How are these related? Google rats out a blogger. House passes HR1955.

After learning about Google turning over the IP address of an anonymous Israeli blogger, I realized I needed to understand the facts before forging an opinion and went out in search of other articles and more information. Within hours I had also came across the passage in the House of Representatives of a bill, HR1955, entitled the “Violent Radicalization and Homegrown Terrorism Prevention Act of 2007” — which, curiously, I’ve seen absolutely nothing about in the mainstream media and it’s on its way to the Senate where it will undoubtedly pass immediately.

How are these two connected?

First go and read the bill (it’s quite short) and pay special attention to Sec 899B wherein “Congress finds the following:”. If you don’t come away with the impression that all of these points are amazingly vague and that this bill could easily be gamed by any current or future Administration that, for example, severely compromised habeas corpus or wiretapped domestically without warrants, I’ll eat my hat.

One passage has caused uproar amongst geeks and the blogosphere. Sec 899B, #3, states, “The Internet has aided in facilitating violent radicalization, ideologically based violence, and the homegrown terrorism process in the United States by providing access to broad and constant streams of terrorist-related propaganda to United States citizens.” I don’t know about you, but I never see “streams of propaganda” and this smacks of how some in the Justice Department seem to use child pornography as a catch-all for moves to control cyberspace and accelerate tracking mechanisms (who among you could possibly be for child porn? Or terrorism, for that matter? Got something to hide?).

While the outrage over Yahoo turning over a Chinese dissident and now Google turning over an anonymous Israeli blogger’s IP address is understandable, unlike what Yahoo did and AT&T did (by actually first violating the law by implementing wiretapping without a warrant), Google at least waited until an Israeli court order was given.

Here’s what I think is really going on… 

In an age of instant and robust communications, government leaders are, frankly, scared. Law enforcement is too and undoubtedly so is the entire intelligence community. Why? It is trivial to encrypt and move HUGE amounts of data (and voice, video, etc.) over the Internet and the National Security Agency (NSA) has sanctioned the Advanced Encryption Standard (AES) — which is widely available in both free and commercial software packages — to be safe for encrypting US Government TOP SECRET classified information. From this Wikipedia article:

In June 2003, the US Government announced that AES may be used for classified information:

“The design and strength of all key lengths of the AES algorithm (i.e., 128, 192 and 256) are sufficient to protect classified information up to the SECRET level. TOP SECRET information will require use of either the 192 or 256 key lengths. The implementation of AES in products intended to protect national security systems and/or information must be reviewed and certified by NSA prior to their acquisition and use.” .

This marks the first time that the public has had access to a cipher approved by NSA for encryption of TOP SECRET information. Many public products use 128-bit secret keys by default; it is possible that NSA suspects a fundamental weakness in keys this short, or they may simply prefer a safety margin for top secret documents (which may require security decades into the future).

Faced with keeping America safe and terrorism at bay, what would YOU do to either hamper the bad guys or figure out what they’re doing? When even guys like me know exactly how to encrypt huge files, go to a Wifi-enabled location to send it, ensure that any digital “signatures” are removed from the files and the encrypted container, don’t you think that the bad guys might know how to do this too?

While I don’t disagree with the government, law enforcement and intelligence community motivations, I fundamentally disagree with the lack of transparency, any open dialogue about the overwhelming and growing belief in the compromise of our liberty, privacy and freedoms.

Bottom line? I’m concerned about HR1955 and what it might morph into after it passes the Senate. The way it’s worded now, it provides opportunity to be pre-emptive (like invading countries that might someday, somehow pose a threat…but I digress) with phrases like, “The development and implementation of methods and processes” or “The promotion of” or “The Internet has aided in facilitating” I see opportunities to circumvent the rule of law.

2 Comments

  1. Ken Kennedy on November 30, 2007 at 6:47 pm

    Great to see this picking up more and more steam, Steve. I’m with ya 100%. Hopefully we’ll pick up some non-geek media attention soon…and if it’s too late before that happens, we’ll have to keep our eyes VERY CLOSELY on the Committee.



  2. Lenny on December 16, 2007 at 11:27 am

    It is very scary how our rights are being away. The president is all too powerful. The fact that the government can now strip you of your basic habeus corpus rights if they “consider” you a threat is pure tyranny, pure and simple. We are becoming a nation that is beginning to fear the government – and we all know what happens when the people fear the government – the government is all too powerful. Government power is out of control – it is becoming very Orwellian. As Americans, we need to start opening our eyes and stop what is happening before it’s too late. What starts out as a good idea to protect the lives of Americans has spun out of control and can now be used against the very people that it was supposed to protect.

    In addition to our constitution meaning nothing to the government today, we are slowly giving up our rights one by one. All of the free trade agreements, the upcoming North American Union, the national ID (aka REAL ID Act of 2005 (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/REAL_ID_Act). I could go and on… The bottom line is that our privacy is under attack and we need to be very very careful of the rights that we give up in order to “protect” our country. Who would have ever thought that our right to habeus corpus would be taken away if the government wanted to? I thought that was for war criminals, not American citizens.

    Regardless of your political affiliation, the people have given the government too much power. I feel like many of us were mislead after 9/11. Most of us said that we would give up some of our liberties to be “secure”. Well, that power has been abused – now how can we fight to return it to normal? If Google refuses to hand over IPs as per a government “request”, it could be considered a threat to national security, and the government now has the legal ability to pretty much do whatever it wants.



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