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Free Speech in the News

Postings after May 3rd

Posted May 3, 2002

Press Freedom Took a Hit in 2001, Watchdog Says
(Reuters, May 2, 2002)
Press freedom took a turn for the worse last year and is set to suffer more as the U.S. "war on terrorism" pushes the media to take sides, the Reporters Without Borders press watchdog said on Thursday. . . . There were significant increases in the number of journalists arrested, threatened and attacked, the report said. . . . In its war against what it calls 'the evil-doers', the Bush administration is little bothered by the means that are used," RSF said. "The news media are pressed to take sides and propaganda takes precedence over truth." . . . "The enemy must be defeated and media that disagree must be crushed," it added. "Such black-and-white attitudes are worrying."

Posted May 2, 2002

U.S. Congress Attempts to Kill Internet Radio
America's fledgling Internet radio industry could be effectively killed on May 21st if the Librarian of Congress (1) accepts the recommendations of its recent Copyright Arbitration Royalty Panel ("CARP") concerning Internet radio royalty rates and (2) sets impossibly-complex recordkeeping requirements. . . . Congress passed a law in October, 1998, called the Digital Millenium Copyright Act (DMCA) which established that webcasters must royalties to record labels for the music they play. However, the CARP's recommended royalty rates are currently more than 200% of most Webcasters' gross revenues! . . . If Copyright Office accepts the CARP's recommendation, most observers believe that the decision will effectively kill Internet radio, as the retroactively-owed fees would bankrupt all but the very largest Internet-only webcasters (and would probably trigger the shutdown of most broadcast stations' Web simulcasts, including almost all the educational and community stations).

Webcasting Legally
To operate an internet radio station, you need licenses from the copyright holders of the songs, and of the recordings. . . . To qualify for a compulsory license, you have to follow certain rules that make them consider your webcast to be an ``Eligible Non-subscription Transmission'' . . . Oh, and there are also apparently some egregious reporting requirements that will be impossible for anyone to actually comply with: for example, not only do they want a ``unique user identifier'' for each listener, they also want the UPC code from the CD the song came from! . . . This would make it impossible to have a free, anonymous webcast: to comply with these rules, all webcasters, even those who do not charge money, will have to force their users to register before tuning in. . . . Someone said to me, ``how do they expect the little guys to survive?'' I replied, ``No Mister Bond, I expect you to die.'' They're trying to legislate webcasting out of existence, because it stands in the way of their progress toward a completely pay-per-view economy. Remember: these are the kind of people who once tried to outlaw the VCR. (That was MPAA, not RIAA, but they're the same snake with different scales.) . . . What's going on here is that the music industry establishment are absolutely terrified of the internet, and are trying to prevent any kind of progress that might require them to evolve and change their business models to keep up with the times. They are pretty much trying to legislate the internet out of the way, and force things to continue to be done as if early-20th-century technology was still all we have to work with. . . . And after all is said and done, what happens to your fees? The media conglomerates take your money, keep most of it for themselves, and then divide the rest statistically based on the Billboard charts. That means that no matter what kind of obscure, underground music you played, 3/4ths of the extortion money you paid goes to whichever management company owns N'Sync; and the rest goes to Michael Jackson (since he owns The Beatles' catalog.) All other artists (including the ones whose music you actually played) get nothing.

[Editor's Note: An alternative to this legal jungle would be for Internet radio stations to completely ignore any group that has a "record deal." Let's build our own system that only supports musical groups who are members of the tribe and not give any of our money to groups who are in lock-step with The System.]

Alan Cox attacks the European DMCA
(John Leyden, The Register, 04/30/2002)
Alan Cox has issued a wake up call to the Linux community amid concerns that the pending European Union Copyright Directive (EUCD) could stymie open source development. . . . it is even more restrictive than America's controversial Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA), critics argue. . . . If it goes through unmodified, the EUCD would make it a criminal offence to break or attempt to break the copy protection or Digital Rights Management systems on digital content such as music, software or eBooks. As it stands, the EUCD may lead to a rerun of Dmitri Sklyarov's prosecution, prevent teachers copying materials for their students or other legitimate uses of copyright material, opponents believe. . . . It's feared the EUCD could create monopolies in file formats, hinder the ability of different operating systems to work together and remove the ability to discuss security issues. . . . Cox described the directive as a "land grab" by the entertainment industry - and he says it is badly thought out technically. . . . described the EUCD as a "profit maximisation system with the prevention of piracy seen as a beneficial side effect".

Spanish Web Law Sparks Debate
(Steve Kettmann, Wired News, May 1, 2002)
A law pending in Spain's Congress has sparked a national debate over how far the government should go in regulating websites. . . . Critics charge that the LSSI bill (La Ley de Servicios de la Sociedad de la Informacion y de Comercio Electronico) would allow a "competent administrative authority" in government to shut down websites unilaterally -- a power that now requires court approval. . . . Pedro de Alzaga, editor of the online edition of Spain's major daily, El Pais, worries that the law is too blunt an instrument to handle the complexities of the rapidly evolving Internet landscape. . . . The real debate may come down to questions of how far basic liberties extend. . . . "The Spanish government's legislative fervor goes beyond mercantile regulation, and embraces freedom of speech too," de Alzaga said. "Curious paradox: In Spain, only a judge can ban a magazine edition in the newsstands, but under LSSI, an official could 'provisionally' ban the online edition of the same magazine if it 'outrages or could outrage' the values protected by the law." . . . "The Government didn't get that the Internet is a very complex entity," said de Alzaga. "This is not only about products and services, but information and opinion too. So you can't apply a mercantile law to regulate all this stuff. It's not that easy."



Posted April 27, 2002

Flexing the Power of the Press Reporter fired for investigating crash of TWA flight 800
(Michelle Goldberg, Alternet.org, April 23, 2002)
[Kristina Borjesson] was a successful insider who produced for the country's most well-regarded news shows, including Frontline and 60 Minutes. Working with industry stars including Dan Rather, she'd won one Emmy and had been nominated for others. . . . As she writes in her book Into the Buzzsaw, "Trust me, never in a million years did I ever imagine that I'd find myself in my current position as some kind of rebel trying to take on America's journalism establishment. . . . The experience she's talking about is her excommunication from mainstream journalism for digging too deep on the TWA 800 story . . . doing her job meant challenging the government assertion that TWA 800 crashed due to a mechanical malfunction. During her investigation, she found increasingly compelling evidence that the plane had been hit by a missile and that there were military maneuvers happening in its vicinity that were later covered up. . . . Although initially lots of publications had reported on the possibility that TWA 800 was hit by a missile, after a few months of furious spin by the FBI, Pentagon and NTSB, journalists who refused to dismiss this theory were themselves dismissed as conspiracy kooks. . . . "Any media organization, once they decide that this is what the picture really looks like, there's almost a commitment to shoot down whatever might come along saying the picture actually looks different."

 

Posted April 17, 2002

NPR and the Fallow Triumph of Public Radio
(Norman Solomon, Alternet.org, April 15, 2002)
As public radio's dominant network, NPR has largely reneged on the promise of public broadcasting that stirred hopes 35 years ago with release of the Carnegie Commission Report, which declared that public broadcasting should "provide a voice for groups in the community that may otherwise be unheard." In 2002, for the most part, "Morning Edition" and "All Things Considered" provide a voice for the same political, economic and military interests that are heard, ad nauseam, via other major media. . . . A key factor is the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, where everyone on the board of directors has been nominated by the president of the United States and confirmed by the Senate. The nonprofit agency doles out federal funds to public radio and TV stations. . . . At NPR News, the diversity of perspectives in reportage and analysis is particularly limited on subjects like U.S. foreign policy and nitty-gritty economic power. Whatever fine journalism airs on NPR gets dwarfed by mountains of conformist stenography for the powerful, with routine reliance on official sources. . . . Private money is a big determinant of what's on "public" broadcasting. . . . Major companies "have a huge investment in the economy and can use their economic power to leverage program content," . . . Overwhelmingly, programs that will attract and please corporate underwriters and, crucially, won't rock the ideological boat, get access to the airwaves." . . . we should vigorously critique and challenge what comes under the heading of "NPR News."

Posted April 10,2002

U.S. Prepares to Invade Your Hard Drive
(Paul Boutin, Salon, April 5, 2002)
The Consumer Broadband and Digital Television Promotion Act (CBDTPA), would require any device that can "retrieve or access copyrighted works in digital form" to include a federally mandated copy protection system. . . . CBDTPA's goal is to force a powerful sector of U.S. industry -- makers and sellers of digital hardware and software -- to submit to the needs of the smaller but more established entertainment lobby. . . . Some say the hypothetical standard sought by Hollings' bill will only work for major studios. Many are sure it won't work at all. . . . Digital piracy, the bill says, has prevented makers of "high quality digital content" (sources say Disney and News Corp. are leading backers of the bill) from producing the high-resolution, downloadable movies that would supposedly send Americans running to buy new HDTVs and order fat Net connections to their homes. . . . "The bill would be more accurately titled the 'Content Owners Market Promotion Act.'"

Posted April 2, 2002

18 Tales of Media Censorship
(Michelle Goldberg, Alternet.org, April 1, 2002)
"Into the Buzzsaw" is a collection of essays, mostly by serious journalists excommunicated from the media establishment for tackling subjects like the CIA's role in drug smuggling, lies perpetuated by the investigators of TWA flight 800, POWs rotting in Vietnam, a Korean war massacre, the disenfranchisement of black voters in Bush's election, bovine growth hormone's dangers and a host of other unpopular issues. . . . The system fights back with official lies, disinformation, and stonewalling. Your phone starts acting funny. Strange people call you at strange hours to give you strange information. The FBI calls you. Your car is broken into and the thief takes your computer and your reporter's notebook and leaves everything else behind ... The sense of fear and paranoia is, at times, overwhelming." . . . Without addressing Enron directly, "Into the Buzzsaw" makes it pretty clear why this is by showing how journalists who took on companies like Monsanto and Du Pont were abandoned by their own editors and publishers and embroiled in lawsuits. . . . When they speak out, buzzsaw victims are usually treated as paranoid conspiracy theorists. . . . There's something of an X-Files feel to a lot of these stories, though not in the way that condescending guardians of official truth think. Rather, their surreal feeling comes from the first-person experiences of people finding the institutions they've served all their lives suddenly turning on them. . . . Beyond the specifics of each story, "Into the Buzzsaw" is about how the elite sector of the media to bestows the imprimatur of truth on its own interpretations of the world. In the current landscape, of course, these same outlets largely take it upon themselves to determine which books should be deemed serious. It will be interesting to see if "Into the Buzzsaw" gets any play in the outlets it exposes.

