Obama Administration pushing for internet records without warrant

The Obama Administration is seeking powers that would allow the FBI to obtain records of internet activity without at warrant:

The Obama administration is seeking to make it easier for the FBI to compel companies to turn over records of an individual’s Internet activity without a court order if agents deem the information relevant to a terrorism or intelligence investigation.

The administration wants to add just four words — “electronic communication transactional records” — to a list of items that the law says the FBI may demand without a judge’s approval. Government lawyers say this category of information includes the addresses to which an Internet user sends e-mail; the times and dates e-mail was sent and received; and possibly a user’s browser history. It does not include, the lawyers hasten to point out, the “content” of e-mail or other Internet communication.

But what officials portray as a technical clarification designed to remedy a legal ambiguity strikes industry lawyers and privacy advocates as an expansion of the power the government wields through so-called national security letters. These missives, which can be issued by an FBI field office on its own authority, require the recipient to provide the requested information and to keep the request secret. They are the mechanism the government would use to obtain the electronic records.

Yeah, because the FBI won’t use it for anything else other than terrorism and it won’t be abused. Oh wait, that’s right, an internal FBI audit in 2007 found more than 1,000 instances of abuse of the PATRIOT Act, which was passed on similar reasoning.

Bye Bye Internet Freedom?

The internet is under assault. It never seems to be the top story, as the website TorrentFreak attests, but the internet is under assault globally on several different fronts.

  1. In China, where continuous shutdown of the blogs by the authoritarian regime continues to create firewalls (pun intended) to the Chinese citizenry’s access to the free flow of information.
  2. In the United States, where Sen. Joseph Lieberman, a perennial foe of creative freedom (having run as Vice President along with presidential nominee Al Gore in 2000 on a platform of censorship) has proposed the government have the authority to shut down the internet in the event of an emergency.
  3. In the Netherlands, where anti-piracy group BREIN (Bescherming Rechten Entertainment Industrie Nederland) has succeeded in shutting down 384 torrent sites.


Bill would allow president to take control of the internet during emergency

Legisation in the Senate, S.773, would give the president power to take control of the internet during a “cybersecurity emergency”:

Internet companies and civil liberties groups were alarmed this spring when a U.S. Senate bill proposed handing the White House the power to disconnect private-sector computers from the Internet.

They’re not much happier about a revised version that aides to Sen. Jay Rockefeller, a West Virginia Democrat, have spent months drafting behind closed doors. CNET News has obtained a copy of the 55-page draft of S.773 (excerpt), which still appears to permit the president to seize temporary control of private-sector networks during a so-called cybersecurity emergency.

The new version would allow the president to “declare a cybersecurity emergency” relating to “non-governmental” computer networks and do what’s necessary to respond to the threat. Other sections of the proposal include a federal certification program for “cybersecurity professionals,” and a requirement that certain computer systems and networks in the private sector be managed by people who have been awarded that license.


The privacy implications of sweeping changes implemented before the legal review is finished worry Lee Tien, a senior staff attorney with the Electronic Frontier Foundation in San Francisco. “As soon as you’re saying that the federal government is going to be exercising this kind of power over private networks, it’s going to be a really big issue,” he says.

Is Journalism Too Important To Fail?

Steve Coll at the New Yorker argues that there is an irreplaceable good that is provided by newspaper journalism, and that that good is mostly an accident of history:


Obama Not In Favor Of Reinstating Fairness Doctrine

It looks as if Obama is taking the position against re-instatement of the Fairness Doctrine (which mandated that radio stations give alloted time towards differing viewpoints), according to Politico:

Until now, the Obama administration has remained mum when it comes to the Fairness Doctrine.

But now, White House spokesperson Ben LaBolt tells Fox News that “as the president stated during the campaign, he does not believe the Fairness Doctrine should be reinstated.”

Indeed, that was candidate Obama’s position last June.

The article also mentions a very strange development:

UK Internet Regulatory Agency Blocks Wikipedia [Update]

Over the weekend the United Kingdom’s internet regulatory agency, The Internet Watch Foundation, blacklisted Wikipedia over concerns of “indecent images” of minors under the age of 18. The image is of the album art for a 1976 Scorpions album titled “Virgin Killer”. Beyond the problem of a centralized authority having the fiat power to blacklist sites without court order, this particular case is quite intriguing because while the image itself is quite disgusting, according to Wikimedia Foundation-

“We have no reason to believe the article, or the image contained in the article, has been held to be illegal in any jurisdiction anywhere in the world,”

Think Good Thoughts When You Surf The Web

This article by the New York Times talks about how technology could be used track Flu movements, market down-turns and potentially deny insurance coverage.  I’m about the biggest fan of Google out of everyone I’ve ever met, but Google’s success at

collective intelligence tools could create an Orwellian future on a level Big Brother could only dream of.


I’m not saying Google itself doesn’t treat it’s users privacy responsibly, but certainly some have viewed it as a case study which

has touched off a race to cash in on collective intelligence technologies.


GOP on the Right Path

Did the Republican Party learn anything from their resounding defeat on November 4th?  Perhaps so.  According to, the GOP is not only reaching out to their members for ideas on how to improve the party and it’s message, but they are doing it via the internet.

“We are a party of principles and must regain our voice,” Republican National Committee chairman Robert Duncan said in a statement announcing the creation of the website, RepublicanForAReason.

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