The Justice Department is asking Internet companies to keep records on the Web-surfing activities of their customers to aid law enforcement, and may propose legislation to force them to do so.
The director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Robert S. Mueller III, and Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales held a meeting in Washington last Friday where they offered a general proposal on record-keeping to a group of senior executives ... from America Online, Microsoft, Google, Verizon and Comcast.
Apparently, Gonzales kicked off this confab by showing a bunch of child porn to the assembled Internet execs! Only in Bush's America! [There's more over the flip...C'mon!]
An executive of one Internet provider that was represented at the first meeting said Mr. Gonzales began the discussion by showing slides of child pornography from the Internet. But later, one participant asked Mr. Mueller why he was interested in the Internet records. The executive said Mr. Mueller's reply was, "We want this for terrorism."
Hmmm...a shifting rationale for spying on Americans, whom the Justice Dept. seemingly thinks of as a collection of pedophile terrorists. Maybe that's why they don't count our votes in national elections, at least not the ones cast for Democrats.
Anyway, what records do Gonzales and Mueller want to keep on Americans?
While initial proposals were vague, executives from companies that attended the meeting said they gathered that the department was interested in records that would allow them to identify which individuals visited certain Web sites and possibly conducted searches using certain terms.
It also wants the Internet companies to retain records about whom their users exchange e-mail with, but not the contents of e-mail messages, the executives said. The executives spoke on the condition that they not be identified because they did not want to offend the Justice Department.
Get that? They want a record of your surfing history (don't bother clearing it on your browser), terms you've searched on search engines and your e-mails. I wonder if Microsoft has a way of recording what you write in MS Word docs, or on Excel spreadsheets, because I'm sure that stuff must not fall under the Fourth Amendment protections against unwarranted searches.
One civil libertarian attended the meeting, incredible as it may sound. His take on this sh*t?
They also talked of their value in investigating other crimes like intellectual property theft and fraud, said Marc Rotenberg, executive director of the Electronic Privacy Information Center in Washington, who attended the session.
"It was clear that they would go beyond kiddie porn and terrorism and use it for general law enforcement," Mr. Rotenberg said.
"This is a sharp departure from current practice," he said. "Data retention is an open-ended obligation to retain all information on all customers for all purposes, and from a traditional Fourth Amendment perspective, that really turns things upside down."
Friends, Rotenberg's group EPIC has a web page full of good tools for maintaining your electronic privacy. If you haven't considered the need for surfing with a cloak or some privacy protection (ditto for e-mails) this diary should be your wake up call.
Here's the EPIC page of privacy tools.
To bad we need to worry about this stuff. The U.S. Constitution is dead! Long live the Constitution!