Posted March 28, 2002

Profiles in Media Courage
(Norman Solomon, Media Monitors Network, March 28, 2002)
"Attacks on the Press in 2001" is a thick document with details about media suppression in much of the world. While American readers may feel very fortunate, they have no good reason to be smug. . . . The Committee to Protect Journalists points out that some ominous steps began as last autumn got underway. "The U.S. State Department contacted the Voice of America, a broadcast organization funded by the federal government, and expressed concern about the radio broadcast of an exclusive interview with Taliban leader Mullah Mohammed Omar." Later on, VOA head Robert Reilly "distributed a memo barring interviews with officials from 'nations that sponsor terrorism.'" . . . Colin Powell urged the Emir of Qatar to lean on the Qatar-based Al-Jazeera satellite TV network. Days later, Condoleezza Rice asked American TV networks to, in effect, censor tapes of messages from Al Qaeda leaders. As longtime White House reporter Helen Thomas noted in a column: "To most people, a 'request' to the television networks from the White House in wartime carries with it the weight of a government command. The major networks obviously saw it that way." . . . The actions taken by the Bush administration seemed to embolden repressive governments around the world to crack down on their own domestic media. . . . The Pentagon implemented a devastating Nov. 13 missile attack on the Al-Jazeera bureau in Kabul. . . . "Despite the fact that the facility had housed the Al-Jazeera office for nearly two years and had several satellite dishes mounted on its roof, the U.S. military claimed it had no indications the building was used as Al-Jazeera's Kabul bureau." . . . That's one of many ways for governments to "dispatch" news. . . . in newsrooms -- when it comes to challenging the prevalent budget priorities, the insidious creep of commercial values and the top editors inclined to spin coverage in sync with powerful interests along Pennsylvania Avenue and Wall Street -- few American journalists have been willing to put up much of a fight.

Posted March 26, 2002

Librarians Say 'don't Make Us Thought Police' as Trial Challenging Internet Porn Filtering Opens
(Joann Loviglio, Associated Press, Mar 26, 2002)
Librarians complained that the government was trying to turn them into "thought police" . . . Leading the challenge to the Children's Internet Protection Act of 2000 are the American Library Association and the Multnomah County, Ore., Public Library. They contend that the law puts unconstitutional restraints on free speech. . . . They want to offer patrons a choice between filtered and unfiltered Internet access, contending that parents and children should be the ones who determine what content they find unacceptable - not the government. . . . "There are some 5-year-olds whose parents do not want them to know where babies come from and there are some that do," testified Ginnie Cooper, director of the Multnomah County library, which serves 500,000 people. "We don't try to presume the values of parents." . . . "Librarians are uniquely qualified to teach library patrons how to find the content they want and avoid inappropriate content without the government trying to deputize them into the thought police,"

Posted March 25, 2002

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Libraries, ACLU Challenge Children's Internet Protection Act
(Shannon P. Duffy, The Legal Intelligencer, March 22, 2002)
In a pair of lawsuits filed Tuesday, a broad coalition of libraries, organizations, Internet Web site providers and individuals joined forces to ask that the law [Children's Internet Protection Act, or CHIPA] be struck down as unconstitutional. . . . "Unfortunately, Congress seems not to learn from its mistakes," attorney Stefan Presser of the American Civil Liberties Union of Pennsylvania said. . . . In recent years, the ACLU and the American Library Association have successfully challenged two other laws: the Communications Decency Act and the Child Online Protection Act. . . . Presser cited a recent study of filtering software by Consumer Reports that found that one in five adult sites were not blocked while numerous non-adult sites were. . . . As examples, Presser said, CyberPatrol blocks access to the Web sites for the Ontario Center for Religious Tolerance and for Planned Parenthood.

