IT IS A FORUM TOWARDS PROTECTING THE CIVIL , HUMAN RIGHTS OF THE OPPRESSED - DALITS , MINORITIES & TRIBALS.The Criminal - Police - Politician - Judge - Criminals Nexus is trying to silence me in many ways. If anything untoward happens to me or to my dependents CHIEF JUSTICE OF INDIA together with jurisdictional police & District Magistrate will be responsible for it.
Sunday, November 29, 2009
INTERNET FREEDOM IN INDIA
S.O.S- e - ClarionOf Dalit - WeeklyNewspaperOn Web
The controversial Mr. A. Raja does not just preside over telecom, which the country’s biggest industrialists are interested in. He also presides over the lawmaking which governs the use of the Internet in India. Surely that is something which deserves at least as much media vigilance as the awarding of telecom licences to companies?
Last year, a few weeks after the Mumbai attacks in November, a Bill which had been sitting around in a Standing Committee since 2006 was hastily passed, without much debate in parliament. The Information Technology (Amendment) Act, 2008 seeks to give teeth to existing laws on information technology and cyberspace. Last month, shortly before Mr. Raja began his second stint, the Department of IT posted on the Internet the results of its labours in drafting rules for this Act. Since the devil is in the details, the import of the Act resides in the rules. These are still at the draft stage, you are invited to send your comments to the Government of India, which does this feedback exercise to show how democratic it is. http://www.mit.gov.in/default.aspx?id=969
Here, then, is an idiot’s guide to what Mr. Raja and his men are proposing to do, in the name of national security, safe Internet use, and suchlike.
a) Intercept email, under Section 69 of the Act
Who can give orders for such interception? Technically, only the Union Home Secretary or the Home Secretary at the state level, but in unavoidable circumstances also a Joint Secretary. In further unavoidable circumstances — in an emergency (not defined) in a remote area (not defined) — a security officer of the rank of an Inspector Feneral of Police can order the interception. They have to get it okayed in a week’s time by a Home Secretary or Joint Secretary or cease intercepting.
What about laws protecting privacy? This provision circumvents those in the name of security.
b) Block websites and web content, under Section 69A
A designated officer of Joint Secretary-level is empowered to handle requests for blocking from departments or individuals. He submits the request to an inter-ministerial committee of Joint Secretaries, including one from the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting. In an emergency, scrutiny by just the designated officer will do, and the final permission has to come from the Secretary, Department of Information Technology. What can be the basis for a request to block? The Sovereignty or Integrity of India, the Defence of India, the Security of the State, Friendly Relations with Foreign States, Public order, and, for “preventing incitement to the commission of any cognisable offence relating to above.” Apart from the fact that all of the above are open to interpretation, do note the “preventing incitement” bit. In case somebody thinks you might provoke someone to do something, they can block your website.
What about a right to be heard before the blocking? There is none. The job of Secretary, Department of Information Technology, suddenly becomes a pivotal one in the matter of freedom of expression. He has the final say in any blocking.
Review of the decision? A committee headed by the Cabinet Secretary, GOI, needs to meet at least once in two months for that. As a CERT-IN official said at a recent meeting when questioned about the inordinately long time taken for a review, “Bahut cases hote, saab. Cabinet Secretary khali nahin baithe hota.” His point was that overall there is a four-level scrutiny, and that so far blocking of web pages or sites has been very rare indeed, three to four cases in the last five years.
c) Monitor and collect traffic data relating to a website, in the name of ensuring cyber security, and foiling cyber security incidents. Under Section 69B.
d) Set up an Indian Computer Emergency Response Team (CERT-IN), whose constituency “shall be the Indian cyber community”, under Section 70B (1).
If you plough through all the citizen-friendly sounding stuff that this team is supposed to do, you will hit upon this clause: “For carrying out its functions prescribed in section 70 (B) of the Act, CERT-IN may seek information and give directions for compliance to the service providers, intermediaries, data centres, body corporate and any other person, as may be necessary.” This innocuous body can order your service provider to cough up any data it wants. And what level of officer can do this? Any officer of CERT-IN, not below the rank of Deputy Secretary to the Government of India. Again, the defence is that this clause only relates to cyber security. The rules empowering CERT-IN are drafted by the organisation itself. Talk of giving yourself powers because you are making the rules!
e) Define the liability of Network Service Providers, under Section 79.
This is a section for which the rules have not yet been posted, because there is hectic lobbying going on by industry. It seeks to protect the companies that operate in India as Network Service Providers from being liable for any third party information, data, or communication link made available or hosted by them. They are not liable so long as they “do not initiate the transmission, select the receiver of the transmission, and select or modify the information contained in the transmission, and so long as they observe due diligence while discharging their duties under this Act.” But once they come to know of data posted on their servers which could be interpreted as violating the “integrity of India, defence of India, friendly relations with foreign States” bits and do not remove it, they become liable.
Who will be defined as a network service provider? What will be defined as due diligence? What will be the definition of an intermediary? Industry is lobbying with CERT-IN on these issues. Sachin Pilot is the minister in charge.
But is civil society mounting enough of a fight to protect privacy, and prevent web content blocking without a prior right to be heard? Is it doing enough to oppose the extraordinary powers Mr Raja’s ministry is arming itself with? You know the answer to that one.
