

“I said to you the only fear [left] is apathy — that people won’t care, that they won’t want change.”

The documents leaked by Snowden compelled attention because they revealed to Americans a history they did not know they had. …

With assistance from private communications firms, the NSA had learned to capture enormous flows of data at the speed of light from fiber-optic cables that carried Internet and telephone traffic over continents and under seas. According to one document in Snowden’s cache, the agency’s Special Source Operations group, which as early as 2006 was said to be ingesting “one Library of Congress every 14.4 seconds”, had an official seal that might have been parody: an eagle with all the world’s cables in its grasp.

Each year, NSA systems collected hundreds of millions of e-mail address books, hundreds of billions of cellphone location records and trillions of domestic call logs.

Most of that data, by definition and intent, belonged to ordinary people suspected of nothing. But vast new storage capacity and processing tools enabled the NSA to use the information to map human relationships on a planetary scale. Only this way, its leadership believed, could the NSA reach beyond its universe of known intelligence targets.

In the view of the NSA, signals intelligence, or electronic eavesdropping, was a matter of life and death, “without which America would cease to exist as we know it”, according to an internal presentation in the first week of October 2001, as the agency ramped up its response to the al-Qaeda attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon.

With stakes such as those, there was no capability the NSA believed it should leave on the table. The agency followed orders from President George W. Bush to begin domestic collection without authority from Congress and the courts. When the NSA won those authorities later, some of them under secret interpretations of laws passed by Congress between 2007 and 2012, the Obama administration went further still. …

In the Moscow interview, Snowden said, “What the government wants is something they never had before,” adding: “They want total awareness. The question is, is that something we should be allowing?”

Snowden likened the NSA’s powers to those used by British authorities in Colonial America, when “general warrants” allowed for anyone to be searched. The FISA court, Snowden said, “is authorizing general warrants for the entire country’s metadata.”

“The last time that happened, we fought a war over it,” he said.

Technology, of course, has enabled a great deal of consumer surveillance by private companies, as well. The difference with the NSA’s possession of the data, Snowden said, is that government has the power to take away life or freedom.

At the NSA, he said, “there are people in the office who joke about, ‘We put warheads on foreheads.’ Twitter doesn’t put warheads on foreheads.”

Privacy, as Snowden sees it, is a universal right, applicable to American and foreign surveillance alike.

“I don’t care whether you’re the pope or Osama bin Laden,” he said. “As long as there’s an individualized, articulable, probable cause for targeting these people as legitimate foreign intelligence, that’s fine. I don’t think it’s imposing a ridiculous burden by asking for probable cause. …

When it comes to spying on allies, by Snowden’s lights, the news is not always about the target.

“It’s the deception of the government that’s revealed,” Snowden said, noting that the Obama administration offered false public assurances after the initial reports about NSA surveillance in Germany.  “The U.S. government said: ‘We follow German laws in Germany. We never target German citizens.’ And then the story comes out and it’s: ‘What are you talking about? You’re spying on the chancellor.’ You just lied to the entire country, in front of Congress.”

In hope of keeping focus on the NSA, Snowden has ignored attacks on himself.

“Let them say what they want,” he said. “It’s not about me.”

Former NSA and CIA director Michael V. Hayden predicted that Snowden will waste away in Moscow as an alcoholic, like other “defectors.” To this, Snowden shrugged. He does not drink at all. Never has.

But Snowden knows his presence here is easy ammunition for critics. He did not choose refuge in Moscow as a final destination. He said that once the U.S. government voided his passport as he tried to change planes en route to Latin America, he had no other choice. …  “I have no relationship with the Russian government. I have not entered into any agreements with them.”

“If I defected at all,” Snowden said, “I defected from the government to the public.”

We don’t think it likely that the NSA will stop its surveillance of the whole earth and your and our emails. It’s a power beyond the wildest dreams of all governments ever to be able to know everything about everyone, and now that it has become possible, and is being used, it will never be given up. No court judgment will stop it. No act of Congress. Preventing terrorist attacks is the excuse. Power is the reason.

