You know, I like to think that laws like this get passed because our politicians are ignorant about technology. But then again, sometimes I think they like the idea of snooping on us. Behold: the Protecting Children from Internet Pornographers Act:
If Congress had to name laws honestly, it would be called the “Forcing Your Internet Provider to Spy On You Just In Case You’re a Criminal Act of 2011″ — a costly, invasive mandate that even the co-author of the Patriot Act, Rep. James Sensenbrenner (R-Wisc.), says “runs roughshod over the rights of people who use the Internet.”
The centerpiece of this ill-conceived law is a sweeping requirement that commercial Internet providers retain a one-year log of all the temporary Internet Protocol addresses they assign to their users, along with customer-identification information. The Justice Department says this will help track down child-porn peddlers by linking online activity and real-world identities. But the government would be able to access that sensitive data for all kinds of investigations, most of which would have nothing to do with child porn.
The Constitution protects privacy against government intrusion, but it doesn’t stop the government from forcing private companies to do its dirty work. Records held by a corporation don’t enjoy the same Fourth Amendment protection as does the data on your personal computer — so a search warrant isn’t necessary.
All right. Does anyone … anyone … think this will be used just to catch child pornographers? Does anyone think this will not eventually be turned to cracking down on drugs, terrorism, legal porn and copyright violations? As we have learned with the Patriot Act, all our elected officials are looking for is an excuse to violate our civil liberties and privacy. Once they are in there, anything goes. The Patriot Act, for example, has been overwhelming used to prosecute drug cases.
Think of the government as a horny teenage boy with absolutely no moral scruples. Once our underwear is off, they don’t feel any need — legal or otherwise — to stop at third base. Or to use a condom. Or to take us out to dinner afterward. They will go as far as they can before we smack them.
The question is … why do we need this? When the Bush Administration tried to bypass the FISA Court, we all asked why they wanted to since it rarely refuses wiretaps. The government has never had a problem finding kiddie porn peddlers through their ISP’s. A subpoena is rarely refused and ISP’s provide tens of thousands of tips every year. So we’ll get a nice big store of our personal information, a catch-all for anything the feds decides to snoop on — all paid for by increased ISP costs, of course. And for what? The feds haven’t even concluded their study on the subject.
But you drop that magic word — “children” — into the conversation and, to return to my earlier analogy, we immediately jump into the back seat and unhook our bras. Popehat made this point spectacularly with a post on the stupidity of Kaylee’s Law:
You might think that politicians and other state actors hate it when a Casey Anthony gets acquitted. You’d be wrong. The acquittal of someone like Casey Anthony — accused of killing a cute white girl, and worse yet, accused of being a slut and a party girl — is an opportunity for the state to get useful idiots to drive its favorite narratives. Those narratives are “when the government charges you with something, that means you are guilty” and “government witnesses are credible; defense witnesses are not” and “defense lawyers deal in deceit; prosecutors deal in truth” and “a juror’s job is to convict the guilty”, and so on. Th Mommy Mob is flogging those narratives like crazy. They devote web sites to excoriating the jurors and suggesting that they ought to be prosecuted for some sort of fraud or dereliction of duty. They attack the defense attorneys, suggesting that they ought not be paid and arguing that the State Bar ought to investigate them. They speculate about what citizens might be associated with Casey Anthony and then post contact information for those citizens. They call on their flying monkeys to harass the judiciary. They demand retrial of Casey Anthony based twisted interpretations of the Dual Sovereign Doctrine.
And they support a law to give the feds unlimited ability to snoop into our web browsers.
The Electronic Frontier Foundation, God bless them, is fighting this tooth and nail. Let’s hope they slap some sense into the American people.