The Waffling of Senator John… Ashcroft

Interweb thingyJoe Stump sent me this link to a paper by John Ashcroft back when he was a Missouri Senator, and the Clinton administration was trying to put their grubby hands on the Internet. It was originally found over at Kottke, entitled Ashcroft on Big Brother and the Internet. Full paper at Keep Big Brother’s Hands off the Internet:

In order to guarantee that the United States meets the challenge of this new means of commerce, communication, and education, government must be careful not to interfere. We should not harness the Internet with a confusing array of intrusive regulations and controls. Yet, the Clinton administration is trying to do just that.

The Clinton administration would like the Federal government to have the capability to read any international or domestic computer communications. The FBI wants access to decode, digest, and discuss financial transactions, personal e-mail, and proprietary information sent abroad — all in the name of national security. To accomplish this, President Clinton would like government agencies to have the keys for decoding all exported U.S. software and Internet communications.

This proposed policy raises obvious concerns about Americans’ privacy, in addition to tampering with the competitive advantage that our U.S. software companies currently enjoy in the field of encryption technology. Not only would Big Brother be looming over the shoulders of international cyber-surfers, but the administration threatens to render our state-of-the-art computer software engineers obsolete and unemployed.

There is a concern that the Internet could be used to commit crimes and that advanced encryption could disguise such activity. However, we do not provide the government with phone jacks outside our homes for unlimited wiretaps. Why, then, should we grant government the Orwellian capability to listen at will and in real time to our communications across the Web? [emphasis added]

Either Senator John Ashcroft was replaced by a religious clone when he was appointed Attorney General by the Bush administration. Or he’s just a hypocrite. I’ll let you decide.

Ashcroft on Big Brother and the Internet [Kottke]
Keep Big Brother’s Hands off the Internet [USIA Electronic Journal]

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