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Creating a Police State From the Ashes of the Internet

Ross Rader

Former CIA Director, George J. Tenet recently called for measures to safeguard the United States against internet-enabled attacks.

"I know that these actions will be controversial in this age when we still think the Internet is a free and open society with no control or accountability, but ultimately the Wild West must give way to governance and control."

Mr. Tenet seems about as confused about the internet as the ITU. The internet is only as free as the sum of the services and privileges supported by the inter-connection of the various networks that make up the internet. Governance and control aren't going to safeguard the United States from its enemies. Rather, only an ongoing program to increase the accountability of individual participants in this union of networks is going to accomplish what Tenet is looking for.

He stated, "The way the Internet was built might be part of the problem. Its open architecture allows Web surfing, but that openness makes the system vulnerable. Access to networks like the World Wide Web might need to be limited to those who can show they take security seriously."

The culprit isn't the internet nor its architecture. Nor are raging liberals like myself who have this ridiculous notion of a free and open commons that makes a positive contribution to humanity. No, the culprits are the network operators that have figured out how to make money from spam. It's the software vendors that have figured out how to make money from the insecurities in their products. The culprits are those that sit on their hands while their networks sit open and accessible to anyone with bad intentions. What ails the internet is the negligence of those bent on making a buck. And, what ails the internet is simply an excuse for the George Tenets of the world to seize control of our resource and remake it in a manner that benefits their agenda.

Creating a centralized management and control function that oversees the internet may or may not make the internet a safer place. This hasn't worked for the world's telephone infrastructure, I'm not convinced it will make a difference here either. I'm equally uncertain that this is actually what Tenet is looking for in any event. Public interest is almost certainly a red herring in this battle.

Tenet isn't describing a more secure internet, a safer city that allows its citizens to roam about with absolute certainty of their safety. Tenet is describing a police state that gives law enforcement absolute insight into every single conversation, communication and datagram that traverses the network. Tenet is looking for a centrally controlled authoritarian infrastructure to fix the problems caused by the internet. Problems like unfettered free speech1, ad hoc freedom of association and absolute freedom to interconnect.

Tenet wants to eliminate my freedom to manage my network.

I'm betting that he has a few allies2 lined up.

---
1 If there's any doubt about Tenet's commitment to freedom of speech, freedom of the press, etc., witness the last paragraph of the Times article. "The national press, including United Press International (UPI), were excluded from yesterday's event, at Mr. Tenet's request."

2 Further discussions...

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By Ross Rader, Director of Innovation & Research
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