Ashcroft on Big Brother and the Internet  JUN 28 2004

kottke.org reader Andrew sends along this link to an essay called Keep Big Brother's Hands Off the Internet by none other than the reigning US Attorney General, John Ashcroft, then a Senator from the great state of Missouri:

There is a concern that the Internet could be used to commit crimes and that advanced encryption could disguise such activity. However, we do not provide the government with phone jacks outside our homes for unlimited wiretaps. Why, then, should we grant government the Orwellian capability to listen at will and in real time to our communications across the Web?

The protections of the Fourth Amendment are clear. The right to protection from unlawful searches is an indivisible American value. Two hundred years of court decisions have stood in defense of this fundamental right. The state's interest in effective crime-fighting should never vitiate the citizens' Bill of Rights.

That doesn't sound like the John Ashcroft we know and love. To use the charming language of the anti-Kerry folks, that's a big stack of waffles. Two things: 1) the sitting President at the time (Clinton) was a Democrat, and 2) this was before September 11th. In politics, the opposition is always wrong and with terrorists running around, hiding in your carry-on luggage and in Internet chat rooms, everyone is the opposition.

I also found this gem from Ashcroft's remarks on child pornography and peer-to-peer networks:

Peer-to-peer is unlike ordinary use of the Internet, where thousands of users' computers link to a main Internet server. Peer-to-peer networks allow users, through installation of peer-to-peer software, to go online and connect their computers directly to one another.

You know, in the event of a terrorist or nuclear attack that could take out the main Internet server, we should invent a worldwide network of computers such that the network remains robust when individual nodes are taken out. We could call it the Internet. It's so crazy, it just might work.

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