Posted March 22, 2002,

Web sites told to delete data
(Bill Sammon, The Washington Times, March 21, 2002)
The White House yesterday ordered all federal agencies to scrub their Web sites of sensitive information . . . he questioned the lockdown of "sensitive but unclassified" data. . . . "I'm overwhelmed," he said when told of the White House memos. "Nothing I'm familiar with in the law allows the executive branch to create a whole new category called 'sensitive but unclassified.'" . . . Mr. Bass said he was "troubled" by the administration's "precipitous" steps toward government secrecy in the wake of September 11. . . . "There's an erosion that's occurring to our basic framework of openness," he said. "We are moving very rapidly to a shift from basic democratic principles of right-to-know to one that is based on a need to know. . . . "That will have major, major reverberations for our democratic processes," he said. "It will mean that the judgment is placed on the government to determine whether you do have a need to know. And you have to justify it each and every time." . . . "This is not something that a terrorist could use in any way," he said. "But it is enormously useful for both congressional and public oversight of many large programs." . . . "Because it is not defined, it could be used to justify the withholding of almost anything,"

Posted March 15, 2002

The War on Dissent Widens
(Jim Lobe, AlterNet.com, March 12, 2002)
At a Tuesday gathering of the National Press Club, members of the new Americans for Victory Over Terrorism (AVOT) declared their intention to "take to task those groups and individuals who fundamentally misunderstand the nature of the war we are facing." . . . Those groups and individuals, AVOT claims, need to be resisted both here and abroad. . . . At the same time, the $128,000 ad lambasted those at home "who are attempting to use this opportunity to promulgate their agenda of 'blame America first.'" . . . To expose the internal "threats," AVOT has compiled a sample list of statements by professors, legislators, authors and columnists that it finds objectionable. . . . AVOT's list of speakers it considers threatening include: Congresswoman Maxine Waters, who said, "Some of us, maybe foolishly, gave this president the authority to go after terrorists. We didn't know that he, too, was going to go crazy with it." President Jimmy Carter, who assailed Bush's use of the phrase "axis of evil," arguing that it was "overly simplistic and counter-productive." Congressman Dennis Kucinich, who accused the president of "canceling, in effect, the First, Fourth, Fifth, Sixth and Eighth Amendments" . . . Who exactly is behind AVOT's efforts? The newly-formed organization is headed by a formidable array of right-wing luminaries. At the top of the list is former Secretary of Education and drug czar William Bennett, AVOT's chairman. . . . In response to AVOT's criticism, Harper's Lewis Lapham said Bennett is a "wrong-headed jingo and an intolerant scold." He added that AVOT appeared to be a new "front organization for the hard neo-con (neo-conservative) right," which has gained unprecedented influence in the Bush administration, particularly among the top political appointees in the Pentagon and Dick Cheney's office. "This is the war-monger crowd," he said. . . . Indeed, AVOT is being initially funded primarily by Lawrence Kadish, chairman of the Republican Jewish Coalition (RJC) and a top donor to the Republican Party.

TECHSPLOITATION: Human Copyrights
(Annalee Newitz, AlterNet.org, March 12, 2002)
If passed, this legislation -- which the Commerce Committee has officially endorsed -- would make it illegal for companies to sell software or hardware that isn't fitted out with copy-protection technology. . . . Copying your CDs or another digital media (including software) for any purpose, including personal use, would become a crime. . . . Essentially, the SSSCA challenges what many Americans consider a fundamental right to do what they want with their private property. . . . People are up in arms about the SSSCA because they know it isn't just a "who gets to copy that David Cassidy CD" problem. It's a civil liberties issue. . . . I want to live in a world where corporations don't possess and regulate all the data on my computer. I believe that the SSSCA turns private property into a form of social oppression. . . . If distributing non-copy-protected software makes me a criminal, what comes next? What else will be taken away from me?

 

Posted March 4, 2002

Interview with John Perry Barlow (Rachel Konrad, CNET News.com, February 22, 2002)
"I'm spending an enormous amount of my time stopping content industries from taking over the world--literally. I feel like we're in a condition where private totalitarianism is not out of the question because of the increasingly thickening matrix of channels of communication owned by the same companies that own content, that own Web properties, that own traditional media. . . . Which companies or organizations constitute this totalitarian regime? Microsoft, AOL, the MPAA (Motion Picture Association of America) and the RIAA (Recording Industry Association of America), not to mention...Panasonic, Intel--basically, large corporate capitalism in a completely unregulated environment. . . . We've reached a point where the media are so owned by the large corporations and they live in this tight loop where practically all they can convey is what is already believed. I believe that mass media exists to confirm the hallucinations of the masses. If you want to get a story through that doesn't sync up with the dominant belief system, it's just not going to happen. So who the hell knows what else is going on out there? . . . These are really dark times. On practically every front that I care about, the voices of the foes are winning. . . . Frankly, I think anybody's a fool to put (Microsoft operating system Windows) XP on their computer. It's like installing a continuous, 24-hour monitor on your mind. But people are doing it like crazy because they don't know any better. . . . We need to get rid of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act--that is one of the principal tools of repression. That has to be removed from law, as well as its European equivalents. The EFF is the primary force to make that happen."

