Question about whether Obama's plan to 'internationalize' the internet is constututional
A group of Republican lawmakers have sent a letter to the Government Accountability Office questioning the authority of the president to "transfer possession and control of critical components of the Internet's infrastructure to a third party."
The Obama administration plans to abandon oversight of internet doman name functions and allow an international body to assume control.
The letter was signed by the chairmen of both congressional judiciary committees, Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, and Rep. Bob Goodlatte, R-Va; presidential candidate Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, and Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif. Issa is also a former chairman of the House Oversight Committee.
The lawmakers point out that the Constitution says "Congress has the exclusive power 'to dispose of and make all needful rules and regulations respecting the territory or other property belonging to the United States.'"
The Internet's root zone file was developed by a grant from the United States, and since 1997, it has been operated by the National Telecommunications and Information Administration under contract with the Department of Commerce. The department had planned to transfer its management rights to the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers, an international agency, by this Wednesday, but announced this summer that the date would be postponed until roughly June 30 next year.
In their letter, the lawmakers asked the GAO whether transferring ownership of the Internet domain name functions would cause government property to be transferred to ICANN, whether the root zone file constituted U.S. property, and whether it was constitutional for that property to be transferred to any non-federal entity.
The lawmakers did not provide a deadline for answers, saying that the GAO would need to "conduct both significant audit work and complex legal analysis" in order to respond.
If ever there was a shining example of the adage "If it ain't broke, don't fix it," it's the internet. There is no reason for the U.S. to relinquish "control" of any part of the internet. In fact, it's the lack of control of what goes on the net that has dictatorships and theocracies so concerned. And that total freedom is what has created the modern world while undermining the authority of the authoritarians.
Very slowly, the U.S. government is seeking to determine internet content. The new FCC rules on net neutrality could very well marginalize websites that express a particular political point of view. The feds swear that won't be the case. But the temptation to do so will be great.
And what of international actors? Are we to place our freedom of expression in the hands of the likes of Putin's Russia and Communist China? We've already agreed to transfer these internet functions so that even a new president would have a hard time reclaiming them.
One more unconscionable part of President Obama's damaging legacy.