Thursday, February 17, 2011

Freedom in the US is Reduced to the Right "to Make a Mistake"

I find it funny how the iconography of the US puts liberty and freedom in flaming letters everywhere, but in day-to-day operations Americans generally are ignorant of their rights and show no concern when their liberties are trampled. Here's an interesting example where a government bureaucracy "makes a mistake" and destroys the rights and liberties of citizens and only says "gee, sorry, that was a mistake" after the fact. Read the whole story here:
U.S. Government Shuts Down 84,000 Websites, ‘By Mistake’

The US Government has yet again shuttered several domain names this week. The Department of Justice and Homeland Security’s ICE office proudly announced that they had seized domains related to counterfeit goods and child pornography. What they failed to mention, however, is that one of the targeted domains belongs to a free DNS provider, and that 84,000 websites were wrongfully accused of links to child pornography crimes.

As part of “Operation Save Our Children” ICE’s Cyber Crimes Center has again seized several domain names, but not without making a huge error. Last Friday, thousands of site owners were surprised by a rather worrying banner that was placed on their domain.

“Advertisement, distribution, transportation, receipt, and possession of child pornography constitute federal crimes that carry penalties for first time offenders of up to 30 years in federal prison, a $250,000 fine, forfeiture and restitution,” was the worrying message they read on their websites.

As with previous seizures, ICE convinced a District Court judge to sign a seizure warrant, and then contacted the domain registries to point the domains in question to a server that hosts the warning message. However, somewhere in this process a mistake was made and as a result the domain of a large DNS service provider was seized.

The domain in question is, which belongs to the DNS provider FreeDNS. It is the most popular shared domain at and as a result of the authorities’ actions a massive 84,000 subdomains were wrongfully seized as well.
Funny... back in 1786-87 when the US Constitution was written the country was still smarting from the heavy-handed treatment by the British with their unregulated seizures and break-ins. So the Fourth Amendment was put in place in 1791 to stop that:
The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.
Oh... but I forget, this protection from arbitrary seizure doesn't include one's right to an Internet presence or the business you run on the Internet. In today's state mandated "terror environment" judges can sign seizure writs without bothering about any reasonable "probable cause" or messy details like targeting the searches and seizures to likely suspects. Blanket authority to toss liberties out the window are justified by the requirements of "security". Your rights to privacy no longer apply in the days of the NSA warrantless wiretapping and the new Homeland Security strip search at airports.

I love to hear that full throated roar of Americans proclaiming their "liberties" while the facts on the ground show them giving up rights up one-by-one in the name of "security".

No comments: