This morning I got a “breaking news” e-mail from Politico reporting that the White House had come out with a (somewhat wishy-washy) statement on the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA). Here’s the text of the e-mail:
Obama administration officials said in a blog post today that they would “not support legislation that reduces freedom of expression, increases cybersecurity risk, or undermines the dynamic, innovative global Internet.” The White House did not take a definite position on SOPA and the PROTECT IP Act, but said “the DNS filtering provisions in some proposed legislation suggests that they pose a real risk to cybersecurity and yet leave contraband goods and services accessible online.” The officials said, however, that legislation is needed to combat online piracy.
A number of sources are reporting this now as Obama “coming out against SOPA and PIPA. For example, at Slate, Matthew Yglesias writes:
SOPA/Protect IP fights are turning into an example of how the political system sometimes does work correctly after all. The con forces on these bills initially looked numerically overwhelmed in congress and hugely outspent. But opponents really mobilized vocally, got people and institutions who don’t normally focus on politics to write about this, and perhaps most important of all demonstrated that more people genuinely cared about this issue than most members of congress initially realized. Now the momentum has slowed incredibly and the White House technology policy team has come out against these bills.
Still, even Yglesias admits the WH statement is qualified.
To look a gift horse in the mouth for a second, however, I note that the White House statement does contain a “reasonable” to-be-sure line stating that “online piracy is a real problem that harms the American economy, and threatens jobs for significant numbers of middle class workers and hurts some of our nation’s most creative and innovative companies and entrepreneurs.”
Politico calls it “walking a thin line.”
In a blog post penned by three administration officials, the White House said it opposes any bill that would make it easier for government to censor the Web or make the Internet less secure, but it stopped short of saying whether that includes two bills that have sent the tech industry into a panic.
If that sounds like a careful effort to walk a thin line, it is: Some of the president’s biggest supporters in Hollywood and Silicon Valley and beyond are sharply divided over the bills, and the White House needs a way to keep both sides happy.
The Stop Online Piracy Act in the House and Protect IP Act in the Senate are an attempt by business interests led by Hollywood to crack down on people pirating movies and music and stop the sale of knockoff goods.
But Web companies and Internet freedom activists have cried foul, saying the bills would put restrictions on the Web in a way that could destroy the fundamental openness of the Internet and prevent the next generation of Facebooks or eBays from getting off the ground.
At Ars Technika, Timothy B. Lee reports that Congress is feeling the heat. They provide a number of examples of powerful legislators who are now having second thoughts–including Pat Leahy (one of the prime movers of the bills), Paul Ryan, Orrin Hatch, and Lamar Smith, who
announced that he would be pulling the DNS-blocking provisions from his own bill. “After consultation with industry groups across the country, I feel we should remove Domain Name System blocking from the Stop Online Piracy Act so that the Committee can further examine the issues surrounding this provision,” Smith said in a Friday statement.
DNS blocking would basically impose the kind of censorship used by China to block internet users from foreign websites that provide information the government doesn’t want people to be able to read. It would really kill what’s left of the First Amendment.
In addition, Lee notes in an update that Eric Cantor has said there will be no vote on SOPA until there is a “consensus.”
The statement was made in response to a petition on the White House’s “we the people” site asking the president to veto SOPA if it reached his desk. The officials—IP enforcement coordinator Victoria Espinel, CTO Aneesh Chopra, and cybersecurity coordinator Howard Schmidt—did not commit the president to vetoing SOPA. However, they laid out criteria for an anti-piracy bill that seems to clearly rule out SOPA and the Senate’s Protect IP Act in their current form.
Also reported in the Ars Technika story,
Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA), a SOPA opponent, announced Saturday that he is postponing hearings on SOPA’s DNS provisions that had been slated for Wednesday, January 18 before his House Oversight and Government Reform Committee.
“While I remain concerned about Senate action on the Protect IP Act, I am confident that flawed legislation will not be taken up by this House,” Issa said. “Majority Leader Cantor has assured me that we will continue to work to address outstanding concerns and work to build consensus prior to any anti-piracy legislation coming before the House for a vote.”
All this seems to bode well for the anti-SOPA/PIPA fight, along with the escalation in pushback by opponents that I posted in a comment yesterday that Anonymous has revealed the personal information of some powerful men in the media and Hollywood who are pushing for the bill.
Power to the People!
A prominent member of Anonymous says the loosely organized hacktivist group will target the U.S. Military to avenge the treatment of Bradley Manning, the young man who is accused of leaking classified information to Wikileaks.
“Manning is an absolute hero. If this means me going to fucking prison, then that’s fine,” said Barrett Brown earlier today in an interview.
Brown, best described as a self-styled spokesperson for Anonymous, who enjoys some support from the loosely associative group…has Brown and others working with him outraged.
On the evenings of March 2 and March 3, Bradley Manning was forced to strip naked, remaining under observation in this condition within his cell for seven hours each night. The following mornings, still without any clothing, Manning was forced to stand at attention outside his cell as the Duty Brig Supervisor (DBS) arrived. Manning was later given his clothes.
“This type of degrading treatment is inexcusable and without justification. It is an embarrassment to our military justice system and should not be tolerated…No other detainee at the Brig is forced to endure this type of isolation and humiliation,” commented David Coombs, the lawyer representing Manning, who was once a Lieutenant Colonel in the U.S. Army.
Brown says the hacker group will target not only anyone responsible for the horrible treatment Manning is getting, but also the person or persons who turned him in to authorities.
This could get really entertaining. But it shouldn’t be necessary. What is being done to Manning is wrong, and President Obama is shaming our country by letting it happen. It is very sad to read a headline like this in a British newspaper (the Guardian): Bradley Manning and the stench of US hypocrisy
One of the few people to have visited Manning, David House, spoke yesterday of how he had witnessed his friend go from a “bright-eyed intelligent young man” to someone who at times has appeared “catatonic” with “very high difficulty carrying on day to day conversation”. House drew similarities with the case of Bobby Dellelo, an American prisoner who developed psychosis after a lengthy period in solitary confinement conditions similar to Manning’s. “For me this has been like watching a really good friend succumb to an illness or something,” he said. “I think that Bradley Manning is being punished this way because the US government wants him to crack ahead of his trial.”
While there has been widespread and well publicised condemnation of issues surrounding Manning’s detainment, his conditions have failed to improve. In fact, things may have got worse, not better, for the Oklahoma-born soldier who is incidentally entitled to UK citizenship through his Welsh mother….
In recent days and weeks the US government has condemned human rights abuses and repression in almost every country across the Middle East – yet at a prison within its own borders it sanctions the persecution, alleged psychological torture and debasement of a young soldier who appears to have made a principled choice in the name of progress.
“Government whistleblowers are part of a healthy democracy and must be protected from reprisal,” said Barack Obama in 2008. But the stench of his hypocrisy is no longer bearable. It is time, now more than ever, that Bradley Manning received the justice he so clearly deserves.
At Huffpo, Barton Kunstler writes:
The treatment of Bradley Manning by the United States Army has stained the honor of the American military….[T]he most powerful army in the world is subjecting him to brutal treatment that qualifies as borderline torture. One can argue the extent, if any, of his guilt, or whether the editorial board of The New York Times should be brought up on criminal charges for aiding and abetting the delivery of the material Manning leaked. But torture? Sanctioned and conducted by the U.S. Army? Sleep deprivation ‘a la North Korea’s brainwashing techniques? Stripped and forced to stand naked in a cold cell? Kept in total isolation 23 hours a day except when he must respond to guards who check on him — every 5 minutes? This is the “new army”? Who gave the go-ahead to impose this kind of treatment on a man who may not even have committed a crime? Who decided to raise the stakes in Manning’s trial and bring capital charges against him. That’s right. He is accused of aiding and abetting the enemy and for a U.S. soldier, the punishment can be death, although the army announced, in a show of benevolence, they will likely only seek life imprisonment.
Whoever it is driving this madness, they have a commanding officer. And somewhere up the line, the buck stops at the top — at least that’s the single most important, bottom-line rule of leadership. In the United States Army, the top is known as the Commander in Chief, also known as the President of the United States, Barack Obama. Which leads me to wonder:
Why is the Commander in Chief of the U.S. Armed Forces silent about the torture and judicial railroading of an American soldier by his own army, an army of which President Obama is the highest ranking officer?
The announcement comes three weeks after Barr became the target of a coordinated attack by members of the online mischief making group Anonymous, which hacked into HBGary Federal’s computer network and published tens of thousands of company e-mail messages on the Internet. HBGary did not respond to telephone and e-mail requests for comments on Barr’s resignation.
In an interview with Threatpost, Barr said that he is stepping down to allow himself and the company he ran to move on in the wake of the high profile hack.
“I need to focus on taking care of my family and rebuilding my reputation,” Barr said in a phone interview. “It’s been a challenge to do that and run a company. And, given that I’ve been the focus of much of bad press, I hope that, by leaving, HBGary and HBGary Federal can get away from some of that. I’m confident they’ll be able to weather this storm.”
Good luck with that. For a nice, lucid explanation of what happened, along with numerous informative links, please refer to Sima’s recent post, Opening the Hive.
Here’s a quick and dirty summary of what Barr did to invite the attentions of Anonymous:
Barr had found himself at the center of a scandal that began when he told the Financial Times he planned to reveal the names of some “leaders” of the hacker group Anonymous. Anonymous responded by hacking HBGary Federal’s site, stealing 71,000 emails from the company and its sister firm HBGary, and defacing Barr’s Twitter account.
But the worst was yet to come. Anonymous posted HBGary’s emails in a searchable format, and the ensuing press scrum exposed a darker side to HBGary Federal’s business that offered a variety of dirty tricks on behalf of clients. In a proposal intended for Bank of America and written on behalf of a law firm referred to the bank by the U.S. Department of Justice, Barr suggested borderline illegal tactics that aimed at responding to a potential release of the bank’s documents by WikiLeaks. Those methods included cyberattacks, misinformation, forged documents, pressuring donors and even blackmailing WikiLeaks supporter and Salon journalist Glenn Greenwald. In another deal, HBGary suggested similarly a shady response to the Chamber of Commerce in its campaign against the Chamber’s political opponents including non-profit organizations and unions.
Another corporate buffoon bites the dust. Good riddance. Of course there are probably plenty of others like him still employed by HB Gary Federal.
We’ve been following the Wikileaks saga here at Sky Dancing, and at the end of January/beginning of February, an interesting twist appeared in the story. As you might know, a ‘hacktivist’ group called Anonymous brought down commercial servers and did various other things on the ‘net in support of Wikileaks back when the story about Assange’s alleged rapes surfaced late last year. This was in response to giants like Visa and Mastercard refusing to process donations to Wikileaks. The damage Anonymous did was real, but fleeting and group sunk momentarily back into the dark regions of the ‘net.
Aaron Barr*, the CEO of a company called HBGary Federal (an offshoot of cyber security firm HBGary) had his company develop a plan to bring down Wikileaks, partly by leaning on its big name supporters such as Glenn Greenwald.
Barr’s company developed this plan after pitching another plan to the US Chamber of Commerce which was meant to provide cyber spying, data collection and other services to the Chamber. And they came up with a proposal for the US Air Force (in response to a call for submissions) to create software allowing massive astroturfing via ‘persona management software’.
Read the rest of this entry »