"To seek out that which was lost

Fight-Censorship Dispatch #13
  The Second Great Net Panic
         By Declan McCullagh / declan@well.com / Redistribute freely

June 9, 1996

WASHINGTON, DC -- As a wet spring steams into a muggy summer, the
Second Great Net Panic has gripped the nation's capital.

It could be the humidity. The same waterlogged air that makes my
keyboard stick about this time every year forces lobbyists and
legislators indoors to catered receptions and air-conditioned
hearing rooms where they catalog the dangers of the Net. Or perhaps
election year politics lends this scaremongering rhetoric its
rough, serrated edge.

Whatever the cause, it's clear that last year's cyberporn scare --
centering around online smut and leading to the passage of the
Communications Decency Act -- is dwarfed by this year's fevered
attempts to control the Net.

That is, you ain't seen nothin' yet.

In the last two weeks:

  * The Federal Trade Commission held two days of hearings to decide
    how to regulate web sites that collect personal information about
  * Sen. Sam Nunn (D-GA) announced at a Senate investigations
    subcommittee hearing that his suspicions of evil cryptohackers
    lurking on the Net mean the CIA and NSA must be permitted to
    snoop domestically, a practice long prohibited by law.
  * The Clinton administration responded to Congressional attempts to
    liberalize export controls on strong encryption with a "Clipper
    III" white paper, and a blue-ribbon NRC report recommended only
    minor changes in U.S. crypto export policy.
  * The Senate Judiciary Committee held hearings where witnesses from
    the Hollywood copyright lobby testified that copyright thieves
    plague the Net.
  * A House Judiciary subcommittee is planning a final markup of
    HR2441, a terribly restrictive online copyright bill similar to
    one the Senate is considering, this Wednesday.
  * The Defense Information Systems Agency released a report claiming
    that hackers tried to break into Pentagon systems 250,000 times in
  * The 1997 Defense Authorization Bill will give the White House six
    months to report on "the national policy on protecting the
    national information infrastructure from strategic attack."
  * At the first-ever "CyberCongress" hearing held by a House
    committee, representatives complained about being flamed through
    anonymous remailers and said there should be accountability online.
  * Today's Sunday Washington Post featured an article by Richard Leiby
    on the first page of the Outlook section bashing "self-indulgent
    dross" and "crap" on the Net: "I took out the Internet trash
    and found there wasn't much left."
  * Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT), chair of Senate Judiciary, held a hearing
    on June 4 where family values activists testified in support of
    Hatch's bill that gives you 15 years for creating or viewing a
    GIF that "appears to be" or is said to be kiddie porn -- even if
    it's actually a morphed photo of an adult.
  * Journalist Lew Koch unearthed an alarmist speech by Deputy
    Attorney General Jamie Gorelick slamming not just nonescrowed
    crypto but the "social problems" of the Net -- and calling for a
    new "Manhattan Project" and even a new Federal agency to start
    "devising and implementing solutions."

That's the bad news, and the good news is far from reassuring. Some
Congressperns are starting to learn about the Net and the Internet
Caucus' membership is growing. The computer industry has begun to
become more involved in the legislative process, but they're up
against well-entrenched opposition.

The EFF's Mike Godwin had it right when he wrote to me earlier today:
"Every agency wants a bite of jurisdiction over the Internet."

I'm not placing any bets on the eventual outcome of the Second Great
Net Panic, especially when protect-our-children rhetoric comes laced
with protect-our-country slogans. But I know the summer's starting and
some of the keys on my workstation are starting to stick. Yesterday I
spent a sweaty afternoon performing open-keyboard surgery to try and
get my home row working again.

So I'm not too optimistic...


It's scaremongering at its finest. That's all I can think after I read
the text of a speech Deputy Attorney General Jamie Gorelick gave
earlier this year at the Air Force Academy.

Gorelick starts with the time-honored horror gambit of terrorists,
child pornographers, organized crime groups, and hackers -- but then
moves on to rail against the social problems she's found on the Net.
"Email flames" and "faceless" chat rooms are threats to family values,
she claims.

Then she calls for a centralized government agency to deal with the
problem of the Internet. Clearly, she says, we need a "Manhattan
Project" to fight cybernastiness and net.terrorists:

  We clearly need one focal point in the government to take the lead
  in addressing this issue comprehensively -- to develop national
  policy, coordinate the necessary other agencies, and with industry
  on developing solutions. We need the equivalent of the "Manhattan
  Project" to address the technological issues and to help us harden
  our infrastructures against attack. It might be that we can just
  designate an existing agency to take the lead. Or we may need a new
  agency or some interagency body to perform the task...

Jeanne Devoto (jdevoto@well.com) writes:

  [It's an] attempt to conflate the threat of computer intrusion with
  the "threat" of open access to a mass medium. If such a conflation
  is widely successful, we could see "We must pass this measure
  to license Internet users/ban indecent language/impose FCC
  regulation on ISPs - in order to combat the threat of computer

Computers are the equivalent of nuclear weapons? Maybe treating software
as a munition makes sense after all.


Please Pray For the ShaLOM of IeRUShaLeM! It must be preserved for the lost sheep of the Scattered Tribes.
Both Houses of The Twelve Tribes of the Scattered Sheep of the Children of IeShRaEL

Terrorism is EVIL - Counter Terrorism is Oppressive - We Support Neither!!
But Rather Encourage Love.

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