At least we know about it now. For that we have to thank Edward Snowden.

Big Brotherhood 8

Further to our recent post Jon Stewart on NSA (December 15, 2013), in which we asked our readers if they thought NSA spying was justified if it kept us safe from terrorist attacks, here is a relevant article from Reason, by Jacob Sullum:

When US District Judge Richard Leon issued his preliminary injunction against the NSA’s phone record database yesterday, part of his  analysis … concerned whether the collection of telephone metadata counts as a “search” under the Fourth Amendment. But Leon also considered whether such a search might be “reasonable,” even without an individualized warrant, because of its usefulness in preventing terrorist attacks.

That part of the analysis was pretty straightforward, since the government had presented no evidence that the database has been useful in preventing terrorist attacks:

The Government does not cite a single instance in which analysis of the NSA’s bulk metadata collection actually stopped an imminent attack, or otherwise aided the Government in achieving any objective that was time-sensitive in nature. In fact, none of the three “recent episodes” cited by the Government that supposedly “illustrate the role that telephony metadata analysis can play in preventing and protecting against terrorist attack” involved any apparent urgency….

Given the limited record before me at this point in the litigation — most notably, the utter lack of evidence that a terrorist attack has ever been prevented because searching the NSA database was faster than other investigative tactics— I have serious doubts about the efficacy of the metadata collection program as a means of conducting time-sensitive investigations in cases involving imminent threats of terrorism.

Leon’s conclusion on this question is striking, since you’d think the Obama administration would be highly motivated to show that the database has been crucial in saving lives. If the government cannot muster a single plausible example, how can such a massive invasion of privacy possibly be justified?

The administration has been struggling with this problem since news reports based on leaks from former NSA contractor Edward Snowden first revealed the existence of the phone record database last June. At first intelligence officials and their allies in Congress suggested that the program had been instrumental in foiling more than 50 terrorist plots. But those claims — which were immediately questioned by Sens. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) and Mark Udall (D-Colo.), who as members of the Senate Intelligence Committee ought to know — dissolved upon close examination. Last October a ProPublica analysis concluded “there’s no evidence that the oft-cited figure is accurate”.

The crucial question, usually dodged by the NSA and its defenders, is whether routinely collecting everyone’s phone records, as opposed to seeking specific, evidence-based court orders aimed at particular targets, has been decisive in stopping terrorist attacks. If the government has been unable to offer any examples in the last six months, it seems unlikely it ever will.

Well, it might. But more and more NSA resembles George Orwell’s “Big Brother” in 1984, with his observation of everyone all the time, in order to control their lives, their actions, and ultimately even their thoughts and emotions. He is the perfect symbol of the socialist state. If a conservative Republican Congress and president ever come to power again, they should abolish the agency’s listening and recording center. There are better ways to trace and track terrorists – among them, keeping watch on all mosques, and severely limiting Muslim immigration.

Posted under Commentary, government, Terrorism, tyranny, United States by Jillian Becker on Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Tagged with , , , , ,

This post has 8 comments.

Permalink

US spy agencies advocate expedient murder of Americans? 1

This is from  the Guardian, the British newspaper that first exposed the extent of the US National Security Agency’s (NSA) surveillance capability and practice. We have very seldom found the powerful left-slanted pro-Islam anti-semitic Guardian worthy of quoting unless to argue against it. This time we find value in one of its articles, an interview with their NSA whistleblower, Edward Snowden, a former technical assistant for the CIA, now in Hong Kong where he has sought asylum for reasons that emerge in what he reveals among these extracts:

Q: Why did you decide to become a whistleblower?

A: The NSA has built an infrastructure that allows it to intercept almost everything. With this capability, the vast majority of human communications are automatically ingested without targeting. If I wanted to see your emails or your wife’s phone, all I have to do is use intercepts. I can get your emails, passwords, phone records, credit cards. I don’t want to live in a society that does these sort of things … I do not want to live in a world where everything I do and say is recorded. That is not something I am willing to support or live under. …

Q: Do you see yourself as another Bradley Manning?

