Silencing the Internet

A new bill has been making its way through the United States Senate and it is controversial … a true tinderbox issue. It is so “hot,” in fact, that it is causing consternation and anger on both sides of the political aisle. And it’s no wonder …

The bill in question, when and if passed, will give President Obama, and all future presidents, as well, the power to shut down the Internet for up to four months, perhaps even longer. Known as the “kill switch,” the bill was recently approved by a key Senate committee and is ready to move to the floor of the Senate where all members will have an opportunity to vote on it … to cast a “yea” or “nay” vote.

It’s called “The Protecting Cyberspace as a National Asset Act” … and it has been inflaming passions since it first saw the light of day and made its way into committee. Senator Joe Lieberman, (I) Connecticut, has been a powerful advocate of the bill which, if it becomes law, will provide the head of the federal government (the President) with absolute power to shut down the Internet and block incoming Internet traffic from specific countries during “national emergencies.”

Clearly, such power in the hands of a single individual (even an American president), can be dangerous and lead to tyranny and/or abuse.  It’s not difficult to imagine how this power, used improperly, could create serious free speech problems in America.

In fact, the Center for Democracy and Technology, acting in concert with 23 other privacy and technology organizations, has written letters to Senator Lieberman and other supporters of the bill to express their concern that the legislation can be an instrument that stifles free speech in America.

The widespread criticism of the bill has had some impact. Its sponsors have added language that would require the federal government to obtain congressional approval in order to extend the shutting down of the Internet beyond 120 days (four months), but, of course, it does nothing to address the initial 120 days.

This means that if no further changes are added to the bill, President Obama will have the power and authority to stop all Internet activity – on a whim or for purely political reasons – without congressional oversight or approval for up to four months.

Senators who are behind this bill rejected opposition claims that it was a “kill switch” that could turn the Internet “dark” although they did not deny that President Obama would have the authority to do just that if the legislation becomes law. These senators made the claim that the power to shut down the Internet already exists under the “Communications Act” so their bill essentially only reinforces an existing presidential power.  This begs the question; if the “Communications Act” already authorizes it, why the need for more legislation?

Is their argument correct? It’s possible. Let’s just say it’s open to personal interpretation. The “Communications Act” actually provides the president with the authority to “cause the closing of any facility or station for wire communication when there is a state or threat of war.”

As I said, the power to shut down the Internet, based on the law I just described, is open to interpretation. The language is broad and leaves itself open to differing opinions as to its true meaning.

Opponents clearly believe that the legislation’s aim is to bring the Internet under the regulatory power of the U.S. government so that it can begin to dismantle free speech. It’s a frightening thought, but it may have some merit. Here’s why …

Senator Lieberman has stated that the idea behind the impending new law was to copy (or mimic) China’s stringent policies of policing and controlling the free flow of information through the use of censorship and coercion. That a U.S. senator would feel comfortable stating publicly that we should copy China, a nation with a notorious track record for civil liberties, is troubling.

Currently, the Chinese government has the power to disconnect parts of the Internet in times of war. The senator from Connecticut wants the American government to have that same power.

While public attention has been focused on the tragic Gulf coast oil spill and other serious problems, Democrats in Congress have been working quietly to lay the groundwork for this bill which will become, in effect, a technological iron curtain that turns over complete control of the Internet to the federal government.

This can open the door to potential governmental tyranny, something one would never have imagined could ever occur in America. But consider the facts. Many suspect that the real agenda driving this bill rests in an unshakeable determination to strangle this rapidly-growing alternative to traditional media because it is not part of the establishment, will not “play ball” with politicians … and will instead expose government misdeeds, cover-ups and cronyism.

In truth, this bill, if passed, can be used by those in power to literally silence anyone who is critical of government or individuals in government. That makes it a potentially very dangerous weapon … a threat to the freedom that Americans have always enjoyed… another threat to our Constitution.  (Remember what Obama’s Supreme Court Judge Nominee said",  “The Constitution changes with the times”… meaning at the whim of Progressive Judges to transform American, exactly the opposite of what the Founding Fathers designed. (Original Intent)

The pros and cons of this bill need to be debated openly and honestly — in full view of the American electorate

Jul 26th, 2010 | By Andrew at Off the Grid

Control Freaks: 7 Ways Liberals Plan to Ruin Your Life

Uncle Sam Wants You to Have an Online ID

As our daily interactions and transactions have become increasingly “wired,” we have yet to see any truly comprehensive attempts at securing online identities.

Our complex system of usernames and passwords is astoundingly outdated and increasingly prone to security breaches and theft. Yet, so far it has been mostly up to the individual to protect himself against various forms of identity fraud—with larger corporations taking relatively little responsibility.

But this could change in a big way. Right now the federal government is proposing a new system being referred to as the “Identity Ecosystem”—which was highlighted in the recently-released draft paper, “National Strategy for Trusted Identities in Cyberspace” [NSTIC].

