ICE Propaganda Film Pats Itself On The Back For Censoring The Web; Promises Much More To Come

from the walk-and-talk-john dept

Homeland Security's ICE (Immigration & Customs Enforcement) group has put out a slickly produced video patting itself on the back for all of its work censoring the web in 2011, and promising much more of that kind of thing in the future:
It stars ICE Director John Morton, reprising his usual ridiculous refrain in which he conflates actual counterfeit goods with copyright infringement. But this time, he shows off his ability to stroll quickly through a warehouse while doing a walk-and-talk. I have to admit that it feels like a parody video most of the time. He kicks it off with a claim that he's explaining how to "steal an American job." Then he claims, "here's how to save an American job: IPR enforcement!"

He's wrong. First of all, the "job loss" from counterfeits is totally and completely exaggerated. As has been shown by multiple studies, most people buying counterfeits (hell, and downloading infringing works) wouldn't have bought the real thing instead. They know they're buying a fake good. So no "job" is lost there. And, as the government's own GAO noted last year, the idea that this all leads to lost jobs simply isn't supported by the data.

Second, enforcement does not "save jobs." It does put massive burdens on legitimate sites. Something Morton should know about since he's been taking down legitimate American sites with no legal basis for quite some time.

But before we get to that, he shows off some counterfeit products. There's a handbag, some fake drugs (they always have to show the fake drugs, despite it being a tiny issue, but they have to show some sort of "danger"). And then there's a video game mod chip. He says it "allows you to hack into video games and steal the game for free. That's illegal. That's IP theft." Of course, it's debatable if mod-chips are really illegal. They have substantial non-infringing purposes other than "hacking into video games to steal them for free" (do people steal stuff not for free?). But, you know, that's ICE under John Morton: declaring it illegal for you to modify products you legally purchased, like your gaming console. Thanks, US government!

Then we get to website censorship. And boy is he proud of that. You can see him gleaming as he says that ICE has "done a phenomenal job" and "every time they make a bust, every time they make an arrest, an American job is saved."

So, I wonder, can John Morton explain whose job was saved when his staffers incorrectly seized and censored for over a year? I'm curious. Because it sure seems like he actually hurt the ability of the Americans who run that site to make money. I'm curious whose job was saved when his staff deported a missing teen to Colombia (where she was not from). Is that the kind of "phenomenal" work under John Morton we should expect more of?

He then shows off "the news coverage" that ICE has gotten for seizing websites. Notice that he leaves out the stories about the mistaken seizure of multiple websites beyond Dajaz1. Like the seizure of 84,000 legitimate sites that were replaced with a statement claiming that they were all involved in child porn. Somehow those clips just didn't make the cut. Phenomenal work "saving American jobs!"

Morton goes on to talk up how "proud of the results" he is over the seizing of websites. Once again, no mention of the ones he seized by mistake, causing tremendous harm to those who he falsely declared as criminals. What's amazing is that he's never issued an apology over those false seizures. Instead, he's "proud of the phenomenal job" his team has done? What a joke.

Finally, he highlights the PSA that ICE put on the websites they forfeited. What he leaves out, of course, is that the PSA was both created by and owned by NBC Universal -- something ICE has never publicly admitted, but which we found out via FOIA requests. It's still shocking that a government agency would be using misleading propaganda from a private company and pretending that it's an official government production. Even worse, despite numerous requests, ICE has failed to show any proof that it properly licensed the video from NBC Universal, leading us to wonder if they "pirated" it.

ICE under John Morton has become a massive joke and a disgrace to American ideals of innocent until proven guilty and important things like free speech and due process. Rather than making this joke of a video (which certainly has Hollywood-style production... I wonder how that happened...), Morton should be issuing apologies for the mistakes that were made under his watch, and tendering his resignation. Instead, he's celebrating? Sickening.

Filed Under: censorship, counterfeiting, domains, homeland security, ice, john morton, operation in our sites

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  1. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 10 Jan 2012 @ 9:32am

    As an example of the dearth of information concerning what actually transpired between counsel for Dajaz1 and the DOJ, we have the following dated 12/08/12 from TorrentFreak:

    "After initially ignoring requests from DaJaz1 lawyer Andrew P. Bridges to return the domain, the U.S. government indicated it would begin the necessary forfeiture procedure. Bridges said he would submit a forfeiture challenge, but the deadline for the government to file apparently came and went with no visible action."

    My comments are based upon the fact that "requests" is nowhere defined in either this or the wealth of other articles that discuss this matter. In a civil matter (in this case a judicial seizure, as opposed to a nonjudicial seizure) counsel for a defendant files an appearance before a court and files a motion with the court to either modify or dismiss the order. Is this what counsel did, or did he use extra-judicial means? "Requests" provides no clue since it can mean many things.

    The comment attributed to counsel that he would wait until a forfeiture action was instituted seems a bit off the mark. It is counter-intuitive to simply bypass the opportunity to force the government's hand at the earliest possible opportunity, i.e., when the seizure was made, than to enter the fray at a later date. The former provides counsel in real time important information and the opportunity to truncate further proceedings immediately. The latter provides the government leeway to delay the institution of a forfeiture action by petition to the court.

    It is on this basis that I have asked for clarification, and to be met with derisive comments instead of an attempt to try and answer a question posed in good faith does nothing to further an understanding of what was actually happening. Importantly, as an attorney I look at matters before a court in the context of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure and the provisions of federal statutes. I do not look at them in the context of a news article that provide no more than top-level, general comments that are not documented elsewhere.

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