Kill This Bill
Much like bills named for dead children, there's a very high likelihood that any bill with "protecting children" and/or "pornographers" in the title is a) a very bad idea, b) a very stupid idea, c) of dubious Constitutionality, or, as here, d) all of the above.
While we were all obsessing over the debt ceiling kabuki theater, the House Judiciary Committee passed the tortuously- and misleadingly-named “Protecting Children From Internet Pornographers Act of 2011.” Much like bills named for dead children, there’s a very high likelihood that any bill with “protecting children” and/or “pornographers” in the title is a) a very bad idea, b) a very stupid idea, c) of dubious Constitutionality, or, as here, d) all of the above:
Internet providers would be forced to keep logs of their customers’ activities for one year–in case police want to review them in the future–under legislation that a U.S. House of Representatives committee approved today.
The 19 to 10 vote represents a victory for conservative Republicans, who made data retention their first major technology initiative after last fall’s elections, and the Justice Department officials who have quietly lobbied for the sweeping new requirement….
A last-minute rewrite of the bill expands the information that commercial Internet providers are required to store to include customers’ names, addresses, phone numbers, credit card numbers, bank account numbers, and temporarily-assigned IP addresses.
Whenever civil liberties and legislation collide, the words “last-minute rewrite” should send chills down the spine of any citizen. The bill requires ISPs to retain this vast amount of extremely private data just “in case police want to review them in the future”–without, so far as I can tell, the requirement that said police obtain a warrant to do so. I find myself completely incapable of grasping how anyone on that panel thought this was a good idea–or that it passes Constitutional muster.
And what Bizarro World are we living in where John Conyers and Zoe Lofgren are the voices of reason?!?
It represents “a data bank of every digital act by every American” that would “let us find out where every single American visited Web sites,” said Rep. Zoe Lofgren of California, who led Democratic opposition to the bill.
Lofgren said the data retention requirements are easily avoided because they only apply to “commercial” providers. Criminals would simply go to libraries or Starbucks coffeehouses and use the Web anonymously, she said, while law-abiding Americans would have their activities recorded…
“The bill is mislabeled,” said Rep. John Conyers of Michigan, the senior Democrat on the panel. “This is not protecting children from Internet pornography. It’s creating a database for everybody in this country for a lot of other purposes.”
While I doubt Rep. Lofgren would have the same concerns about tracking the activities of law-abiding gun owners, Republicans should grasp the parallel without having to have it pointed out to them.
Apparently the DOJ has been champing at the bit for this since at least 2005. This is one of those cases where I can’t decide if I’m too cynical because the fact that it slipped through Committee while everyone’s attention was on the debt ceiling fight makes me suspicious of the timing–or not cynical enough because I can’t decide.
Current law already requires ISPs to cooperate with government requests to prospectively preserve data. That’s bad enough, given the lack of a warrant requirement. This law makes that one look like something James Madison might have drafted.
I dispute the article’s offhand use of the label “conservative” for the Republicans who passed this excrescence; there’s nothing conservative about it and AG Holder seems to want it as much as Gonzales did. But rather than simply duplicate it in other words, I give you rdbrewer’s excellent summary of the real root of the problem:
[L]et’s be clear, since there is no warrant requirement, law enforcement will end-up simply grabbing all of the information available, whether or not there is an ongoing investigation, and storing it permanently.
Republicans did this.
There’s a point where right meets left. It’s where some in the Republican party would liberally use government power to further their ends. It’s a “we need a new law for that” kind of mentality. “Hell, we just wanna do good.” They’re the same as liberals; they’re just on different sides of the coin. They both want to spread their good deeds far and wide with little thought to proper limits on the extent of government and police power. This has very little to do with what America is all about. It has everything to do with how these people view themselves. Liberals and conservative like these are drunk on power. They’re so enamored of their own brilliance and so certain of their abilities, they feel they can fashion new law on an ad hoc basis whenever it suits them….
I would submit that the only real conservatives are constitutional conservatives. Socons and corporatists, like liberals, feel government is to be used get you things. They view government power as a sword rather than a shield. They also assume government is only benevolent, that bureaucrats never do harm.