The Identity Ecosystem would allow Americans to choose to obtain a single authenticated ID for online transactions. Like a passport, this single ID could travel with them online and be used to access everything from e-mail, to online health records and banking information. Furthermore, the Identity Ecosystem would only reveal the least amount of information necessary for each transaction.

To highlight the potential consumer benefits of such a system, the White House’s proposal uses the example of an individual filling a prescription online. Under the “smart ID card,” the pharmacy would only receive proof that the individual is over 18 and that the prescription is valid. No other information like birth date or the reason for the prescription.

Right now the only online ID management options available to consumers are tools like OpenID and Microsoft’s U-Prove. While these systems work across a variety of popular platforms such as Google (GOOG: 484.99 ,+0.64 ,+0.13%), Yahoo (YHOO: 13.76 ,-0.11 ,-0.79%) and Blogger, they are best used for cases of low-assurance clearance (i.e., personal e-mail and social networking sites). So-called “high-assurance” sites, like banking and health services, aren’t set up to support wide-access systems; they present too much of a liability.

What’s important to note is that membership in the smart ID program would be voluntary—both for consumers and companies. Individuals who wanted to become members might apply for a smart identity card through their state government. Because the program is voluntary, the government is stressing the importance of consumer confidence, education and usability.

It’s easy to see why consumers would benefit from an easy-to-use, secure and universal system. What’s harder to understand is the overall impact on e-commerce.

This program could eliminate the biggest obstacle to the e-commerce industry:  fear of identity theft and fraud, which could literally lead to billions of dollars in new online spending. It could also jumpstart health e-commerce, a market that has yet to take off because of serious privacy and security risks.

But the costs associated with implementing such a system would likely be enormous. The NSTIC has anticipated some kickback and will be offering businesses incentives such as tax credits/breaks, insurance, grants and loans for early adoption.

However, the question is: Are these incentives enough?

Although the NSTIC proposal is somewhat vague on this issue, the government will have to be prepared to work with the hardware industry in order to ensure that smart-card readers, scanners, etc. are integrated with standard systems. Obviously, consumers that adopt such a system with their existing hardware will need to somehow upgrade their systems. It will certainly require a lot of negotiations within the industry, as the government may run into disputes over patent ownership between companies with conflicting interests. In order to integrate the system into existing sites, companies will need to pour money and resources into writing code to integrate an ecosystem with existing Web assets.  And it is tantamount to their task that Web developers avoid security blunders in the process.

Consider how long it has taken us to get this far – and it’s easy to see how challenging it will be to teach common users how to successfully utilize an ecosystem that controls all of your online authentication with various “user-controlled” settings.

Should this system be implemented, consumers must be prepared for a “new” experience and accept that convenience over security can no longer be their daily mantra.

Implementing such a comprehensive system will be tough—and requires widespread and fairly immediate support. The government must be able to win over consumers and businesses at the same time—or the Identity Ecosystem is likely to become a chicken-egg problem—with consumers unwilling to join a program that businesses aren’t a part of, and vice versa.

Furthermore, many modern services are complex. Take for instance online health: this would require the collaboration of doctors, hospitals, insurance providers, pharmacies and individuals.

The bottom line here is that the White House’s proposal depends on businesses voluntarily agreeing to turn the current e-commerce system upside down, incur massive new costs and collaborate with competitors – a dim possibility, to say the least.

Although the White House should be applauded for this idea, it is doubtful that such a voluntary approach is likely to win over the big companies who will end up footing the bill or passing it on to consumers.

The private industry has been trying to enact this type of online assurance model for some time now, and with little success. It is far more likely that the White House will have to work with Congress to legislate this type of a reform.

Jay Bavisi is president and co-founder of the International Council of E-Commerce Consultants (EC-Council), a global organization that researches, consults and provides training on issues of e-commerce and cybersecurity. Jay is a regularly featured speaker at e-commerce and cybersecurity conferences in the U.S., Asia, Europe and the Middle East.

Then today we find out…

Yesterday we find out that the SEC has new expanded powers… today the administration is asking for new powers for the FBI.  The FBI will be able to demand all the Internet information of not only the company but all its employees… if they deem it a terrorist threat, without going to a judge first… and if they do access and take your information, you cannot even tell someone (under the guise of Homeland Security).  Hmmm… if it is a terrorist threat, why would they not want to go to a judge first?  What happened to the promise of the most transparent presidency ever???  What happened to American rights and the Constitution??

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About Ask Marion

I am a babyboomer and empty nester who savors every moment of my past and believes that it is the responsibility of each of us in my generation and Americans in general to make sure that America is as good or even a better place for future generations as it was for us. So far... we haven't done very well!! Favorite Quotes: "The first 50 years are to build and acquire; the second 50 are to leave your legacy"; "Do something that scares you every day!"; "The journey in between what you once were and who you are becoming is where the dance of life really takes place".
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