The Obama administration is drafting legislation that will see all internet providers and other online communication services, including email clients and social networks, be forced to allow the intelligence agencies unfettered backdoor access.
“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 New York Times reports.
Experts have warned that the move represents an attempt to completely re-structure and centralize the internet under government control:
“They are really asking for the authority to redesign services that take advantage of the unique, and now pervasive, architecture of the Internet,” notes James X. Dempsey, vice president of the Center for Democracy and Technology. “They basically want to turn back the clock and make Internet services function the way that the telephone system used to function.”
The move represents another example of the Obama administration embracing and continuing the policies of their predecessors when it comes to warrantless wiretapping and secrecy.
In 2006 the Bush administration introduced new rules making it easier for police and the intelligence community to wiretap Internet phone calls. This followed the revelations of the NSA’s illegal communications spying program.
In April 2009, the Obama Department of Justice filed a motion to dismiss one of the Electronic Frontier Foundation’s landmark lawsuits against the NSA, firmly establishing that it would continue on the exact same road.
The DOJ demanded that the entire lawsuit be dismissed based on both the Bush administration’s claim that a “state secrets” privilege bars any lawsuits against the executive branch for illegal spying, as well as a novel “sovereign immunity” claim that the Patriot Act bars lawsuits of any kind for illegal government surveillance.
The latest proposed rules are the latest move in a volley of attacks on the free internet that constitute the overall stated intention to ensure complete control over cyberspace.
When the Cybersecurity Act was introduced by Senator John Rockefeller last year, he asked “Would it have been better if we’d have never invented the Internet?”.
Rockefeller’s legislation gives the president the ability to “declare a cybersecurity emergency” and shut down or limit Internet traffic in any “critical” information network “in the interest of national security.” The bill does not define a critical information network or a cybersecurity emergency. That definition would be left to the president, according to a Mother Jones report.
Provisions in the bill would also allow the federal government, via the DHS and the NSA, to tap into any digital aspect of every citizen’s information without a warrant. Banking, business and medical records would be wide open to inspection, as well as personal instant message and e mail communications – all in the name of heading off cyber attacks on the nation.
Enhancements of such provisions are contained in the more recent “Protecting Cyberspace as a National Asset Act”, which is being pushed hard by Senator Joe Lieberman. The bill would hand absolute power to the federal government to close down networks, and block incoming Internet traffic from certain countries under a declared national emergency.
An accompanying cybersecurity control grid would only create greater risk according to experts who note that it would essentially “establish a path for the bad guys to skip down.” Other countries, such as Australia and the UK are following suit.
The program dovetails with the Pentagon’s newly created Cyber Command, headed by Keith B Alexander, the acting head of the NSA and the man behind the massive program of illegal dragnet surveillance of domestic communications since at least 2001.
During the Senate Armed Services Committee confirmation hearing, Alexander said the Pentagon’s Cyber Command would enjoy “significant synergy” with the NSA. “We have to show what we’re doing to ensure that we comport, comply with the laws,” said Alexander, perversely claiming the agency is respecting and protecting the privacy of the American people.
The Pentagon considers cyberspace a warfighting domain equal to land, sea, air and space. In 2003, the Pentagon classified the internet as an enemy “weapons system” requiring a “robust offensive suite of capabilities to include full-range electronic and computer network attack.” It has spent Billions of dollars building a super secret “National Cyber Range” in order to prepare for “Dominant Cyber Offensive Engagement”, which translates as control over “any and all” computers. The program has been dubbed “The Electronic Manhattan Project”.
The enemy is never specifically named, it is merely whoever uses the net, because the enemy IS the net. The enemy is the freedom the net provides to billions around the globe and the threat to militaristic dominance of information and the ultimate power that affords.
These initiatives represent a continuation of the so called “Comprehensive National Cybersecurity Initiative”, created via a secret presidential order in 2008 under the Bush administration. former National Intelligence Director Mike McConnell announced that the NSA’s warrantless wiretaps would “be a walk in the park compared to this,”.
“This is going to be a goat rope on the Hill” McConnell said. My prediction is that we’re going to screw around with this until something horrendous happens.”
As we have previously reported, large corporations such as Google, AT&T, Facebook and Yahoo to name but a few are intimately involved in the overarching program. Those corporations have specific government arms that are supplying the software, hardware and tech support to US intelligence agencies in the process of creating a vast closed source database for global spy networks to share information.