Monday, November 29, 2010

Administration Cracks Down on Internet, but Can't Stop Wikileaks

Ever since before he was voted into office, Barack Obama had repeatedly expressed his desire to censor Fox News, right-wing talk shows and conservative bloggers.

Since the election, probably encouraged by the Prez's blase attitude toward the First Amendment, numerous members of Congress and the administration have expressed their own desires to eliminate any communication outlet that doesn't toe the line. Most recently, Sen. Rockefeller expressed his wish to have the FCC shut down Fox and MSNBC.

In this atmosphere of contempt for free speech, the Homeland Security Department's ICE division began last week seizing websites engaged in selling knockoffs or otherwise infringing on copyright.

Protecting copyright sounds good, right? Except that the websites were all seized without warning, without any chance to correct any problems, and apparently without any avenue for appeal. Guilty until proven innocent?

Just to compound the dastardliness of the move, the legislation that would actually authorize ICE to do this is still in congressional committee, awaiting passage. Perhaps, emboldened by the Slaughter Rule invented during the health care debate, the administration does not feel constrained by procedure or the written law?

Then there's the FCC, which is considering putting "Net Neutrality" on its December agenda for adoption. Net Neutrality means the FCC would give itself the authority to regulate the Internet, specifically whether Internet providers can give faster download speeds to people willing to pay more. At the very least, "evening out" the speeds and bandwidths offered to all customers would result in information blockages for those who need faster speeds, not to mention lost jobs and probably closed businesses. Plus, the biggest problem is it would give the FCC a foothold on the Internet, from which it would be free to monitor and eventually control non-business communications and probably the content of websites.

Now consider the problem of Wikileaks, the website that has released reams of classified information intended to damage the United States and expose many of its intelligence operatives. This website has caused actual damage, yet the administration dawdles. The founder of Wikileaks is in Australia, so we are led to believe that is a major diplomatic problem. But the Australians are allies, and Navy SEALs are practiced at getting into other countries and removing troublemakers. How hard really would it be to shut down Wikileaks in a matter of minutes? And yet, it remains open.

(As an aside, the lack of furor over the exposure of real undercover intelligence agents casts the whole Valerie Plame affair in a different light. Plame was the "undercover" agent whose name was listed in Who's-Who yet caused a years-long stir over her alleged "exposure" by columnist Robert Novak.)

It raises a question, which we ask at the risk of having it dismissed as yet another sign of the paranoia the Left prefers to paint us conservatives with: Who is protecting Wikileaks? And is the administration possibly allowing the site to stay online for its own purposes?

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