Posted on February 27, 2002

Spyware: How Your Personal Data Gets Stolen Online (Matthew Callan, Alternet.org, February 8, 2002)
     “Witness the latest con, spyware, software that is able to swipe personal data from your computer and sell it to the highest bidder. All this is done under the guise of collecting general demographics and providing users with exciting offers, but its potential is far too frightening to ignore. . . . As you use the application, the spyware takes the personal information you provided when registering and adds to it other appliction-related data; what you are using the application for, how long you use it, etc. This information is sent to a server that interprets the data in order to target you with very specific advertising. . . . users are rarely notified of the presence of any spyware when they download . . . Software providers are under no legal obligation to inform the public of their purpose in gathering personal information, let alone how they do it and with whom. . . . Once firmly in place, it keeps track of the user's Web browsing (current and historical), information entered into forms, and configuration of the user's hardware and software. Based on all this information, pop-up ads begin to appear incessantly in the user's Web browser, giving the false impression that the Web page being viewed is responsible for the constant annoyances. . . . What VX2 boils down to is this: A program you never wanted squats in your computer's hard drive, sending personal information to a company with whom you never had any direct contact and never agreed to give such access; a program that, furthermore, can upgrade itself and add any other program to your computer that it sees fit. It is the kind of application that would make the CIA drool, but once again, private industry has beaten the public sector to the punch.”

Beefed-Up Global Surveillance? (Declan McCullagh, Wired.com, February 20, 2002)
When the drafting process for the so-called Second Protocol is complete, the document will address "how to identify, how to filter, and how to trace communications between terrorists." . . . Details are scarce, and the Council of Europe has repeatedly refused to elaborate. Csonka would not confirm or deny whether the Second Protocol will advance limits on encryption technology, coordinate code-breaking efforts among member nations, or increase electronic surveillance performed against people linked to terrorism. . . . Privacy groups and civil libertarians have spent nearly two years criticizing the existing cybercrime treaty, which is now awaiting ratification by the legislatures of member nations. If the council plugs additional surveillance powers into the treaty, opposition seems certain to increase substantially.


     The recently enacted USA PATRIOT Act has caused many civil libertarians to speak out about the attempt to eliminate much of the protection previously provided by the U.S. Constitution and the Bill of Rights. If you have personally experienced a loss of freedom under this new bill, or if you have news of others who have and think their story should be told, please send this information to:
freespeech@matrixmasters.com

List of websites forced off the Internet by U.S. government censors

Songs banned by U.S. radio stations

Detained for reading a novel !

FBI considers torturing suspects

Information Lockdown

The Two-Faces of John Ashcroft

Governments on the Web

This is a comprehensive database of governmental institutions on the World Wide Web: parliaments, ministries, offices, law courts, embassies, city councils, public broadcasting corporations, central banks, multi-governmental institutions etc. Includes also political parties. Online since June 1995. Contains more than 17,000 entries from more than 220 countries and territories as of December 2000. Frequently updated.

Posted on February 5, 2002

Cyber-Rights & Cyber-Liberties (UK) Fifth Year Statement - 1997-2002
“We call on the governments, the European Union, the Council of Europe, the United Nations, the OECD, and the G8 to encourage freedom of expression, privacy of communications, data protection, and security on the Internet. . . . Governments and supranational and international organisations should co-operate to respect fundamental human rights such as freedom of expression and privacy, and should encourage rather than limit the peoples’ usage of the Internet through excessive regulation at the national level. Responses to problems that are associated to the Internet need to be proportionate and effective. Otherwise, far from free and unregulated, the Internet may end up as the most regulated medium in history.”

Posted on January 8, 2002

INTERNET FREE SPEECH UNDER ATTACK
Brave New Web (Michael Connor, Austin Chronicle, December 26, 2001)
‘In the post-WTC world, utopistic hopes for a democracy of information have been supplanted by fears of the power of this tool to cause harm. As a result, trends toward regulating the Internet have accelerated, and advocates of freedom in cyberspace have been pushed to the margins. It's a new World Wide Web out there. . . . Since September 11, the U.S. government is facing a new public mandate: Prevent terrorism before it happens. With good reason, the American people expect officials to make the country less vulnerable to attack, and to make arrests before the crimes are committed. But in order to do so, government agencies have deemed fitting a return to J. Edgar Hoover-style intelligence gathering and surveillance on the basis of suspicion rather than evidence. . . . The law [USA PATRIOT Act] institutes harsher and broader penalties for hacking into a protected computer -- even if no damage is done. This clause criminalizes less serious forms of computer cracking that have been overlooked in the past. . . . Another controversial provision of the USA-PATRIOT Act allows increased use of Carnivore, a wiretapping software for the Internet. Carnivore is installed on an Internet Service Provider (ISP), such as AOL, in order to monitor the e-mail and Web-browsing habits of a suspect under surveillance. Civil libertarians have long contended that this tool could be easily used to conduct unlawful surveillance of ordinary citizens. Now, the USA-PATRIOT Act allows for the implementation of the Carnivore system without a warrant in some cases. . . . Critics charge that the government is guilty of political opportunism, using a time of crisis to push an old agenda of greater regulation and increased federal power. In more peaceful times, the American people would not stomach such infringements on their civil rights. Now, it seems, Americans will stomach pretty much anything. ‘I am convinced that the government is using [the terrorist attacks] as an excuse to accomplish the same goals that it has stated for years,’ says McCullough. ‘Many of the new provisions don't relate to what we perceive of as terrorism. They're incredibly broad about what terrorism is.’ These provisions relate to minor criminals and people whose First Amendment activities might be deemed a threat to national security -- such as hackers. . . . When it comes to the Internet, the potential dangers suddenly seem to outweigh the benefits. McCullough forecasts grim consequences of this current trend. ‘I think the so-called 'controllers of wealth and power' have decided that this plaything [the Internet] is a sharp instrument that children shouldn't be allowed to run and play with. The most positive aspect of it will be taken away. We will once again be relegated to the role of passive consumer instead of active citizen.’ . . . True, if there was ever a time for rigorous national security, this is it. On the other hand, if there were ever a time for a free exchange of ideas, this is it.’ ”

