June 27, 2009
As thousands in Iran turn to the web to make their voices heard around the world, a new report finds telecoms in Europe have helped the Iranian government develop one of the worlds most sophisticated mechanisms to censor the internet. Its called deep packet inspection, and its also being used here at home. We speak with Josh Silver, executive director of Free Press.
The way deep packet inspection works is that you have sophisticated equipment that literally watches the entire internet, and it watches for every piece of data, voice, video that goes through and pulls out key words, it pulls out key—both written and spoken, and looking for things like rebel or grenade or what have you. And then it will trigger that, and that will go to the NSA version, in this case, in the country of Iran.companies like Cisco out in California, that have the ability to do this. Now, were not saying that AT&T, Verizon and Comcast are like the Iranian government, but we do see a problem where even our own president, with his progressive internet policy agenda, last year flipped on this issue and actually supported a Bush administration law that granted immunity to the largest phone and cable companies for turning over citizens private records to the government, which was illegal at the time.
[efoods]But the potential of this technology to give government this sort of Big Brother monitoring ability, which goes way beyond any of the constitutional protections that are in our original Constitution, are really a cautionary tale and should have everyone in this country on notice. It is notable that theres been very little follow-up coverage of this issue since yesterdays Wall Street Journal piece.
The warrantless wiretapping program was widely considered illegal. After abruptly switching his position in midcampaign, then-Sen. Barack Obama voted along with most in Congress to grant telecom companies like AT&T and Verizon retroactive immunity from prosecution. The New York Times recently reported that the NSA maintains a database called Pinwale, with millions of intercepted e-mail, including some from former President Bill Clinton.
U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder was recently asked by Sen. Russ Feingold if he felt that the original warrantless wiretap program was illegal:
Feingold: [I]s there any doubt in your mind that the warrantless wiretapping program was illegal?
Dissenters in Iran and Cha persist despite repression that is enabled in part by equipment from U.S. and European companies. In the U.S., the Obama administration is following a dangerous path with Bush-era spy programs that should be suspended and prosecuted, not extended and defended.