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Thursday, May 6, 2010

Technology and terror

The net neutrality debate is at full throttle, making Page One of today's Wall Street Journal.

FCC chief Julius Genachowski wants to adopt rules that require internet providers like Comcast and AT&T to treat all traffic equally, and not to slow or block access to web sites.

The latest proposals, the Journal says, would modify previous regulations that were dealt a setback by the Supreme Court.

Some of the dispute is about business economics. On the other hand, everyone remembers charges that AOL stifled political emails and political sites during the earlier phases of the Iraq war.
In fact, carriers do block sites for reasons related to business PR. They have, for example, blocked sites in America at the behest of the FBI and Britain's MI6. Business executives -- thinking in terms of "good business" rather than "free press" -- didn't want to argue with these "requests," even though the reasons were not acceptable from a First Amendment standpoint.

And let's not forget the gentleman from the Simon Wiesenthal Center who is campaigning to block terrorism propaganda sites, including the fiendish Architects and Engineers for 9/11 Truth.

I would think we need to assure that carriers have no say about content. One person's beautiful nude is another's smutty picture. Still, anyone who traffics in the prohibited, like internet gambling or child porn, would still be liable to prosecution. But Verizon can't arbitrarily shut off a bookie's cell phone, and the same principle should apply to the internet.

However, there is also the issue of number of bits per second, with programs like Bittorrent jamming lines and slowing service for others. In some cases, I suspect the worries about excessively high bit flow are mostly about the Powers that Be not wanting the masses to plug into such possibilities. You know, knowledge (sometimes known as 'information') is power. Wasn't it Bittorrent that enabled Wikileaks to unfold that copter surveillance tape of the killing of a journalist and other civilians?

My hunch is that some sort of government-industry committee could meet regularly to determine how many bits per second servers must allow from specific outlets. Rates would vary by local network carrying capacity. Times of day would also be a factor.

Well, that's my take. But, I'm no expert, just someone opposed to any limits on 'editorial' content.

Now let's be clear, Judith Miller has in no way signed off on my point that the Times Square terror incident coincidentally upstaged moves by Ahmadinejad (and other Muslim representatives) to turn the tables on Israel at the UN nuclear conference.

However, she seems a might suspicious about what went down, posing ten questions.

Admittedly the escapade reads like something scripted by Robert Ludlum -- but then, real life can indeed be at least as strange as fiction.

But one point really got my attention: the suspect reportedly got right past an FBI surveillance team watching his house? Huh? That would imply they were using rudimentary low-tech surveillance gear on the house and environs.

But this guy is supposedly an international terror suspect not some two-bit drug dealer.

The kind of surveillance technology available to security people is mind-boggling, and there is no doubt at all that the high-tech stuff is regularly used.

For example, sophisticated computer-guided laser optical systems can put people on the inside of a building on video/sound monitors. Dozens of cars outfitted with surveillance gear can whip up and down all nearby streets. A target -- especially one as technically limited as he was -- couldn't simply drive past sleepy agents. Satellites can even be maneuvered to track specific vehicles, including those not wired to GPS.

U.S. counterspies have been using such high-tech stuff for decades, tracking KGB agents and nosy reporters. But, somehow this blanket surveillance method wasn't available for someone who purportedly might have had information about a major threat to national security?

Defies credulity... Miller's right to be suspicious.

This just in: Rep. Peter King, a New York Democrat, is calling on Attorney General Eric Holder to launch an investigation of numerous "leaks" to the media. King cited an early Washington Post report that the case had international terror ties, a Fox News report about the investigation in the suspect's hometown of Bridgeport, Conn., and a news item that the suspect was a naturalized American of Pakistani descent.

King, who sits on the House Homeland Security Committee, in his letter, reproduced under a story at the Medill National Security Journalism Initiative site, said such "meticulous detail" raised national security concerns.

Well, there is a slight possibility that the leakage was spin-doctoring related to a stunt meant to distract attention from the UN nuke conference. But, I'm afraid that what King might accomplish is intimidation of the press into meekly going along with the program, rather than raising questions about suspicious gaps in the official story.

You know: If you guys don't play ball, we can make you sweat the way we made Miller sweat.

Journalists are suing the cities of St. Paul and Minneapolis for their arrests while covering a protest at the Republican National Convention in 2008. Some 50 journalists were arrested by police, says the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press.

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