Inside Skinny on Obama’s Internet “Off Switch” and Tracking Plans

Big Brother’s “Sputnik Moment?”

It’s not your daddy’s space race anymore!

Let me explain why, later in this email, I will be throwing you a link to Independent Living‘s valuable FREE report on 21 simple steps you can take (while they are still legal) to cope with Uncle Sam’s 24-7 snooping and monitoring programs.
Make no mistake – your habits, your finances, your health, and so many other aspects of your life are subject to a far greater level of scrutiny than most people realize is possible.
Getting yourself ready is important. For example, powerful bureaucratic factions of the central government are furiously jockeying for new funding and authority to control the Internet. Unfortunately, we’re not talking about a relatively benign government-directed technology race such as landing on the moon or curing cancer. Today’s sad equivalent of the 1960s “space race” is a perverse bureaucratic competition to be the first to control emerging modes of communication that dare to function outside the control of politics.
You are probably aware by now that the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has established a beach head to turn the Internet into a public utility under Washington’s control. The FCC slapped so-called “net neutrality” strictures into enactment while the country was enjoying its Christmas holiday. (Even when Congress was controlled by the Administration’s own party, it declined to enact net neutrality authority to federal bureaucrats because it was previously considered so extreme.)
A January 25 Washington Post story, “Net Neutrality Complaints Pile Up,” details how politically favored Internet service providers are already brandishing the new net neutrality rules to hamper their more innovative competitors. And who gets to play the all-powerful “referee” in the place of good old fashioned competition? That’s right, Uncle Sam.
Coming Soon: Government-Issued
Hall Passes to Function on the Internet
The government’s unhealthy interest in the Internet is indeed worrisome. Uncle Sam is clearly developing a capability to issue cyber “hall passes,” without which you may ultimately be blocked from commerce on the Internet! Let me get down to more recent actions the government is taking to muck up the Internet’s future development:
The Obama Administration (as well as the usual crowd of politically sophisticated, well-connected, crony capitalists) is pushing a new regulatory scheme, the National Strategy for Trusted Identities in Cyberspace. The core of the plan is for the Commerce Department to issue “trusted” communication certificate through most, if not all, U.S. service providers of the World Wide Web.
The justification of such government-issued digital certificates, the Administration says, is to ensure the “integrity” of financial transactions and communications. This is a step toward both taxation and government control.
Not to worry, White House Cybersecurity Czar Howard Schmidt assures one and all, “I don’t have to get a [government-issued] credential if I don’t want to.” Unfortunately, the unspoken part of this promise is that regulatory authorities – as part of a well-established pattern – are in a position to “encourage” Internet providers to only do business with web surfers who “agree” to accept Uncle Sam’s digital certificates.
Schmidt recently touted the Commerce Department as “the absolute perfect spot” toward creating an “identity ecosystem for the Internet.” It indeed is a very smart political move by the White House to designate the Commerce Department as the lead government agency with authority over the internet! Commerce is by far the least politically controversial agency to establish a federal Internet identification and tracking system – especially as compared to the Department of Homeland Security, the National Security Agency, or the Treasury/IRS!
Commerce Secretary Gary Locke is seeking to lull gullible Republicans by stressing that the feds are only interested in establishing a “voluntary” “trusted-identity” system which businesses and Internet users could utilize to cut down on the need for passwords and to streamline commerce on the Internet.
One Obama Administration supporter on this issue, the Center for Democracy and Technology (CDT), praises the new plan and dismisses critics as urban-myth spinners.
According to the CDT’s own website, it is Commerce Secretary Locke’s own words which clearly show that the federal government is quietly weaving its own controls into the fabric of the World Wide Web:
“Let’s be clear, we’re not talking about a national ID card. We’re talking about a government controlled system,” referring to the construction of the Internet going forward. Gosh, how reassuring!
A Free-Flowing Internet Becomes a Target of the Political Class
Of course, most members of the political class are on record as saying they “love” the free exchange of ideas on the Internet. Yet President Obama and his all-powerful allies in the federal bureaucracy seem determined to counter what they apparently see as dangers the Internet poses to democracy. Not a joke! Consider a little-noticed presidential comment recently made to graduates at Hampton University in Virginia:
“With Ipods and iPads and Xboxes and PlayStations – none of which I know how to work – information becomes a distraction, a diversion, a form of entertainment, rather than a means of emancipation. All of this is not only putting new pressures on you; it is putting greater pressures on our country and on our democracy.”
Of course, our Founding Fathers probably would have loved the Internet and its capacity to let like-minded Americans – especially those who believe in Constitutional government – to peaceably assemble, organize, and plan. (Not to mention giving private citizens such as me the opportunity to be a truly independent publisher of critical information.)
Ultimately, a free-functioning Internet is fundamentally incompatible with an all-controlling, intrusive central government. Eventually one or the other is going to prevail.
Great Minds Think Alike?
Mubarak and Obama Both Favor an Internet “Off Switch”?
From its point of view, the political class feels justified in manipulating the Internet’s growth! It’s already clear that the potential of the World Wide Web to create communities of like-thinking individualists beyond the reach of the pro-statist news media is enormous.
Before the Mubarak regime shut down Egypt’s Internet, warnings about the Obama Administration creating an Internet “Off Switch” of its own had been widely dismissed as an urban myth. Yet the facts speak for themselves: In June, a U.S. Senate committee passed a White House backed bill to establish what critics then warned was the equivalent of an Internet “Off Switch”: the Protecting Cyberspace as a National Asset Act.
The bill has not been enacted, but it even enjoys some GOP support. Whether or not the overall bill ever passes, its core provisions could eventually be enacted piecemeal, probably through bureaucratic decrees.
Unfortunately, Internet disruption by governments (not just China), as noted in a February 7 Wall Street Journal editorial by Gordon Crovitz, is already well established:
  • Nepal severed Internet connections when its king declared martial law in 2005.
  • Burma shut down its Web in 2007 in a crackdown on reformers.
  • Bahrain, Uganda, and Yemen have all blocked Web communications during sham elections.
  • In Mubarak’s Egypt, it was Western communications companies that implemented the regime’s Internet shut-down during the early days of the crisis (through what is called an “OpenNet Initiative, in which all private service providers impose a technique known as “just-in-time blocking”).
Meanwhile, if the entire Internet ever crashes, the government is positioning itself to step in decisively.
In that scenario, federal bureaucrats will be able dramatically to advance their agenda to turn the World Wide Web into a publicly controlled utility, one which allows them to track and control people more efficiently.
Well, that’s today’s report. You can bet I will keep you and all my other valued readers fully updated on this situation as it unfolds.