The administration’s plan to create a “free and open Internet” means, as usual, the opposite of what it says. As Gordon Crovitz explains in the Wall Street Journal, it is really a monumental, bare-faced power grab.
The permissionless Internet, which allows anyone to introduce a website, app or device without government review, ends this week. On Thursday the three Democrats among the five commissioners on the Federal Communications Commission will vote to regulate the Internet under rules written for monopoly utilities.No one, including the bullied FCC chairman, Tom Wheeler, thought the agency would go this far. The big politicization came when President Obama in November demanded that the supposedly independent FCC apply the agency’s most extreme regulation to the Internet. A recent page-one Wall Street Journal story headlined “Net Neutrality: How White House Thwarted FCC Chief” documented “an unusual, secretive effort inside the White House . . . acting as a parallel version of the FCC itself.”…The more than 300 pages of new regulations are secret, but Mr. Wheeler says they will subject the Internet to the key provisions of Title II of the Communications Act of 1934, under which the FCC oversaw Ma Bell.
The specifics of the grab don’t matter as much as the direction in which things must inevitably move. Regulation is an absorbing state like the Hotel California. You can try to check out any time you like, but once inside you can never really leave. Three hundred pages of regulation will become 301 … 302 … A new administration might slow down the rate of growth, but it can never reverse it.
The very success of the Internet doomed its independence. Like any rich, glittering center of wealth that springs up in the desert sands, it would inevitably be coveted by nearby chieftains. And if there’s anything this administration — and to a lesser extent any administration — hankers after it is power. So a-raiding they will go. So here is prince Barack, at the tech city gates, demanding the keys. Not that he will know what to do with it after obtaining them. But possession of the bauble is in the first instance enough.
There is the notion, often reticiently expressed but frequently glimpsed in news stories, that the key to the future World Order is information. Lawfare, the use of sanctions — in fact every application of ”smart” policy — implicitly depends on information dominance. Information is the key to the Western elite’s power. It is probably the administration’s idea that possession of tech will open the gates to this new World Order.
The “other side” — whatever you want to call them since they cannot be referred to as the ‘enemy’ know this too. They understand or guess that the world is dividing into wired and unwired spaces. Their basic strategy is to base themselves and expand in the ungoverned – and coincidentally the unwired — spaces of the world where they operate in conventional ways; with armies, trucks and outlandishly uniformed men. But in the wired West, their strategy is totally different to suit the conditions.
There Lawfare is waiting to defend the West with surveillance. Homeland Defense doesn’t really rely on screeners at airports or border crossings who are there only to impress the rubes. The real defense of the realm depends on ever increasing amounts of domestic monitoring. The cracked encryption on your SIM; the data retained on your ISP, the real-time machine monitoring of conversations, the proposed sharing of data collected by Silicon Valley these are all bricks in the wall that keep the Jihadis out. They are also bricks in the invisible prison that surrounds you. But a brick is a brick and the information sharing the president proposes will naturally enough be put under Homeland Security rather than the NSA.
The “other side” understands this and therefore employs “lone wolf” tactics against the West for two reasons. First, singletons are difficult even for the wired world to detect; and second, they encourage the metastatic growth of more wires to prevent the next attack. The joint product of political correctness, lawfare, surveillance and lone wolves is to essentially create fascism and discontent in the West. The president’s response to lone wolf problem will essentially be to watch everybody. In that way nobody is profiled. This suits the every players’ book. The El-Shabab threatens to attack the malls and Jeh Johnson gets a billion dollars more. What’s not to like?
This happy cycle can go on indefinitely until eventually the the world is divided into two distinct spaces: a West completely crisscrossed by a “free and open” Internet and Internet of Things governed by a man called Hussein and 8th century badlands governed by other men called Hussein. Welcome to the 21st century. So are we doomed? Probably. But critically not in the way you might think and perhaps more importantly, not in the way president Obama thinks.
The actual effect of government control is to institutionalize incompetence. The more Obama controls, the more he destroys. Take Obamacare. Hardly a day goes by when we don’t read that 80 million records have been stolen by Chinese hackers from Obamacare provider Anthem; or that Obamacare itself is sharing information with third party providers. Only the other day the public learned that 800,000 wrong tax forms were mailed to Obamacare policy holders because they used the wrong year in the computation; that after 3 years the backend isn’t finished.
And in other news let’s not forget that Snowden stole the crown jewels from the NSA. In fact, Glenn Greenwald was on hand to collect the Oscar given by Hollywood to the documentary depicting the theft.
The administration’s proposal has been called Obamacare for the Internet. What Obama’s Internet grab will do is activate the Law of Unintended consequences. The princes may be attracted to the glittering city in the sands but they don’t know a thing about running it. Never having governed before, they haven’t learned that the wires can strangle them also. Once they lose information — and cover it up in the habitual way — the loss can have deadly consequences. To see how this can happen, let’s take a trip back in time to 1920 and the review destruction of the Cairo Gang.
The Cairo Gang was a special British intelligence unit dispatched to Ireland to finish the IRA. ” Its members lived in boarding houses and hotels across Dublin, where they lived unobtrusively while preparing a hit list of known republicans. However, the IRA Intelligence Department (IRAID) was one step ahead of them and was receiving information from numerous well-placed sources, including Lily Merin, who was the confidential code clerk for British Army Intelligence Centre in Parkgate Street, and Sergeant Jerry Mannix, stationed in Donnybrook. Mannix provided the IRAID with a list of names and addresses for all the members of the Cairo Gang”.
This is a simple example of what it means to lose information. The IRA got inside the wires. The IRA hunters were themselves killed on “morning of 21 November 1920 by the IRA in a planned series of simultaneous early-morning strikes engineered by Michael Collins”. Now imagine if you will, some enemy power getting inside the ramshackle empire of Homeland Security and getting a list of all the people who really matter in American defense and doing a Michael Collins. Or think about a monumental takedown of a powergrid, or the compromise of a vital SCADA system.
Many of the administration’s supporters don’t understand that they are making themselves, not just others, vulnerable. Once you put the wires in the hands of Barack Obama, what could go wrong? Ambassador Stevens must have trusted the administration. Where is Stevens now?
In some ways, leaving the Internet alone has the same advantages as leaving all the P-40s at Pearl Harbor in their original revetments. Readers will recall that as a security measure against sabotage, military authorities ordered all the P-40s in Hawaii taken out of their shelters and parked in the center of the runways in order to better guard them. That was how the Japanese found them on December 7, 1941.
Will the administration give you a “freer and more open Internet” than you have now? Or more to the point, will giving it over to the feds enhance security? We are in all probability doomed by this move. The difference is we know it. The administration has not yet figured out that in incompetent hands even the finest weapon can be turned around to face its hapless wielder.
Boy, will they be surprised.