Posted on December 25, 2001

The New McCarthyism (Matthew Rothschild, The Progressive)
“Donna Huanca works as a docent at the Art Car Museum, an avant-garde gallery in Houston. Around 10:30 on the morning of November 7, before she opened the museum, two men wearing suits and carrying leather portfolios came to her door. . . . The two men were Terrence Donahue of the FBI and Steven Smith of the Secret Service. . . . All in all, they were there for about an hour. ‘As they were leaving, they asked me where I went to school, and if my parents knew if I worked at a place like this, and who funded us, and how many people came in to see the exhibit,’ she says. ‘I was definitely pale. It was scary because I was alone, and they were really big guys.’ . . . She is a freshman at Durham Tech in North Carolina. Her name is A.J. Brown. She’s gotten a scholarship from the ACLU to help her attend college. But that didn’t prepare her for the knock on the door that came on October 26. ‘It was 5:00 on Friday, and I was getting ready for a date,’ she says. When she heard the knock, she opened the door. Here’s her account. ‘Hi, we’re from the Raleigh branch of the Secret Service,’ two agents said. . . . ‘We’re here because we have a report that you have un-American material in your apartment.’ . . . The poster they seemed interested in was one that depicted Bush holding a rope, with the words: ‘We Hang on Your Every Word. George Bush, Wanted: 152 Dead.’ The poster has sketches of people being hanged, and it refers to the number who were put to death in Texas while Bush was governor. . . . ‘Then they asked, ‘Do you have any pro-Taliban stuff in your apartment, any posters, any maps?’ . . . Welcome to the New McCarthyism. A chill is descending across the country, and it’s frostbiting immigrants, students, journalists, academics, and booksellers. . . . You are no longer free to patronize a bookstore without fear of government scrutiny. On November 1, the American Booksellers Foundation for Free Expression (ABFFE) sent a disturbing letter to its members. . . . ‘Dear Bookseller,’ it begins. ‘Last week, President Bush signed into law an antiterrorism bill that gives the federal government expanded authority to search your business records, including the titles of the books purchased by your customers. . . . There is no opportunity for you or your lawyer to object in court. You cannot object publicly, either. The new law includes a gag order that prevents you from disclosing ‘to any person’ the fact that you have received an order to produce documents.’ . . . ‘What’s analogous to McCarthyism is the self-appointed guardians who are engaging in private blacklisting,’ says Eric Foner, professor of history at Columbia University. ‘That’s why the Lynne Cheney thing is so disturbing: Her group is trying to intimidate individuals who hold different points of view. There aren’t loyalty oaths being demanded of teachers yet, but we seem to be at the beginning of a process that could get a lot worse and is already cause for considerable alarm.’ ”

Posted on December 11, 2001

Screening Free Speech? ― Online Companies Draw Fire for Removing 'Offensive' Postings (Ariana Eunjung Cha, Washington Post Staff Writer, November 18, 2001)
“While many perceive the Internet as a public sidewalk where people are protected by federal law, it really operates more like a collection of private buildings run by for-profit businesses that have the legal right to screen their content as they please. . . . ‘In times of war, there has been a willingness among Americans to give up some rights -- to honor curfews, martial law and even restrictions on speech . . . The filtering of Internet message boards is part of all this,’ said Stuart Biegel, a professor at the University of California at Los Angeles who specializes in law and cyberspace. . . . Some say Internet companies are screening material with a double standard -- supporting patriotic messages while frowning on those that criticize the government's actions. In some cases, people say, anti-U.S. or anti-Israeli messages appear to be deleted faster and more frequently than anti-Arab posts. . . . Yahoo has deleted a note calling someone a ‘zionist israeli scum bag.’ But another message -- ‘Muslims are against the jews because muslims are too greedy. They want to take israels teeny weeny land. That's how greedy and parasitic these muslims are. America should wipe them all out.’ -- has remained up for weeks despite several complaints lodged by users and copied to The Washington Post.”

On Campus Conservatives Denounce Dissent (Patrick Healy, Boston Globe, November 13, 2001)
“A conservative academic group founded by Lynne Cheney, the wife of Vice President Dick Cheney, fired a new salvo in the culture wars by blasting 40 college professors as well as the president of Wesleyan University and others for not showing enough patriotism in the aftermath of Sept. 11. . . . ‘It's a little too reminiscent of McCarthyism,’ said Hugh Gusterson, an associate professor of anthropology at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He was named in the report for his comments at a campus peace rally where he made a connection between American suffering after Sept. 11 and the suffering in war-torn Afghanistan. . . . ‘These kinds of attacks will only discourage professors from speaking out and opening up dialogues about what's happening overseas, and why,’ said Kevin Lourie, a professor at the Brown University School of Medicine. . . . The council cited Lourie for writing, in a Brown news service opinion article, that the United States may be ‘paying an accumulated debt for centuries of dominance and intervention far from home.’ Lourie said he was attempting to explain how other nations and societies may view the United States.”

