WASHINGTON — Federal law enforcement and national security officials are preparing to seek sweeping new regulations for the Internet, arguing that their ability to wiretap criminal and terrorism suspects is “going dark” as people increasingly communicate online instead of by telephone.
Essentially, officials want Congress to require all services that enable communications — including encrypted e-mail transmitters like BlackBerry, social networking Web sites like Facebook and software that allows direct “peer to peer” messaging like Skype — to be technically capable of complying if served with a wiretap order. The mandate would include being able to intercept and unscramble encrypted messages.
The bill, which the Obama administration plans to submit to lawmakers next year, raises fresh questions about how to balance security needs with protecting privacy and fostering innovation. And because security services around the world face the same problem, it could set an example that is copied globally.
From the CNN “first wired president” article I linked to above (this story was published back in January 2009):
As the first president-elect with a Facebook page and a YouTube channel, Barack Obama is poised to use the Internet to communicate directly with Americans in a way unknown to previous presidents.
Judging by Obama’s savvy use of social-networking sites during his campaign and the interactive nature of his transition team’s Web site, Americans can expect a president who bypasses the traditional media’s filters while reaching out to citizens for input, observers say.
“The rebooting of our democracy has begun,” said Andrew Rasiej, founder of Personal Democracy Forum and the techPresident blog. “[Obama] has the potential to transform the relationship between the American public and their democracy.”
Our democracy has been rebooted? Well, as a matter of fact it has. Just in the opposite direction of what Rasiej and others who pushed the “first wired president” meme had in mind.
If anyone really couldn’t have seen this coming by now, here’s a little refresher from May:
If a single move could restore civility to politics, that is it. Get rid of the left-vs.-right commentators who are just out scoring points for their team. This sort of opinion-mongering is not only boring and predictable, it is destructive of the truth. If your only credentials are “GOP shill” or “Democratic hack,” you’ve no business cluttering up the airwaves or the op-ed pages. My momma always told me that if you don’t know what you’re talking about, it’s best to keep your mouth shut. That’s good advice.
Timing is everything. Brazile’s commentary bears an uncanny resemblance to remarks made by President Obama in his commencement speech to Hampton University graduates this past Sunday:
“With so many voices clamoring for attention on blogs, on cable, on talk radio, it can be difficult, at times, to sift through it all; to know what to believe; to figure out who’s telling the truth and who’s not,” Obama said. “Let’s face it, even some of the craziest claims can quickly gain traction. I’ve had some experience with that myself. Fortunately, you’ll be well positioned to navigate this terrain.
“You’re coming of age in a 24/7 media environment that bombards us with all kinds of content and exposes us to all kinds of arguments, some of which don’t rank all that high on the truth meter,” Obama said. “With iPods and iPads; Xboxes and PlayStations; information becomes a distraction, a diversion, a form of entertainment, rather than a tool of empowerment.
“All of this is not only putting new pressures on you; it is putting new pressures on our country and on our democracy.”
Point being, there have been red flags up the wazoo. So anyone at this point who is surprised, that Obama isn’t exactly the natural ally to internet freedom and other first amendment issues that he was pitched as, isn’t paying enough or proper attention to what has continued to be telegraphed over the last few years by Obama and his allies.
The part that saddens and troubles me most about the latest developments is not that the Obama Administration is going to submit a plan to wiretap the internet.
As much as I admire and respect Hillary and as strong and forceful an advocate as she is with her Clinton Doctrine on Internet Freedom on the global front, I have to say point blank that I would not have been surprised to see anyone else’s Administration–including a potential Hillary Administration–make some sort of request to Congress about the internet and wiretaps.
The cynic in me would frankly have been surprised not to see anyone who won in 2008 lobby for something like this at some point in their Administration. (Even the Kooch himself. Or actually especially the Kooch himself. But, that’s a topic for another post. It’s in my drafts folder.)
So, to reiterate, what I find disturbing about the Obama Admin seeking to wiretap the internet is not that development itself–it’s that I do not have confidence that the left will be holding Obama as accountable as they should be throughout the process of his Administration making such a request. If a Hillary Clinton Administration or a McCain Administration were doing this, I can’t imagine the left would be anything other than rightly holding their feet to the fire. I think that would have been a force for pulling the conversation to the left and served as at least some kind of check on the process.
The Obama Admin’s plans to wiretap the internet probably won’t do much to change anything as far as the 23 percenters who will always be Obama’s true believers. But, for the rest of the Obama Left wavering in and out of states of consciousness and clarity, if this doesn’t shock them out of their Hope-coma for good, I’m not sure how much more has to happen for them to understand that Obama is a politician and a president. He has his own agenda. The left’s role is not to coddle and apologize and make excuses for him but to hold him accountable from the left.
If Bush were doing this, I can just imagine the level of outrage and the types of commentary that would be pouring out of left blogistan and other progressive media right now. If their complaints about Bush were sincere and they were not just made as a means to achieving progressive power and relevance, then Obama must be held to the same standards as Bush would be on this. Otherwise the left just looks disingenuous and blindly partisan (I am actually in favor of partisanship grounded in reason, but I’m not fond of blind-anything.)
Oh, and remember the “Vote Different” ad? (this isn’t the end of the post, so keep reading after the video.)
Yep. The Obama netroots sure voted “different” in 2008. We really avoided an Orwellian nightmare there.
The netroots powered Obama’s candidacy and had great hopes that he would “reboot” our democracy. And, reboot he has. He has rendered the left irrelevant where the left had been alive and well in challenging the oligarchy during the Bush years. Just goes to show that old saying, “be careful what you wish for,” is as relevant as ever.
Too bad the left has yet to strategize differently.
Filed under: General