Net Neutrality and the United States surveillance of communications, the tools required to intercept and strengthen the United States.
Since September 11, 2001 the United States has been trying to control possible terrorist threats, not only physical threats but also threats though the communication infrastructure. The first bill introduced was the USA Patriot Act of 2001; it stands for “Uniting and Strengthening America by Providing Appropriate Tools Required to Intercept and Obstruct Terrorism”. President George W. Bush introduced this bill on October 26, 2001 to help monitor any possible threats to the United States and the World. With the Patriot Act, law enforcement investigation tools where enhanced in the name of counterterrorism.
Additionally roving surveillance under the guide of FISA or Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act of 1978 was one of the enhanced investigation tools. From section 204 of Title II “Enhanced Surveillance Procedures“ the bill gives “Clarification of intelligence exceptions from limitations on interception and disclosure of wire, oral, and electronic communications.” On May 26, 2011, President Barack Obama signed the PATRIOT Sunsets Extension Act of 2011. This is a four-year extension on the one implemented by President Bush, with some last minute provisions. The three provisions are that the bill extends the legal life of roving wiretaps, court-ordered searches of business records and surveillance of non-American suspects without confirmed linked ties to terrorist groups often called “lone wolfs”.
During this 2001 to 2007 the N.S.A. conducted warrantless surveillance or “warrantless wiretapping” as part of the war on terror. This was authorized as an executive order allowing the N.S.A. to monitor phone calls, web activity, text messages and other communications without search warrants. While the program ended in 2007 the FISA or Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act of 1978 was amended into the FISA Amendments Act of 2008. Under the Obama Administration, the N.S.A. continued to operate under the new FISA 2008 guides. Reported by The New York Times, “Several intelligence officials, as well as lawyers briefed about the matter, said the N.S.A. had been engaged in “overcollection” of domestic communications of Americans.” It also goes on to say that the Justice Department acknowledged the problem and responded by saying the acts were unintentional and has since been resolved.
Since then the United States has tried to introduce many bills about communications and how to handle cybersecurity. But the United States has yet to see one of these bills pass the Senate. Introduced in June 10, 2010 was the Protecting Cyberspace as a National Asset Act of 2010. This bill would have allowed the creation of a Center for Cybersecurity and Communications also an Office of Cyberspace Policy. This bill was introduced by Senator Joseph Lieberman and in a CNN interview with Candy Crowley he stated, “This is a matter of national security. A cyber attack on America can do as much or more damage today by incapacitating our banks, our communications, our finance, our transportation, as a conventional war attack.” Also “And this is something that we need to protect our country. Right now, China, the government, can disconnect parts of its Internet in a case of war. We need to have that here, too.” The bill was intended to increase security in cyberspace to prevent attacks to the communication infrastructure of the United States.
If an Internet service provider or a government is allowed to limit and even block a website this could be a huge blow to free speech. Bloggers, news organizations and your voice could be disabled if it is simply something not supported by the ISP or the government. An example is the Peoples Republic of China and the censorship of Murong Xuecun. In an article with The Guardian Murong Xuecun states, “Netizens often compare being silenced on the Chinese Internet to being put to death, and registering a new account is likened to reincarnation.”
Continuing in May 12, 2011 PIPA or the Protect IP Act was introduced. The bill was based around protecting intellectual property, by giving the United States government and the copyright holder additional tools to detour websites dedicated to the sale of copyright infringed materials and counterfeit goods. In Section 3 of the bill, titled “Enhancing Enforcement Against Rogue Websites Operated and Registered Overseas”, subheading (D) Information Location Tools, states that essentially a service provider could remove or disable access or even not serve sites with a hyperlink to the Internet site, basically censoring out an Internet site. This would have ended “Internet neutrality” for the United States.
Errol Bennett Jr. a local resident who works in the tech industry stated, “Being in the technology field, I understand the need for data priority, but as long as Net-Neutrality doesn’t create internet scarcity, or restrict data due to data discrimination, then I am for it. If data discrimination exists, and is pushed by internet corporations, then net-neutrality should become law.”
Around the same time PIPA was introduced SOPA or Stop Online Privacy Act was introduced on October 26, 2011. This bill was intended to expand the ability to allow United States law enforcement to combat online copyright infringement. One provision would have allowed Internet Service Providers to block certain websites. It was seemingly a bill based around the same intentions as PIPA, in hopes if one did not pass the other would. But many web services and sites participated in blackouts on January 18, 2012 to promote awareness of these bills; Google Inc. was just one such web service.
Concluding to the most recent bill introduced a month after SOPA on November 30, 2011 was CISPA or Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act. This bill actually passed the United States House of Representatives not once but twice but once received by the Senate it was not voted on and stalled. The second time the bill was reintroduced was on February 12, 2013 after President Obama signed the White House Cybersecurity Executive Order. CISPA was introduced to aid two-way communications with United States intelligence agencies and private businesses to report any possible cyber attacks to a web site’s infrastructure. The ACLU or American Civil Liberties Union stated CISPA is “the dangerous privacy-busting cybersecurity bill” and urged its supporters to tell President Obama to veto the bill if it was to reach him, by signing a petition.
Subsequently with the recent leaks from N.S.A. contractor Edward Snowden about the N.S.A. and its data-mining program on United States citizens. In a statement Snowden states, “That moral decision to tell the public about spying that affects all of us has been costly, but it was the right thing to do and I have no regrets.” The N.S.A. surveillance program titled PRISM operated under the guidelines of the FISA Amendments Act of 2008, and used companies like Microsoft, Facebook and Google Inc. to gather and store the data of its users.
Bennett who works in the information technology field said, “Warrant-less surveillance has accumulated vast amounts of knowledge because it’s a record of all transaction data, most of it is banal, however, important data is also collected so it becomes a double-edged sword. It’s a violation of civil liberties because we have a right to privacy as written in our bill of rights.”
The ACLU filed a constitutional challenge to this program on June 11, 2013. The ACLU also states, “The complaint also charges that the dragnet program exceeds the authority that Congress provided through the Patriot Act.” The ACLU is fighting to protect the Fourth Amendment that basically states their needs probable cause to search a person’s house, papers and effects, a right to privacy.
— OccupyInternet (@occupy_www) September 7, 2013