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The Senate Wants to Make Internet Companies and Providers Spies

The most draconian information-gathering law yet!

Most activists, for example, post information about activities that the government might consider or might someday classify as "terrorist"-- for example the activities of animal rights or environmental activists both of which have been investigated as “terrorism,” or mass actions like the Occupy Movement, which was monitored, harassed and disrupted by federal and local police agencies acting under “anti-terrorism” authority. While the bill includes specific activities long regarded as terrorism (like making bombs), its vague language does not exclude other activities such as reporting about groups considered terrorist; private communications with people the government is investigating (or people who communicate with them); discussion of activities, demonstrations and campaigns the government might consider potentially violent. The list is endless and because there's no "exclusion" to what should be reported there is no limit to what providers might have to turn over.

So if a provider is serving the email account of a citizen in this country who writes someone in another country asking a question about what a local leader may have said about what might be considered a terrorist activity -- the kind of thing that journalists could, and should, be doing -- that email and its author must be turned over.
The law makes clear that providers aren't required to monitor the content of their users' communications. But if the government requests information on a person, it must be turned over or if the government tells the provider a particular user is "under suspicion" the provider now has "actual knowledge" of possible terrorist activity and would be required to turn over everything stored and monitor the account, collecting information that might qualify.

What's more, providers whose users are in other countries would now be carrying on intelligence activities internationally.

Senate officials insist that this isn't the intent of the bill. They say, as did Feinstein, that this is about investigating and protecting us from real terrorist activities. But this is the same U.S. government that has violated every fundamental concept of privacy and free speech on the Internet by gathering billions of emails, articles, profiles, and comments from the Internet without us knowing it (until it was revealed) and without any limit to who the targets of this gathering were. Can anyone of sound mind accept the Senate's assurances?

The issue becomes more acute for providers who specialize in progressive and left-wing movement communications, like May First/People Link (the organization I work for). May First's users -- none of whom are terrorists but some of whom work in struggles that are sometimes the targets of investigation -- communicate daily in ways that could be construed as subject to reporting under this law. What happens when we refuse to give up this information, as we would? What penalties would we suffer? Would we be closed down?

In fact, some of the material we at ThisCantBeHappening.net, an award-winning online news site, publish could very well qualify as "knowledge of terrorism" under this vague nightmare of a law. Would May First, our host, be required to turn over information about our authors, our sources, the people we have interviewed, the documents we may have seen? Would my colleague Dave Lindorff's articles on the Boston Marathon Bombing mean that his personal information and communications should be turned over?



story | by Dr. Radut