A few months back, I reported that President Obama reauthorized the Patriot Act–you know, the one signed by Bush that enraged the left and right and the one Obama wanted to change:
Apparently without Bush, the Patriot Act is no longer Orwellian as Michael Moore would have it and the ACLU is now quietly voicing its differences. Even Obama criticized the Act’s compromise in 2006, but had no issue, as President, signing the identical Act he wanted reforms on. In 2006, Obama stated on the Senate floor:
So, I will be supporting the Patriot Act compromise. But I urge my colleagues to continue working on ways to improve the civil liberties protections in the Patriot Act after it is reauthorized.
But those improvements were never made and the NYT reports that the US Obama administration now supports Internet tapping:
Federal law enforcement and national security officials are preparing to seek sweeping new regulations for the Internet, arguing that their ability to wiretap criminal and terrorism suspects is “going dark” as people increasingly communicate online instead of by telephone.
Essentially, officials want Congress to require all services that enable communications — including encrypted e-mail transmitters like BlackBerry, social networking Web sites like Facebook and software that allows direct “peer to peer” messaging like Skype — to be technically capable of complying if served with a wiretap order. The mandate would include being able to intercept and unscramble encrypted messages. The bill, which the Obama administration plans to submit to lawmakers next year, raises fresh questions about how to balance security needs with protecting privacy and fostering innovation. And because security services around the world face the same problem, it could set an example that is copied globally.
Where is the public outcry? The silence of the left is deafening. Interestingly, we are not the only ones who noticed the silence, the NYT did as well:
An Obama administration plan to make wire tapping the Internet easier for law enforcement and national security agencies was met with silence by online companies Monday.Google, Facebook, Microsoft, Yahoo and Research in Motion – never shy about issuing press releases – all declined to talk about what would be a major shift in privacy law.
Privacy advocates criticize the plan as a threat to free speech and open to abuse. However, major technology companies, which vociferously defend their privacy records, today declined to weigh in on the proposal – never mind that it could affect their users and require some technical gymnastics to implement.
Only Facebook would comment, if only generally, saying in a statement: “We will examine any proposal when and if it materializes but we can’t comment on something we haven’t seen. Generally, it’s our policy to only comply with valid, legal requests for data.”
Under the proposal, the Internet companies will have to have systems in place that would allow law enforcement to intercept messages if asked to do so by law enforcement. Some companies already have such technology in place, but some do not and have to build such systems after being served.
Lee Tien, senior staff attorney for the Electronic Frontier Foundation, a privacy advocacy group, said that there are “obvious civil liberty and privacy issues” with the Obama administration plan. Existing law already allows law enforcement to get user information from Internet companies, although it may not get it as quickly as they want.
You know what they say, you’ve come a long way, baby!