The news of the White House’s designs on an internet “wiretapping” law have gutted me. I remember hearing about India, Saudi Arabia and the UAE rattling sabers against Research in Motion this spring to get access to encrypted communication. At the time, I thought, “Things are bad here, but they will never get that bad.” It took only a few months for me to be proven wrong.
It’s only the latest in a long line of attacks on civil liberties mounted against U.S. citizens since 9/11. There’s something about this one that really makes it hurt, though. This republic that taught the world so much about freedom and liberty is about to reduce itself to the level of petty Gulf state dictators who employ near-slave laborers and punish people for crimes against “public morality.”
Maybe worst of all, consider where it’s coming from: Obama. I voted for neither Obama nor McCain, but I sympathized with Obama in 2008. I wanted the Bush/Cheney executive powers rolled back. It wasn’t just that Obama made cursory mention of rolling back the veil of secrecy, closing Guantanamo Bay and restoring lost civil liberties, it’s that he was incredibly vocal about the issue. And now he has betrayed us in a way that is little better than Bush lying about WMDs in Iraq.
It’s clear that getting his little grubby-grubbies on executive power changed something in Obama, or maybe it just allowed the truth to surface. He is just as much a slobbering worshiper at the altar of Security, Secrecy and Power as the worst people in the Pentagon. He must never be trusted again, and the party-line fools who deny these truths should be spat upon and ignored.
This proposed law will be beyond poisonous to the cause of liberty both here in America and to people abroad who still have some notion that ours is a country worth emulating. It’s the sort of thing that Konstantin Pobedonostsev would have drawn up if they had the internet in late imperial Russia. I imagine the subhuman fascists who came up with these ideas laughing maniacally and touching themselves in an office deep inside in the Pentagon, amazed that the leadership of a country such as ours would even consider asking for these powers.
Here are the basic details:
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.
¶ Communications services that encrypt messages must have a way to unscramble them.
¶ Foreign-based providers that do business inside the United States must install a domestic office capable of performing intercepts.
¶ Developers of software that enables peer-to-peer communication must redesign their service to allow interception.
And this allegedly because Faisal Shahzad, the crackpot with a firecracker, used encrypted p2p to talk to collaborators. Kiss your freedoms goodbye, America, because one schmuck tried to blow up a truck. This is why Americans fought against totalitarianism in WWII–so that we could replicate even more offensive versions of the same surveillance apparatus in our own country, sixty years later.
Glenn Greenwald, of course, weighed in with the best commentary on the matter. Money quote:
That concept — that the U.S. Government should not be monitoring, surveilling and collecting data on individuals who are not under criminal investigation — was once the hallmark of basic American liberty, so uncontroversial as to require no defense. But decades of effective fear-mongering over everything from Communists to drug kingpins — and particularly the last decade of invoking the all-justifying, Scary mantra of Terrorism — has reduced much of the American citizenry into a frightened and meek puddle of acquiescence which not only tolerates, but craves, a complete deprivation of privacy. Needless to say, both articles this morning are suffused with quotes from government officials tossing around the standard clichés about Scary Terrorists, Drug Lords, and other cartoon menaces hauled out to justify every expansion of government power and every reduction of individual privacy (that, of course, was the same rationale invoked by UAE and Saudi officials: “The UAE issued a statement explaining the decision, saying it had come because ‘certain Blackberry services’ allow users to avoid ‘any legal accountability’, raising ‘judicial, social and national security concerns’.”).
We are a nation of cowardly slaves, driven by fear to concede ever-more powers to our masters. I fear the time to reverse the trend has passed. Neither party can be trusted, nor can our fellow citizens. All it took was a handful of lunatics starting in 2001 to reduce this country to a pile of ashes so completely wrecked and so worthless that 200+ years of far-deadlier enemies could scarcely have dreamt of it.