Uncle Sam is pushing for vast control over the Internet – claiming such power is essential to protect the country from cyber threats. Dire warnings of dangers to our nation’s “cyber security” by the former administration of President George W. Bush have been echoed by President Obama. “Cyber hawks” in the Congress, including Sens. Joe Lieberman (I-CT) and Susan Collins (R-ME), who see terrorist threats behind every computer, are pushing legislation that would empower the president to declare a “cyber emergency” under only vaguely defined circumstances, and seize control over vast sectors of the Internet.
Aside from the interesting parallel posed by such cyber-control efforts, to regimes in the Middle East and elsewhere that attempt to employ control over the Internet to squelch political dissent – a practice Washington roundly and properly criticizes – the government’s track record in using its existing law enforcement powers to shut down Internet domains suspected of violating federal criminal laws, hardly inspires confidence.
Recently, for example, the Department of Justice and the Department of Homeland Security’s Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), proclaimed proudly they had shut down several web domains suspected of engaging in copyright infringement and transmitting child pornography. Unfortunately, some 84,000 websites engaged in no unlawful activities whatsoever were silenced mistakenly during the federal cyber sweeps.
The private website TorrentFreak, which has publicized this latest government cyber error, noted that, “Although it is not clear where this massive error was made, and who’s responsible for it, the Department of Homeland security is conveniently sweeping it under the rug. In a press release . . . the authorities were clearly proud of themselves for taking down 10 domain names.”
No government – no matter how benign or well-meaning — should be empowered to control the Internet. Moreover, the Congress should take a long, hard look at how federal agencies are using — and abusing – their existing powers to control parts of the Internet.
By Bob Barr — The Barr Code