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Cyber War, Civil liberties and Internet freedom in the US: “It is truly a shame that what is viewed abroad as heroic is considered as suspect at home.”

Sunday, June 12, 2011 3:29
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by Monica Davis

Ah, the Internet. So much attention is being paid to the glory of this military invention. We base revolutions on access to the Internet. We base civil rights progress on the ability of the Internet to foster communication across vast distances, enabling freedom fighters to connect, interact and tear down the walls of oppression. While we view any threat to the Internet as a threat to global freedom of speech and liberty, some mistakenly ignore repression at home. 

Florida’s governor just signed a law that basically says if the cops shoot and kill someone, the records of that incident are exempt from Open Records Laws. In other words, police killiings are none of the public’s business.

While we are on guard for a possible future shut down of the Internet, and as we become distracted by the machinations of various dictators and elites from around the world, the real, actual and ongoing threat our liberties get shoved to the backburner. The real threats to our human rights, and to our freedom of speech, freedom of movement, the real dangers to our freedom from unwarranted and warrant less intrusions, searches and illegal takings are shoved to the back burner, minimized by media hype and diversions.

Tin foil hat wearing ‘activists’ dream of all kinds of things the government and its often careless minions could do to turn the Constitution into a roll of wet toilet paper. The government “could” shut the Internet down; the government “could” herd the population to some No Man’s Land on prisoner transport trains. The government “could” wipe out 90 percent of the population on orders on some real or imagined elite.

Let’s stop focusing on the possibilities and look at the realities. Lets look at some of the ways out of control cops, officials and unindicted civil serpents walk all over our civil rights right now—and think it is their right to do so. Let’s look at the mindset that says any threat to the way police and government officials “do their jobs” is a threat to the very foundations of the government itself.

Yes, let’s look at that great distraction, and insidious way that our government officials and their minions are destroying our civil rights.

The fears generated by hacking, cracking and information warfare continue to suborne our rights. This paranoia is creating a repressive environment where fascist behavior comes out of the closet and rides its pale horse right across the very foundations of our civil liberties. In terms of “cyber war,” a great deal of the vulnerabilities of our global computer and information networks is due to the fact that many governments and companies do not repair computer program vulnerabilities—and, even worse, many computer program developers do not repair known vulnerabilities.

Yet, instead of beefing up security on its networks, some of  the unindicted felons in and out of government want to shut the Constitution down.   Basically, we pay for the consequences of their negligence with our freedoms.

This is comparable to leaving the door open to your business at all hours, not investing in security guards, locks and security systems—and then wanting the government to eliminate human rights and civil liberties of all citizens in order to “protect your business.”

This is often a case abusing our civil rights to protect the careless businesses which leave themselves open to industrial espionage and robbery. This is a case of eliminating the Bill of Rights in order to protect government civil servants who allegedly work for us.

Why should citizens be treated like thieves and criminals because governments, corporations and businesses want to shut the barn door after their carelessness allowed the horse to escape?

Responding to an increase in the number of attacks against computer systems in Great Britain George Osborne,, a government official said

Clearly up-to-date security software has an important part to play in all this, but I would recommend that the British government also takes a close look at its computers and applications to ensure that they are properly patched against vulnerabilities.

In his keynote address on cyber security. ‘George Osborne MP, the UK’s Chancellor of the Exchequer, has said that British government computers are on the receiving end of over 20,000 malicious email attacks every month.” MORE 

In an analysis of the diametrically opposed concepts of civil liberty and computer security, Kate Martin wrote

When United States national security objectives include the promotion of human rights and the rule of law, the development of both international law and national laws respecting human rights become matters of national security concern. In this context, the Internet will play an important role in influencing the development of international law and of national laws on national security, free expression and privacy.

First, other countries increasingly look to legal approaches to the Internet taken in the United States as a model for their own policies. U.S. government regulation of the Internet, or lack thereof, serves as a vivid demonstration to the world of what one democratic constitutional regime of surveillance and free speech looks like. This regime includes tolerance of extremist speech, using the Internet to counter disinformation by more information, and respecting the privacy of individual communications. At the same time, there is no doubt but that restrictive U.S. actions regarding the Internet will be looked to around the world in order to justify such restrictions in other countries. For example, Ukraine, which is barely emerging from the shadow of totalitarianism and recognized to be of strategic importance to the United States, has recently decreed that Internet connections by all state institutions must be arranged through the three state-owned servers. While the precise scope of this arrangement is unclear, many more Internet users are affected by this requirement than would be the case in other countries because many institutions in Ukraine, such as universities, are still defined as state institutions. Human rights activists in Ukraine are quite concerned that the intent and effect of this edict is to allow censorship of Internet content, both entering and leaving the country, and interception of individual messages. This is a concrete example of how the national security interests of the United States in promoting democracy and stability in Ukraine may be affected by developments on the Internet.

