Al Gore And Tim Berners-Lee Condemn NSA Surveillance: Appalling And Unconstitutional

from the and-one-of-them-actually-invented-the-web dept

There’s the famous (incorrect) meme out there that Al Gore once took credit for inventing the internet (he didn’t), but it does appear that he has one thing very much in common with the guy who actually invented the web (which, of course, is not the internet), Tim Berners-Lee: they’re both absolutely disgusted by the NSA’s surveillance activities. Al Gore slammed the NSA in a speech in Montreal, saying that the NSA’s activities were “outrageous” and “completely unacceptable.” He even went so far as to say that Snowden “revealed evidence of what appears to be crimes against the Constitution of the United States.” Furthermore, he took on the oft-repeated claim from the NSA and its defenders that they need to collect all the haystacks by quoting a scholar on the CIA: “when you are looking for a needle in a haystack, it’s not always wise to pile more hay on the haystack.”

Meanwhile, Berners-Lee gave an interview with The Guardian, in which he similarly ripped into the NSA and the GCHQ for their efforts to weaken security standards so they could crack stuff more easily themselves:

He said the agencies’ decision to break the encryption software was “appalling” and “foolish”, as it directly contradicted the efforts of both the US and UK governments to fight cybercrime and cyberwarfare, which they have identified as a top national security priority. Berners-Lee also decried the move as a betrayal of the technology industry.

He went on to argue that the oversight of the intelligence community appeared to be “dysfunctional and unaccountable,” and praised whistleblowers like Snowden, saying that civilization has “depended on whistleblowers, and therefore you have to protect them.”

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Comments on “Al Gore And Tim Berners-Lee Condemn NSA Surveillance: Appalling And Unconstitutional”

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Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

False equivalence.

It IS closer than Palin’s claims. Gore has indeed been a tremendous help to the development of the internet during his political career.

Claim: Vice-President Al Gore claimed that he “invented” the Internet.

Status: False.

Origins: Despite the derisive references that continue even today, Al Gore did not claim he “invented” the Internet, nor did he say anything that could reasonably be interpreted that way. The “Al Gore said he ‘invented’ the Internet” put-downs were misleading, out-of-context distortions of something he said during an interview with Wolf Blitzer on CNN’s “Late Edition” program on 9 March 1999. When asked to describe what distinguished him from his challenger for the Democratic presidential nomination, Senator Bill Bradley of New Jersey, Gore replied (in part):

During my service in the United States Congress, I took the initiative in creating the Internet. I took the initiative in moving forward a whole range of initiatives that have proven to be important to our country’s economic growth and environmental protection, improvements in our educational system.

Clearly, although Gore’s phrasing might have been a bit clumsy (and perhaps self-serving), he was not claiming that he “invented” the Internet (in the sense of having designed or implemented it), but that he was responsible, in an economic and legislative sense, for fostering the development the technology that we now know as the Internet. To claim that Gore was seriously trying to take credit for the “invention” of the Internet is, frankly, just silly political posturing that arose out of a close presidential campaign. Gore never used the word “invent,” and the words “create” and “invent” have distinctly different meanings ? the former is used in the sense of “to bring about” or “to bring into existence” while the latter is generally used to signify the first instance of someone’s thinking up or implementing an idea. (To those who say the words “create” and “invent” mean exactly the same thing, we have to ask why, then, the media overwhelmingly and consistently cited Gore as having claimed he “invented” the Internet, even though he never used that word, and transcripts of what he actually said were readily available.)

If President Eisenhower had said in the mid-1960s that he, while president, “created” the Interstate Highway System, we would not have seen dozens and dozens of editorials lampooning him for claiming he “invented” the concept of highways or implying that he personally went out and dug ditches across the country to help build the roadway. Everyone would have understood that Ike meant he was a driving force behind the legislation that created the highway system, and this was the very same concept Al Gore was expressing about himself with his Internet statement.

