Coming Proposal Could Lead to 'Wiretapped' Internet

Lora Bentley

Not only does the Obama Administration want easier access to the financial information of those doing business (and thus transferring money) overseas, but the government also wants to wiretap the Internet.


According to The New York Times, officials are concerned that they are losing the ability to monitor terrorism suspects and other criminal suspects because people are more often communicating over the Internet rather than the telephone. As a result, they plan to propose legislation next year that would require any company offering a communication platform to have the ability to comply with a wiretap order.


That means that services offering e-mail encryption must have a means of decrypting that e-mail, social networks must provide a way for governments to intercept posts and messages, and those who develop software for services like Skype must also provide a "back door" for conversation intercepts.


Obviously, consumer groups are concerned. Center for Democracy and Technology VP 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 that the telephone system used to function.


FBI general counsel Valerie Caproni dismisses the argument, saying the legislation will not expand investigative authority but will preserve the ability to execute the authority that already exists.


But, Washington Post columnist Bob Pegararo doesn't buy that. He calls the proposals unrealistic and outright foolish. He said:

Maybe there's some need for refinements of existing law to ensure that comparable services face the same obligations. But the administration has long since lost the right to say "trust us" or "we need to do this to stop the terrorists" on these matters.

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Add Comment      Leave a comment on this blog post
Sep 28, 2010 5:33 AM David Sugar David Sugar  says:

'Privacy is ultimately about liberty while surveillance is always about control'

Speaking on behalf of the GNU Telephony project, we do intend to openly defy such a law should it actually come to pass, so I want to be very clear on this statement. It is not simply that we will choose to publicly defy the imposition of such an illegitimate law, but that we will explicitly continue to publicly develop and distribute free software (that is software that offers the freedom to use, inspect, and modify) enabling secure peer-to-peer communication privacy through encryption that is made available directly to anyone worldwide. Clearly such software is especially needed in those places, such as in the United States, where basic human freedoms and individual dignity seem most threatened at present.

In the United States the 4th amendment did not come about simply because it was impractical to directly spy on everyone on such a large scale. Nor does it end simply because it may now be technically feasible to do so. Communication privacy furthermore is essential to the normal functioning of free societies, whether speaking of whistle-blowers, journalists who have to protect their sources, human rights and peace activists engaging in legitimate political dissent, workers engaged in union organizing, or lawyers who must protect the confidentiality of their privileged communications with clients.

However, to fully appreciate the effect of such surveillance on human societies, imagine being among several hundred million people who wake up each day having to prove they are not a 'terrorist' by whatever arbitrary means the government has decided to both define the terms of such a crime and whatever arbitrary methods unknown to you that they might choose to define you as such, and where even your prosecution is carried out under the immunity of 'state secrets' that all police states use to abuse of their own citizens. Such a society is one who's very foundation is built on the premise of everyone being guilty until proven innocent and where due process does not exist. It is the imposition of such a illegitimate society that we choose to openly oppose, and to do so in this manner.

David Alexander Sugar

Chief Facilitator

GNU Telephony?


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