April 13, 2010
Tyranny vs. the InternetBy Ronald T. Jones
For those who aspire to tyranny, those who seek to control and dictate to the people, to undermine and limit the people's freedoms, to expand their own power at the expense of the people's liberties -- in a word, those whose ambitions and machinations cannot stand the light of day among a free people -- an uncontrolled, free internet is an intolerable obstacle and threat. As surely a these ambitious people will work and are working to deprive the people of their firearms -- the people's ultimate means to resist government tyranny -- they will work, they must work, to deprive them of the free flow of information. The free flow of information is essential to liberty. The power to control and limit the flow of information is essential to tyranny.
The Chinese government's efforts to control their people's access to information via the internet are well-known. Now the British Parliament, under cloak of darkness, have passed an internet censorship bill.
In the U.S., the Cybersecurity Act of 2009 is working its way through Congress. An Electronic Frontier Foundation commentary on the bill makes the following observation:
Buried deep in the bowels of the Act is the following provision:
The president's power to shut down the internet would be arbitrary, absolute, and without recourse, and the "cybersecurity emergency" that would trigger his action is left undefined in the language of the Act. In other words, it would be the president's sole prerogative to determine what amounts to a "cybersecurity emergency" and its duration.
Equally worrisome, apart from federal government's systems and networks, the Act also leaves undefined what exactly would be "the United States critical infrastructure information system[s] or network[s]" to be affected by the president's shutdown order. This apparently would be left to the president, in his wisdom, to determine.
In summary, then, under the provisions of this Act, the president would have the power to (1) arbitrarily declare an undefined "cybersecurity emergency," (2) declare which "critical infrastructure information system or network" -- apart from and in addition to those directly impacting the federal government -- would be affected by said "emergency," and (3) have absolute power to shut the whole thing down and keep it shut down as long as he might deem appropriate.
Rahm Emmanuel's comment jumps to mind here: "You never want a serious crisis to go to waste. ... What I mean by that is it's an opportunity to do things you think you could not do before."
If you wish "to do things you think you could not do before," and the necessary crisis is not in evidence, why not manufacture that crisis, since the power to do so has been placed in your hands?
Of course, the president would never do that...especially not Barack Hussein Obama. It could never happen here...
As the Chinese government knows, the internet empowers the people. It gives them an independent means to communicate, to access and circulate information independent of government power or biased, government-controlled media. In this country, those who depend heavily on the internet for information and communication need only pause for a moment and consider the darkness that would instantly descend if somewhere, a switch were thrown and the internet were shut down.
The people of America should be as defensive of their right to unrestricted, uncensored internet access as they are of their 2nd Amendment right to keep and bear arms. In the Internet Age, the former right is as essential to the defense of liberty as the latter.
While action to protect from terrorist attack federal government systems and networks may be appropriate, government should no more have power to shut down the people's internet than it should have power to shut down the people's press. In spirit, both are aspects of the same constitutionally guaranteed freedom of the press.
Accordingly, the Cybersecurity Act of 2009, at the very least, needs to be appropriately amended to ensure that the government can never shut down the people's private access to the internet. Either that, or the bill needs to be scrapped in its entirety.
England's King Henry II famously groused about his opponent, Thomas Beckett, the Archbishop of Canterbury, who was a staunch defender of the Church's independence: "Who will rid me of this troublesome priest?" His henchmen promptly went out and murdered Beckett. One can imagine a modern-day aspiring tyrant mouthing a similar complaint: "Who will rid me of this troublesome internet?"
If the Cybersecurity Act of 2009 becomes law, the President of the United States will have power to do just that.
In the Internet Age, this is way too much power in the hands of one man.