Whether Gore’s statement that he “took the initiative in creating the Internet” is justified is a subject of debate. Any statement about the “creation” or “beginning” of the Internet is difficult to evaluate, because the Internet is not a homogenous entity (it’s a collection of computers, networks, protocols, standards, and application programs), nor did it all spring into being at once (the components that comprise the Internet were developed in various places at different times and are continuously being modified, improved, and expanded). A spirited defense of Gore’s claim by Vint Cerf (often referred to as the “father of the Internet”) notes “that as a Senator and now as Vice President, Gore has made it a point to be as well-informed as possible on technology and issues that surround it,” although many of the components of today’s Internet came into being well before Gore’s first term in Congress began in 1977.

It is true, though, that Gore was popularizing the term “information superhighway” in the early 1990s (although he did not, as is often claimed by others, coin the phrase himself) when few people outside academia or the computer/defense industries had heard of the Internet, and he sponsored the 1988 National High-Performance Computer Act (which established a national computing plan and helped link universities and libraries via a shared network) and cosponsored the Information Infrastructure and Technology Act of 1992 (which opened the Internet to commercial traffic).

In May 2005, the organizers of the Webby Awards for online achievements honored Al Gore with a lifetime achievement award for three decades of contributions to the Internet. “He is indeed due some thanks and consideration for his early contributions,” said Vint Cerf.

Source: Snopes, with a full debunking of Gore haters

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

John Fenderson is correct, and those of us who lived through that time, when it wasn’t at all certain that the various networks we’d built would ever interoperate cleanly, are grateful for what Gore did. He had the vision to see the potential in our work — scattered and disjointed as it was — and to see that it got funding. That, as much as any technical innovation, was essential.

out_of_the_blue says:

But it's not just NSA. It's corporate surveillance systems TOO.

“Former security advisor Mark Rasch, an attorney who had worked in the Department of Justice?s cyberfraud department during the Clinton administration, and was writing for Security Focus, raised a very interesting problem. If Google could search through and read your email without explicit legal authorisation, then surely the security agencies could do the same.

You kids are not going to be able to separate and protect your precious Google while condemning NSA. Logic requires to recognize that all spying is the same: its purpose is social control. And particularly since every bit of info that Google or Facebook or Apple or Microsoft gets, NSA will get too, every piece that fails to mention the co-conspirator corporations is both wrong in practice and lying by omission.

And whoever gets money by selling info obtained without any actual legal basis to do so: a supposed agreement that I can’t stop except by foregoing the net entirely is not only NO agreement at all, it’s force and fraud, then you too are in the conspiracy, and will one day regret your small part in helping the fascist state take over.

The phony deal that evil people (and gullible fools) try to force on us: You can’t have the benefits of technology unless give up all privacy.


Anonymous Coward says:

Re: But it's not just NSA. It's corporate surveillance systems TOO.

This is a better argument than that “what’s with all the barges in the harbor huh??” rant from recently.

I agree. But, although I pretty much despise Google, there is one difference which doesn’t lessen the problem but alters the contract: the fact that they’re often very willing to fully inform the idiot who uses their service that he/she has no expectation of privacy, because they will be scanning their shit.

One can and should avoid Google, but as with all monopolies, they’re hard to ignore and evade. We need a distributed, FOSS, peer-to-peer alternative for Google. A sort of “Seti@Home” but for search indexing.

Now, you seem to have some obsession with Techdirt for not sufficiently taking Google to task for their involvement in this (and I admit their “fuck you NSA” PR move was ridiculous) but from where I sit, Techdirt is doing an awesome job reporting on all of this. And I’m taking the entire media landscape into account, because I’ve been following this closely.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: But it's not just NSA. It's corporate surveillance systems TOO.

I had hoped for a response like this =)

Although I did expect there to already be something like this, I don’t think I knew this project. But.. we also need it to take off and eventually overtake Google.

I’ll try to do my part. I’ll check it out. Thanks for the link!

Gwiz (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 But it's not just NSA. It's corporate surveillance systems TOO.

Why in gods name Java. A great idea murdered…..

Yeah, I agree about the Java. I’ve had to mess around with a bunch of the default settings in YaCy to keep it from sucking to many CPU cycles and bandwidth.

I keep hoping someone forks a compatible version in some other language.

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