The thought police want you (Clarence Page, Chicago Tribune, November 28, 2001)
“Just try voicing reservations about the war in mixed company and don't be surprised to find your patriotism questioned. . . . That is what has happened to 116 campus speakers and anti-war protesters who have had some of their statements compiled by the American Council of Trustees and Alumni, which calls the quotes unpatriotic. The list is included in a report the organization plans to distribute to 3,000 campuses. . . . One speaker, for example, made the list for telling a Harvard Law School audience that Americans should ‘build bridges and relationships, not simply bombs and walls.’ . . . Oddly, for a group devoted to scholarship, the council makes the anti-intellectual error of equating patriotism with agreement. You can be a patriot and still disagree with actions or policies that a particular administration has embraced. In a democracy, dissent is often the sincerest form of patriotic flattery. . . . It is from the pools of such ignorance and resentment that terrorists like bin Laden find support. In response, we Americans need to reach out and see how we look to the Arab and Islamic worlds, even while we are teaching them a more balanced and complete view of what we are. . . . ‘Ignorance breeds hate,’ a speaker at the Islamic Academy of Las Vegas said at a rally. . . . Yes, he made the council's list for saying that. It may not be politically correct by the council's odd standards, but it sounds like good sense to me.”

 

Posted on December 4, 2001

Keeping a Who's-Naughty List (Julia Scheeres, Wired.com, November 27, 2001)
“London police are planning to register children who exhibit criminal potential in an effort to prevent them from developing into full-fledged lawbreakers. . . . Kids who tag buildings with graffiti, skip school, or even talk back to adults run the risk of being entered into a database program that will be used to monitor their behavior as they grow up, according to police sources. . . . Law enforcement officials say the measure is needed to combat rampant juvenile crime, but critics condemn it as an extreme form of police profiling. . . . Privacy concerns aren't expected to derail the effort.”

Confounding Carnivore: How to Protect Your Online Privacy (Omar J. Pahati, Alternet.org, November 29, 2001)
“Congress has been quite willing to trade some privacy for security, and the Bush Administration -- especially Attorney General John Ashcroft -- has been no defender of online privacy. With Constitutional protections being chipped away, what can civil liberties-minded citizens do to maintain their privacy online? . . . Cyber-libertarians determined to maintain anonymity have already found ways to circumvent Carnivore's watchful eyes. Most of the methods were developed by hackers to cover their tracks when engaging in questionable, sometimes illegal activity. But these techniques work just as well for the law-abiding citizen who wishes to uphold the right to privacy. And thankfully, you don't have to be a hacker to use these tools effectively. . . . Your ISP, your ISP's ISP, and every Web site has a record of where Web traffic comes from and where it goes. Even if Carnivore is not watching you, federal agents can subpoena ISP logs to track you down. Whether you're merely looking at NYTimes.com or AlterNet.org or one of Osama bin Laden's alleged porn-fronted Al Qaeda Web sites, you are being watched. . . . For the less tech-experienced activist, PGP and proxies may not be the best way to fight Carnivore. Organizations like StopCarnivore, ACLU and Electronic Frontier Foundation are good places to start for finding a grassroots solution to a digital problem. . . . Privacy activists say that as a matter of patriotism and democracy, everyone must fight to protect privacy. As Zimmerman says, ‘If we do nothing, new technologies will give the government new automatic surveillance capabilities that Stalin could never have dreamed of.’ ”

FBI Admits Existence Of ‘Magic Lantern’ (Shawna McAlearney)
“The FBI last week admitted to developing ‘Magic Lantern,’ a worm/Trojan combination capable of infecting a suspect's machine to obtain encryption keys. . . . Though details of how the program will work aren't available, AV experts speculate that it installs keylogging software on a suspect's machine after infecting it with a worm. By capturing keystrokes, critical encryption key information can be gathered and transmitted back to the FBI. . . . ‘What if the French intelligence service, or even the Greeks, created a Trojan horse program for this purpose? Should we ignore those too?’ ”

 

Posted before December 4, 2001

FBI Is Building a ‘Magic Lantern’ — Software Would Allow Agency to Monitor Computer Use (Ted Bridis, Associated Press, November 23, 2001)
“The Magic Lantern technology, part of a broad FBI project called ‘Cyber Knight,’ would allow investigators to secretly install over the Internet powerful eavesdropping software that records every keystroke on a person's computer, according to people familiar with the effort. . . . The FBI envisions one day using Magic Lantern to record the secret key a person might use to scramble messages or computer files with encryption software. . . . Magic Lantern would largely resolve an important problem with the FBI's existing monitoring technology, the ‘key logger system,’ which in the past has required investigators to sneak into a target's home or business with a ‘sneak-and-peak warrant’ and secretly attach the device to a computer. . . . In contrast, Magic Lantern could be installed over the Internet by tricking a person into opening an e-mail attachment or by exploiting some of the same weaknesses in popular commercial software that allow hackers to break into computers. It is unclear whether Magic Lantern would transmit keystrokes it records back to the FBI over the Internet or store the information to be seized later in a raid. The existence of Magic Lantern was first disclosed by MSNBC. . . . At least one company that makes anti-virus software, McAfee.com Corp., contacted the FBI on Wednesday to ensure its software wouldn't inadvertently detect the bureau's snooping software and alert a criminal suspect.

