Bokhari: With RESTRICT Act, the Deep State Seeks to Beat China by Becoming China

This photo taken on October 16, 2022 shows people waving national flags and Communist Part
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Tell me if this story sounds familiar: there’s a national security panic. Foreign adversaries threaten the homeland. Petty bipartisan disputes are put aside, and draft legislation is rushed out. At last, Congress is doing something.

But, lo and behold — the bill that magically emerges, evading the usual partisan disputes that doom legislation, makes no attempt to restrict itself to the foreign adversary in question. What it does do is grant sweeping new powers to the Deep State to punish, harass, spy on, and otherwise trample on the rights of American citizens, with zero transparency or accountability.

The RESTRICT Act allows the federal government to define new countries and regimes as “foreign adversaries,” and then restrict almost all online activities by any U.S. citizens to services even “indirectly” controlled by entities “subject to the jurisdiction” of that foreign adversary.

If you even attempt to “circumvent” the controls (by using a VPN to mask your IP address, for example) you will face extraordinarily draconian punishments.

In fact, even if you plan to use a VPN, you’ll face those penalties. The bill prohibits “potential future transactions” too — whatever that means.

What are the penalties that American citizens could face? Here is a short list:

  • a fine of up to $250,000, imposed by the federal government
  • a criminal penalty of up to $1 million
  • up to 20 years in jail

And then there’s asset seizure: bill allows the feds to seize and access a laundry list of devices and services of American citizens.

These include hardware devices like phones and computers, access points to the internet including cable and wireless, “e-commerce technology and services, including any electronic techniques for accomplishing business transactions” (a definition sufficiently broad to include every cryptocurrency), and even “quantum computing, post-quantum cryptography,” “advanced robotics,” and “biotechnology.”

On top of all that, the bill grants the government immunity from public oversight, restricting Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests related to the enforcement of the bill.

The RESTRICT Act is essentially an American version of the Chinese “Great Firewall,” which cuts its citizens off from a wide swathe of the world wide web.

But even in China, where numerous apps are banned, VPN does not automatically lead to imprisonment, with large numbers of Chinese citizens using VPNs to access popular apps and video games — and largely getting away with it.

The RESTRICT Act may go further than the Chinese firewall, in that its authoritarian penalties apply to apps and services “designed or intended to evade or circumvent the application of this act.”

So, simply possessing the capability to evade the provisions of the Act — a capability that all VPNs have — could put you in the government’s firing line.

Once again, Americans have been duped. For well over a year, we have been bombarded with news stories about the dangers of TikTok.

We have been told it contributes to teen suicides and mental health issues, even though the same charges can be (and have been) levelled at Facebook, Instagram, and Snapchat.

We have been told that it spies on us and hoovers up our data, sharing it with governments, even though Google and Facebook behave in exactly the same way.

Most importantly, though, we were told that it is a threat to the rights of Americans, a mechanism for the Chinese government to take away their privacy and the rights.

However valid these concerns, in the context of the monstrously authoritarian RESTRICT Act, they take on the appearance of a Trojan Horse. Today, the most pressing danger to Americans’ rights and the freedom of the internet comes not from Beijing, but from Washington D.C.

Allum Bokhari is the senior technology correspondent at Breitbart News. He is the author of #DELETED: Big Tech’s Battle to Erase the Trump Movement and Steal The Election.


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