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Action: Congress wants to monitor all emails, IMs, etc.

The Seminal | February 13, 2007

A bill introduced last week by Representative Lamar Smith (R-TX) is beginning to raise eyebrows.

[It] would require ISPs to record all users' surfing activity, IM conversations and email traffic indefinitely . The bill, dubbed the Safety Act by sponsor Lamar Smith, a republican congressman from Texas, would impose fines and a prison term of one year on ISPs which failed to keep full records. (emphasis mine)

This is a terrifying development and it must be stopped before it gains any significant momentum. Background, Action items and contact information below the fold.

Under the guise of reducing child pornography, the SAFETY (Stopping Adults Facilitating the Exploitation of Today's Youth) Act is currently the gravest threat to digital privacy rights on the Internet. Given the increasing tendency of people, especially young people, to use the Internet as a primary means of communication, this measure would affect nearly all Americans in ways we are only beginning to understand. Also, given the fact that the Act requires all Internet Service Providers to record the web surfing activity of all Internet users, this amounts to the warrantless wiretapping of the entire Internet.

Amazingly, although the bill was introduced and referred to the House Judiciary Committee on Tuesday Feb. 6, it has been virtually ignored by both the corporate media and major blogs alike. By combining such draconian legislation with several child pornography measures, Smith is trying to pull a fast one on the Judiciary Committee and on the democratically controlled Congress as a whole. I say we don't let this happen. So, first, a little background information. Then below, I've outlined a few actions you can take if you'd like to spread the word on this.

Background :
The original SAFETY Act, introduced in June of 2006 by Senator Jon Kyl (R-AZ), was shot down due to free speech concerns over aspects of the bill other than the ones I've focused on here. At the time, the Center for Democracy and Technology wrote that the bill “would undermine First Amendment free speech protections and do nothing to protect children on the Internet.”

So what was Lamar Smith's response, you ask? He added the misguided measures discussed above in an attempt to fulfill the demands of the FBI. In an October 2006 conference of police chiefs, FBI Director Robert Mueller made the following statement :

Terrorists coordinate their plans cloaked in the anonymity of the Internet, as do violent sexual predators prowling chat rooms. All too often, we find that before we can catch these offenders, Internet service providers have unwittingly deleted the very records that would help us identify these offenders and protect future victims.

Mueller was signaling to Congress that he would like to see measures put in place that would require ISPs to store records of all Internet usage so he could access it when he felt it was neccessary. But, as has been pointed out :

The thing about retention laws is that they require all data to be maintained, not simply the data from child pornographers and terrorists. This means that such laws are usually favored by other, unrelated groups who would like access to such log files. Groups like the music labels. In Europe, where retention rules are already in place, the entertainment industry has already stated its belief that the data should be available for use in the investigation of any crime, even copyright infringement.

Action:
There are two ways to make members of Congress listen to your concerns.

1. Inundate them with phone calls and emails.
2. Get negative media coverage of what they are trying to accomplish.

Please contact any or all of the people and organizations listed below. Let them know that the SAFETY ACT, as it is written, is not acceptable.

Sponsor:
Rep. Lamar Smith, web form , 202-225-4236

Cosponsors:
Rep. Steve Chabot, (202) 225-2216
Rep. Tom Feeney, (202) 225-2706
Rep. J. Randy Forbes, (202) 225-6365
Rep. Trent Franks, (202) 225-4576
Rep. Elton Gallegly, (202) 225-5811
Rep. Dan Lungren, (202) 225-5716
Rep. Mike Pence, (202) 225-3021

House Judiciary Committee Chair:
Rep. John Conyers, (202) 225-5126

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