Does The US Government Really Need 'Wider Latitude' To Monitor Private Networks?
from the e-Maginote-Line dept
Harvard Law Professor, and former Bush White House lawyer, Jack Goldsmith has an opinion piece today in the NYT about cyber-security. In it, he makes a number of obvious (though admittedly often overlooked) points about the need for better education and information sharing, but then asserts that those, untried, methods will not be enough. Instead, he argues, "The government must be given wider latitude than in the past to monitor private networks and respond to the most serious computer threats." For a lawyer who saw first-hand (and even wrote a book about) the excesses of the Bush administration, this is a reckless claim. The repeatedly documented violations of civil liberties by the NSA and other government agencies (not to mention their private sector compatriots) through widespread network surveillance did not serve to protect and defend US critical infrastructure. In fact, by adding legitimacy to network monitoring, scholars like Goldsmith and respected countries like the USA make it easier for less savorable regimes to justify their digital surveillance and crackdowns. While China's "Green Dam" censorship software was justified on child-safety grounds, the next iteration of liberty limiting code could very well be to stop "cyber-terrorism" or some other amorphous, ill-defined concept.
A far more level-headed approach to cyber-security is taken by Evgeny Morozov in his recent essay in the Boston Review, which points out that "[m]uch of the data are gathered by ultra-secretive government agencies—which need to justify their own existence—and cyber-security companies—which derive commercial benefits from popular anxiety. Journalists do not help. Gloomy scenarios and speculations about cyber-Armaggedon draw attention, even if they are relatively short on facts." While Goldsmith is certainly not promoting increased government intervention out of self-interest, it is not good enough to pay lip-service to privacy and network openness. Decision-makers need to recognize that certain policies and rhetoric will inevitably have dangerous, unproductive unintended consequences.