Second, the Internet makes information about U.S. legal models — including information about restrictions on individual liberties approved in the name of national security — much more easily, inexpensively and widely available. Should we be concerned about exporting our models without a full consideration of how those models will work in countries without the historical experience of and a legal culture based on respect for individual rights?

Finally, by transcending national borders, the very nature of the Internet seems to call for a multi-national, rather than unilateral, approach to many of these issues. Martin Bangemann of the European Commission recently called for an international charter regulating the Internet rather than country-by-country laws.(17) Whether such a charter will be developed and what aspects of the Internet would be covered are all questions of paramount importance for worldwide human rights and civil liberties. What restrictions on human rights principles for national security reasons, if any, should be included in any such charter? MORE 

There are no easy answers. Civil liberties, computer espionage and computer security remain a confusing jumble of corporate wish lists, reactionary police activity, government crackdowns and global protests. And, as is their wont, institutions, whether government or corporate, view the world in terms of their own wants, wishes and desires. Corporations create vulnerable computer products—and then don’t want to incur the expense of fixing program or network security problems. Governments respond to internal organizational and network vulnerabilities by either denying the possibility that they are vulnerable, or running roughshod over the civil rights of individuals to protect real, or imagined vulnerabilities.

On the nation’s streets, and in its alleys, police officers confiscate cameras and video equipment of film crews and activists. In the real world, cell phones are confiscated and video tapes are destroyed by police officers who want their version to be the only version the world sees. They fear the consequences of their actions being recorded. Unlike in the past, in today’s world, law enforcement has lost the automatic approval of their communities.

When it comes to automatic approval of police actions, people have long since lost their virginity. In a world where police testimony is not as revered as it once was, actual video-recording gives suspects and those taken into custody a voice that they otherwise would not have. Those recordings often are at odds with the “official police version” of events, as is the case below.

Miami Beach police allegedly confiscated video-recording equipment from at least one member of the public and a TV photojournalist after both witnessed officers shooting and killing a suspect on a public street.

Benoit told reporters that police officers — after realizing he had footage of the shooting — forced him and Erika Davis, his girlfriend who was also in the car, to the pavement with guns pointed at their heads. He said officers handcuffed him while they took his cell phone, smashed it on the ground and placed it in his back pocket. He also alleges he saw officers intimidate other witnesses and take their cell phones as well. http://www.rcfp.org/newsitems/index.php?i=11910The footage that 35-year-old Florida resident Narces Benoit captured on his cell phone has attracted much attention on YouTube. The video shows a group of Miami Beach police officers fatally shooting Raymond Herisse, a 22-year-old accused of using his car as a weapon against police during a traffic stop. Following the shootout, which occurred on Memorial Day, video footage shows police officers noticing Benoit and telling him to move away. After Benoit retreated to his car with the video still rolling, officers are shown approaching him with their guns pointed directly at the camera.

The above-mentioned event is Florida highlights the problem. When police officers believe their actions should not be subject to recording by either citizens or reporters, and when official recordings of the event are restricted from the public, what record will be available to the public?

And the problem will worsen because the governor of Florida just signed a law which exempts official video and audio recordings of police killings of civilians from open public records laws. In other words, the public recordings and videos will not be available to the public, and the police are confiscating and destroying media and civilian recordings.

In addition, public-access advocates said another issue that has arisen out of the Miami Beach incident is that the public may have known little about the shooting if it were not captured on video by Benoit. Under a new Florida law, signed by Gov. Rick Scott on June 2, photographs, video and audio recordings depicting or recording the “killing of a person” are now exempt from the state’s public records disclosure laws. MORE 

In the wake of the media and Internet-assisted revolution in Egypt, and other ongoing human rights movements in the Middle East, it is no wonder that the Miami Beach incident has infuriated civil rights activists—including the vaunted American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and the National Press Photographer’s Association.

Mickey Osterreicher, general counsel for the National Press Photographers Association, sent a letter to Police Chief Carlos Noriega, saying officers violated the Fourth Amendment right against unreasonable searches and seizures, and First Amendment rights to record in a public place.Osterreicher copied Miami Beach Mayor Matti Herrera Bower on the letter.

