Action: Congress wants to monitor all Emails, IMs, Etc.

Originally posted at The Seminal.

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) 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 communications, this measure would effect 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.

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.

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.

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

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

Feedback form.

A few media contacts:,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,

I have taken the time to compile this information. If what you have read here disturbs you, please take action on this or do more research on your own.

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Josh Nelson

7 CommentsLeave a comment

  • I have read through HR 837 and find little sign of the scary things you cite. Not that I’m good at legalese.

    Section 3 would amend the code so that “a content hosting provider or email service provider [who] knowingly engages in any conduct the provider knows or has reason to believe facilitates access to, or the possession of, child pornography (as defined in section 2256)” is liable for fines or imprisonment.

    The rest goes on, in essence, to require greater efforts by porn sites to keep the pink stuff hidden from casual viewing.

    I don’t have a problem with you firing a shot across the House’s bow on any BS “child-safety” legislation, but I think you’re reaching awfully far out to grasp at the premise that “Congress wants to monitor all emails, IM’s, etc.” and deducing that the enactment of this bill would require someone to sift through email and IM traffic in real-time, looking for underaged naughty bits and reporting the communicants to the Feds. The technology does not exist. Snoopware is evolving and is useful for noting patterns in electronic communication, and every multimedia file has a footprint that’s blurred only if every person who receives a file first modifies it before passing it on.

    If a bill such as this passed, and were upheld in courts of review (a prospect I find highly unlikely), I would expect the Yahoos and Hotmails and AIMs to move very quickly to push multimedia files off their servers; I would expect them to force their users to download MM files upon first opening the message or risk having it purged. Easy way to achieve butt-coverage, without trying to decode and parse MM files on the fly.

    I don’t see a fire here; I do smell smoke whenever a politician gets on the stump for “protecting our children”.

    “Damn right it’s loaded, it makes a lousy club.”

  • I maintain a portal dedicated to tracking the Police State of America, so stories like this tend to come up on my radar.

    But like “man in the middle” I too read the bill. I found a section regarding retention of records which must include “at least” name and address, which, I accept, leaves rather too much room for expansion, but I saw nothing to justify the leap you seem to have made into full keylogging (almost!)

    You need to tell us what we’re missing (and point to the evidence) or else try cutting down on the red meat for a while!

    Damn good contact list though.

  • Any bill that gives this (or any) AG any “discretion” as to just how much personal information he is entitled to, etc., is profoundly unamerican and is designed to cause chaos and distraction / misdirection until it may or may not get fully thrown out by a decent court. If we have any left in two years…

    If you want to send the pinheads who sponsored this feedback, I got the links from above, but when I tried to contact the offensive parties all but two use the service / link that requires inputting a 9 digit zip code of an address within their district to get to them. What CRAP. I found them with more effort than set well with me, and was successful. More address fields / contact info is required, but the system seems to work fine after you get there though my address was Fort Lauderdale California, Virginia etc. in their stupid ass fields. Idiots. I am guessing they really DON’T WANT TO HEAR FROM CITIZENS. All the more reason they should, eh? I am repasting with modification, for easier cutting and re-repasting, and so on:

    Rep. Lamar Smith R Texas 202-225-4236 web form (Sponsor of this monstrosity)


    Steve Chabot R Ohio (202) 225-2216 USE: CINCINNATI OH 45202-2806

    Rep. Tom Feeney R Florida (202) 225-2706 USE: OVIEDO FL 32765-4506

    Rep. J. Randy Forbes R Virginia (202) 225-6365 USE: EMPORIA VA 23847-2300

    Rep. Trent Franks R Arizona (202) 225-4576 USE: Glendale, Arizona 85312-8105

    Rep. Elton Gallegly R California (202) 225-5811 SIMI VALLEY CA 93065-3523
    Rep. Dan Lungren R California (202) 225-5716 Zipcode not needed (Use your own, out of state OK)

    Rep. Mike Pence, R Indiana (202) 225-3021 Zipcode not needed (Use your own, out of state OK)

  • Do you hope that every reader of every web site you’ve ejaculated this message across will travel to your website to learn the Truth? A great many won’t, because come-ons like yours are a dime a dozen, cousin.

    “Damn right it’s loaded, it makes a lousy club.”

  • It couldn’t be much more clear than I made it in the previous post.

    As far as everyone going to my site to see the original post goes, no, of course I don’t expect that. That wasn’t the point, although tens of thousands already have done so. Anyway, I posted this on a whopping four sites and it is now on hundreds. It has been picked up by the ACLU, Washington Post, BBC, Wired, and tons of other major outlets.

    My goal was to get the word out on this, and in that, I succeeded.

    Also, no sir, for the record, neither myself nor my site are “a dime a dozen.”

  • In fact, there is some very scary ‘beef’ to what’s behind this proposed legislation. Has anyone heard of “homeland security?” There was a time when it passed congress without sufficient public outcry and now look at what we are dealing with?? I’m not suggesting that this bill could turn into that kind of a monster, but we must remain vigilent to the current administration and, quite frankly, we must be watch dogs to the republican efforts to erode privacy and civil liberties.

    As for the “Safety Act”, it’s not that I am a supporter of porn, but come on–what’s next? Opening private mail addressed to you at your home b/c it might be suspect?? Oh yeh, Gonzales refused to answer that question when congress asked him if it has been done.

    I applaud any and all efforts at keeping our eyes wide open at whatever this administration is trying to get by us (under the guise of someone else’s values.) If a tremendous public response can make a bit of a difference, then maybe we wouldn’t be in the middle of a war right now, but that’s another issue… Thanks for the heads up on the “Safety Act.” I did contact my rep and Lamar Smith because of this article.

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