Power Grab Allows Government Eavesdropping on Inmate-Attorney Conversations (ACLU.org, November 9, 2001)
“Calling it an unprecedented power grab completely at odds with the Constitution, the American Civil Liberties Union today said it vehemently opposes the new Bureau of Prisons regulation allowing the government to listen in on conversations between prison inmates and their legal counsel. . . . ‘The right to an effective and vigorous defense is an absolute,’ said Laura W. Murphy, Director of the ACLU Washington National Office. ‘This is a terrifying precedent - it threatens to negate the keystone of our system of checks and balances, the right to a competent legal defense’.”

Brace yourself for the new McCarthyism (Ted Rall, The Japan Times Online, November 10, 2001)
“ ‘I've taken the Bush administration to task for what I consider the cynical manipulation of a national crisis to promote partisan political agenda items such as drilling in the Arctic, fast-track authority on free trade and eliminating the alternative-minimum tax. . . . And I've also pointed out to Americans that the administration's war against the Taliban may have something to do with the potential profitability of a Caspian Sea-Arabian Sea oil pipeline. . . . Although some of my fellow political cartoonists have taken to mocking all things Arab, towing the official Pentagon line, and cranking out what I consider to be propaganda, I've continued to skewer the president and his policies. I consider it my patriotic duty to do so. . . . Insulting American politicians and American policies doesn't make one anti-American. It makes one an integral part of the American process. . . . People who, prior to Sept. 11, might have advised me to engage in self-coitus now urge me to commit suicide, using the most disturbing language imaginable. Those who once threatened to cancel their newspaper subscription because of something I wrote or drew now promise to contact advertisers in a concerted effort to, as one e-mailer put it, ‘make sure that you never work again and die homeless in the gutter.’ . . . Oh, and my phone is tapped. . . . There's a new atmosphere of hyperconformity, and nothing less than total alignment with the White House is currently acceptable. Bill Maher, the conservative host of ‘Politically Incorrect,’ has enthusiastically supported the Bush administration's war against Afghanistan. Nonetheless, a politically incorrect remark about the semantics of cowardice nearly caused ABC to cancel his show. . . . We're living in dangerous times, and this neo-McCarthyist trend toward blacklists, the silencing of dissent, and government attacks on personal freedom represents an even greater threat to our country than terrorism. Nothing, after all, is more fundamentally un-American than keeping your mouth shut.”

Online Civil Rights After September 11th
The threat to the right to protest online from the war against terrorism
(the electrohippie collective, November 2001)
By advocating online action we are in fact stating something more. In those states where computer networks have become pervasive we are advocating the 'right to communicate'. But at the same time, for the poorest in those states, and the majority of the world's population in developing countries, we also are arguing for a 'right to access networks'. This last point is key - if people are excluded from this new information society because they lack the equipment or money to get online, we merely reinforce the economic divisions created by the 'industrial society' of the past 250 years. By proposing that online action forms part of a functional democracy, we must also advocate that those in our own and other states must also be given access to the information society, irrespective of means, or of language barriers. . . . Finally, the online community must show solidarity within its own ranks. In the view of the electrohippie collective, [The War Against Terrorism] TWAT, and the new anti-terrorist powers spawned as part of TWAT, represent an attack on our fundamental human rights. We must support each other when our rights are attacked by the state or private corporations. This in itself is significant. But given that, whether we like it or not, electronic networks will form the core of our society over the coming years, to deny our rights to protest and take action online is to deny the fundamental guarantee of democracy in the new information society - the ability to say no, and say it loudly so that others may hear also. Online protest must exist for democratic society to operate in the information age.

Irish Know Where You've Been (Karlin Lillington, Wired.com, November 9, 2001)
“Privacy advocates say most of the Irish population is effectively carrying a potential "tagging device" because of the way in which two Irish mobile telecommunications companies say they are managing customer call records. . . . Irish operators Eircell and Digifone said they were holding customer "locator records" -- which can pinpoint a phone user's location to within a few dozen feet in urban areas -- for more than six years because they believed they were required to do so to comply with the Irish statute of limitations. . . . Holding an individual's locator records for longer than a few months is illegal in Ireland and the European Union under the EU's strict data privacy legislation. But despite the laws, European companies seem to remain confused about what data they are required to retain legally for accounting purposes, and what actions violate data protection laws. . . . Locator records are produced whenever a mobile is switched on. Records are not simply limited to tracking the time, location and destination of a call, but also include regular updates on the location of any subscriber's phone within its network.”

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