Monday, September 27, 2010

Obama and Internet Wiretaps

If there is one area (beyond his indefensible unwillingness to spend political capital to push for the end to DADT) where Obama roundly and rightly deserves heaps of criticism, it is in the area of executive authority and his apparent willingness to embrace the Bush/Cheney notion of the "unitary executive." This idea basically posits that the US President has the authority to violate civil rights with impunity, to do so under the claim of national security, and to reserve for itself the right to define what constitutes a national security threat. Obama has been almost as bad as Bush in his embrace of this notion and in his unwillingness to restore some kind of balance and check on unbridled executive power.

The latest manifestation of this disappointing trend in the Obama administration is the push to expand the government's ability to more easily wiretap internet communications. Here's the Obama administration's lame defense of this move:

"We're talking about lawfully authorized intercepts," said FBI lawyer Valerie E. Caproni. "We're not talking about expanding authority. We're talking about preserving our ability to execute our existing authority in order to protect the public safety and national security."
Yeah, that's a comfort. The Obama Administration is content to use "existing authority," as if that is some kind of justification. What the Obama administration glosses over is that the "existing authority" is reprehensible. It's what Obama campaigned against and what those of us who elected him thought he would bring back into some kind of balanced alignment. We wanted him to restrain an unchecked executive authority and not make use of it himself, under the justification that the guy preceding him did it, too. Sad, pathetic, and reprehensible. Obama, we expected better of you.


Andrew said...

That bill WILL end hilariously.

Either the end will result in the next hacker super weapon like the Great Firewall of China (A UDP deflection attack using key terms like "democracy" will cause a invalid UDP packet flood of a size to shut down any network on the planet), or the system just breaks itself.

If this bill passes, its implementation will be an impossibility. They do not have jurisdiction over what programs and protocols are used on a private system, and they can not make protocol writers who live outside of the US comply.

Anyone with significant understanding of the internet and how it functions will tell you that they have all the tools they need already and trying to do this will increase the vulnerability of average citizens and open up the US Gov't to more counter-intelligence and provide a great avenue of attack.

One more thing before I rush off to class. Covert, untraceable web hosting and viewing already exists. Look up Freenet, and TOR. Both use systems that break up content across many redundant machines, and obscure traffic to look like regular web traffic. These are being successfully used in the People's Republic of China so pro-democracy advocates can communicate to others.

Andrew said...

Take a look at this one too.

I think this one will be worse.