A: Manning was a classic whistleblower. He was inspired by the public good.

Q: Do you think what you have done is a crime?

A: We have seen enough criminality on the part of government. It is hypocritical to make this allegation against me. …

Q: What do you think is going to happen to you?

A: Nothing good.

Q: Why Hong Kong?

A: I think it is really tragic that an American has to move to a place that has a reputation for less freedom. Still, Hong Kong has a reputation for freedom in spite of the People’s Republic of China. It has a strong tradition of free speech.

Q: What do the leaked documents reveal?

A: That the NSA routinely lies in response to congressional inquiries about the scope of surveillance in America. I believe that when [senator Ron] Wyden and [senator Mark] Udall asked about the scale of this, they [the NSA] said it did not have the tools to provide an answer. We do have the tools and I have maps showing where people have been scrutinised most. We collect more digital communications from America than we do from the Russians. 

Q: Is it possible to put security in place to protect against state surveillance?

A: You are not even aware of what is possible. The extent of their capabilities is horrifying. We can plant bugs in machines. Once you go on the network, I can identify your machine. You will never be safe whatever protections you put in place.

Q: Does your family know you are planning this?

A: No. My family does not know what is happening … My primary fear is that they will come after my family, my friends, my partner. Anyone I have a relationship with … I will have to live with that for the rest of my life. I am not going to be able to communicate with them. They [the authorities] will act aggressively against anyone who has known me. That keeps me up at night. …

Q: Washington-based foreign affairs analyst Steve Clemons said he overheard at the capital’s Dulles airport four men discussing an intelligence conference they had just attended. Speaking about the leaks, one of them said, according to Clemons, that both the reporter and leaker should be “disappeared”. How do you feel about that?

A: Someone responding to the story said ‘real spies do not speak like that’. Well, I am a spy and that is how they talk. Whenever we had a debate in the office on how to handle crimes, they do not defend due process – they defend decisive action. They say it is better to kick someone out of a plane than let these people have a day in court. It is an authoritarian mindset in general.

Q: Do you have a plan in place?

A: The only thing I can do is sit here and hope the Hong Kong government does not deport me … My predisposition is to seek asylum in a country with shared values. The nation that most encompasses this is Iceland. They stood up for people over internet freedom. I have no idea what my future is going to be. They could put out an Interpol note. But I don’t think I have committed a crime outside the domain of the US. I think it will be clearly shown to be political in nature.

Q: Do you think you are probably going to end up in prison?

A: I could not do this without accepting the risk of prison. You can’t come up against the world’s most powerful intelligence agencies and not accept the risk. If they want to get you, over time they will.

So if Edward Snowden is to be believed, the intelligence agencies of the United States like the idea of killing people to shut them up. Snowden does not say in the interview that they have killed people whose testimony against them they fear, but would they advocate such expedient murders of US citizens if they did not believe they can get away with them? And if they are all for them, and think they can get away with them, is it not highly probable that they have committed them?

*

However –

Scott Johnson of PowerLine, whose opinion we hold in high esteem, has doubts about the value of Snowden’s revelations and his motivation:

If you’ve been queasy about the ongoing disclosures of anti-terror national security programs by lefty Glenn Greenwald in the Guardian (UK), as I have, I doubt the Guardian’s profile of Greenwald’s source — one Edward Snowden, a 29-year-old self-described former technical assistant for the CIA who says he has has worked at the NSA for the last four years as an employee of outside contractors including Booz Allen and Dell — will allay your queasiness.

Read the whole thing and render your own judgment. Snowden seems to me a true believer of doubtful maturity sunk in his own weird grandiosity. Greenwald of course celebrates Snowden as a “whisteblower.” That is a conclusion that begs the question, but I got off the train long before reaching this statement of reassurance, provided to Greenwald from the refuge of a hotel room in Hong Kong:

“I carefully evaluated every single document I disclosed to ensure that each was legitimately in the public interest,” he said. “There are all sorts of documents that would have made a big impact that I didn’t turn over, because harming people isn’t my goal. Transparency is.”

As for transparency, I think I can see right through him.