“While it may be understandable that your officers had a heightened sense of tension after the shooting of Raymond Herisse that is still no excuse for them to allegedly harass, intimidate, threaten or attack those taking photographs/video on a public street,” Osterreicher said. “Recently in Egypt, Syria and Libya citizens and photojournalists have risked, and in some cases given, their lives to provide visual proof of repressive governmental activities. It is truly a shame that what is viewed abroad as heroic is considered as suspect at home.”  MORE

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  • BigDaddy -CF-

    You got a lot correct in this article Mrs. Davis. I do feel there is one correction that could be made. I will point it out and give sources for my assertions.

    1.) “Tin foil hat wearing ‘activists’ dream of all kinds of things the government and its often careless minions could do to turn the Constitution into a roll of wet toilet paper.”

    -freedom of expression and assembly is already being attacked  in a million different ways. Example arrests for silent
     dancing  at  Jefferson  memorial.

    -Freedom against unreasonable search and seizure. Being  attacked as well. Examples. Section 213(indefinite delay  of warrants) of patriot Act, Government Duplexing and Storage  of all communications flowing through major hubs in the  U.S.(See PBS Spy Factory(Head of NSA puts amount of info at  terabytes/month, http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/nova/military/spy-factory.html),
    see also http://www.eff.org/issues/nsa-spying), see also  section 316 of patriot act,
     see also() http://www.nwitimes.com/news/local/govt-and-politics/article_ec169697-a19e-525f-a532-81b3df229697.html,
     see also http://news.yahoo.com/s/csm/20110516/ts_csm/384310

    -Freedom against deprivation of life, liberty, or property,  without due process
    -Right to a Speedy trial, confrontation of witnesses
     Examples. Persons held at gitmo without trial, extraordinary  rendition under both Bush/Obama, trials by military court,  indefinite detentions at gitmo

    -All the government has to do to take away all your rights is  name you a terrorist. What is a “terrorist” Example Section  802 of patriot act

     (5) the term ‘domestic terrorism’ means activities that–
         ”(A) involve acts dangerous to human life that are a      violation of the criminal laws of the United States or of      any state;
    “(B) appear to be intended–
         ”(i) to intimidate or coerce a civilian population;
    “(ii) to influence the policy of a government by
          intimidation or coercion; or
    “(iii) to affect the conduct of a convernment by mass
           destruction, assassination, or kidnapping; and
    “(C) occur primarily within the territorial jurisdiction
    of the United States.”.

    – its pretty clear by the above definition which is very broad    that almost anyone could be named a terrorist. Did you
       speed in your car today. Well you were violating a state
    law which involved acts dangerous to human life. Did you
    protest a government action. Well you were acting in a way
    that appeared to be intended to intimidate or coerce the
    governments to change their policies. Regarding the
    warrantless interception of digital communications the
    governments stance is that it has not been intercepted until
    it is listened to by a government employee. At which time a
    warrant must sought to keep that information within the NSA
    storage banks or it must be deleted. What has happened now
    is that non-government employees are being given clearance
    and access to those records to get around this. For example
    Corporal Manning was not tracked down by government
    employees he was tracked down through infraguard members
    with access which was then turned back over to government.
    Using infragaurd allowed them to search through large
    volumes of data without having to comply with the above
    conditions of information interception bureaucracy.
    According to
    http://projects.washingtonpost.com/top-secret-america/articles/a-hidden-world-growing-beyond-control/
    there are estimated to be 854,000 Americans with top-secret
    clearance

  • BigDaddy -CF-

    My mistake Corporal Manning was outed by a “volunteer” of Project Vigilant whose director Che Uber also founded infragard
    http://blogs.forbes.com/firewall/2010/08/01/stealthy-government-contractor-monitors-u-s-internet-providers-says-it-employed-wikileaks-informant/

  • muckracker1

    I stand by what I said, and I was being ironic when I spoke of tin foil hat, as should be evidenced by the statement: “The fears generated by hacking, cracking and information warfare continue to suborne our rights. This paranoia is creating a repressive environment where fascist behavior comes out of the closet and rides its pale horse right across the very foundations of our civil liberties.”
    The government, beginning with CointelPro, on down to various incarnations of predator programs continues to slide all sorts of fascist techniques in under the cover of “homeland security.”
    I am a proud wearer of invisible tin foil hats, thank you veddy much.

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