Thursday, March 18, 2004

Patriot Act II Update

For those of you still living in a dreamworld, and you believe that the government has your best interests in mind with Patriot Act I and II, here is the latest in ongoing actions by this administration to restrict your freedoms - there is no other way to say it. Now, this blog does not spend a lot of time commenting on the various conspiracy theories put forth from either end of the political spectrum - lots of other blogs put their focus there. There is plenty of evidence otherwise of disturbingly poor leadership in this administration. Besides Mr. Bush himself, there are too many people who do not understand power, and the misuse of it, because they themselves abuse their power and positions daily.

Yes, actions aimed at catching terrorists and preventing further disasters are of the highest priority, but many of these actions, beginning right after 9/11, do not have the weight of critical thinking behind them. As a result, the baby is being continually thrown out with the bathwater. Actions now aimed at monitoring your internet communications are a case in point. Goodbye to another freedom in the name of terrorism, because this hasn't been thought through logically either:

The Justice Department wants to significantly expand the government's ability to monitor online traffic, proposing that providers of high-speed Internet service should be forced to grant easier access for FBI wiretaps and other electronic surveillance, according to documents and government officials.

A petition filed this week with the Federal Communications Commission also suggests that consumers should be required to foot the bill.

Law enforcement agencies have been increasingly concerned that fast-growing telephone service over the Internet could be a way for terrorists and criminals to evade surveillance. But the petition also moves beyond Internet telephony, leading several technology experts and privacy advocates yesterday to warn that many types of online communication, including instant messages and visits to Web sites, could be covered.

The proposal by the Justice Department, the FBI and the Drug Enforcement Administration could require extensive retooling of existing broadband networks and could impose significant costs, the experts said. Privacy advocates also argue that there are not enough safeguards to prevent the government from intercepting data from innocent users.

They are asking the FCC to curtail its usual review process to rapidly implement the proposed changes. The FBI views the petition as narrowly crafted and aimed only at making sure that terrorist and criminal suspects are not able to evade monitoring because of the type of telephone communications they use, according to a federal law enforcement official who spoke on the condition of anonymity.

"Lawfully-authorized electronic surveillance is an invaluable and necessary tool for federal, state and local law enforcement in their fight against criminals, terrorists, and spies," the petition said, adding that "the importance and the urgency of this task cannot be overstated" because "electronic surveillance is being compromised today."

But privacy and technology experts said the proposal is overly broad and raises serious privacy and business concerns. James X. Dempsey, executive director of the Center for Democracy & Technology, a public interest group, said the FBI is attempting to dictate how the Internet should be engineered to permit whatever level of surveillance law enforcement deems necessary.

"The breadth of what they are asking for is a little breathtaking," Dempsey said. "The question is, how deeply should the government be able to control the design of the Internet? . . . If you want to bring the economy to a halt, put the FBI in charge of deploying new Internet and communications services."

David Baker, vice president for public policy at Internet provider EarthLink Inc. in Atlanta, said the FBI appears to be going beyond concerns over voice communications technology on the Internet ."

Posted by a Vet -- -- permanent link