AN APPEAL TO Chairman , Yahoo Inc , CaliforniaUSA
Dear Madam / Sir,
I am writing to you to express my deep concern over recent allegations that your company has assisted authorities in China in events which led to the imprisonment of Shi Tao, a Chinese journalist. On April 27, 2005, Shi Tao received a ten-year prison term for sending information about a Communist Party decision through his Yahoo email account to a website based in the United States. Amnesty International considers him a Prisoner of Conscience, as he was imprisoned for peacefully exercising his right to freedom of expression and opinion.
I am alarmed that in the pursuit of new and lucrative markets, your company is contributing to human rights violations. Yahoo should urgently give consideration to the human rights implications of its business operations. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights calls upon every organ of society, which includes companies, to respect human rights.
Yahoo's conduct in Shi Tao's case has exposed your company to the risk of being complicit in human rights violations.
You have publicly described your commitment to develop a global code of conduct for operating in repressive countries around the world, including China. But since that time you have signed yet another pledge to voluntarily censor in China and you reportedly misled Congress about how much you knew about Shi Tao. Yahoo must take concrete steps to ensure that the company ends its collusion with repressive regimes like the Chinese Government to restrict access to information, and never again assists in the imprisonment of a peaceful internet dissident.
I therefore call upon Yahoo to:
* Use its influence to secure Shi Tao's release. * Exhaust all judicial remedies and appeals in China and internationally before complying with State directives where these have human rights implications. * Develop an explicit human rights policy, that states the company support for the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and complies with the principles articulated in the UN Norms for Business, and ensure that all parent companies, subsidiaries and partners do the same. In this light, make clear to the Chinese authorities, as well as to the global community, that Yahoo is not willing to assist governments in implementing their systems of internet censorship, nor providing information directed at restricting freedom of expression.
Thank you for your consideration of these concerns.
Your's sincerely, Nagaraj.M.R.
AN APPEAL TO CHAIRMAN Microsoft Corporation , Redmond , USA
I am alarmed that in the pursuit of new and lucrative markets, your company is contributing to human rights violations, in particular abuses to freedom of expression and information. This issue is especially evident in China, where websites and web pages dealing with human rights, including many of those of Amnesty International and other human rights organizations, are inaccessible to internet users.
I was extremely disturbed by reports that Microsoft cooperated with Chinese authorities to shut down the blog of Zhao Jing, a Beijing-based researcher for the New York Times. I am also concerned that MSN China filters the results of searches for politically sensitive terms and that MSN Spaces prevents users from using certain terms in their blogs.
Although I acknowledge the new policy recently adopted by Microsoft purportedly to address some of these issues, I remain deeply distressed by your company's evident willingness to support censorship.
The fact that the company acts in compliance with restrictive domestic law does not exempt it from its international human rights responsibilities if complying with such requests contributes to human rights violations.
Internet companies have an invaluable role to play in the realization of freedom of expression and information – it shocks me that Microsoft would compromise this goal in pursuit of profit. Therefore I urge Microsoft to:
* Make publicly available all agreements between the company and the Chinese government with implications for censorship of information.
* Put pressure on the Chinese government to remove blockages of terms included in MSN spaces and ensure the Chinese public have uninhibited access to the full range of information available on the Web in line with international standards on freedom of information and freedom of expression.
* Develop an explicit human rights policy that states the company's support for the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and complies with the principles articulated in the UN Norms for Business. In this light, make clear to the Chinese authorities, as well as to the global community, that Microsoft is not willing to assist governments in implementing their systems of internet censorship, nor providing information directed at restricting freedom of expression.
Thank you for your consideration of these demands.
Your's sincerely, Nagaraj.M.R.
AN APPEAL TO CHAIRMANGoogleIncMountain View USA
Dear sir ,
I am alarmed that in the pursuit of new and lucrative markets, your company is contributing to abuses of freedom of expression and information. This issue is especially evident in China, where Google has agreed to restrict search results for topics including "human rights", "political reform", "Tiananmen Square" and "Falun Gong", thus denying users of google.cn the ability to access the full range of information available internationally on human rights topics.
Though I acknowledge the policies recently adopted by Google to address some of these issues, including efforts to inform users that a search has been censored, I am still disturbed that the company continues to restrict search results in its local search engine. I urge Google to take further steps in this matter, including making public a full list of censored words and phrases. The fact that the company acts in compliance with restrictive domestic law does not exempt it from its international human rights responsibilities if complying with such requests contributes to human rights violations.
Internet companies have an invaluable role to play in the realization of freedom of expression and information - it shocks me that Google would compromise this goal in pursuit of profit. Therefore I urge Google to:
* Be transparent about the filtering process used by the company in China and around the world, and make public what words and phrases are filtered and how these words are selected.
* Put pressure on the Chinese government to remove blockages, stop the filtering of key words on the Chinese internet, including words such as democracy, human rights, freedom, and Falun Gong, and ensure the Chinese public have uninhibited access to the full range of information available on the web in line with international standards on freedom of expression and freedom of information.
* Develop an explicit human rights policy that states the company's support for the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and complies with the principles articulated in the UN Norms for Business. In this light, make clear to the Chinese authorities, as well as to the global community, that Google is not willing to assist governments in implementing their systems of internet censorship, nor providing information directed at restricting freedom of expression.
Thank you for your consideration of these demands.
Your's sincerely, Nagaraj.M.R.
INTERNET FREEDOM IN INDIA
- Freedom Net
New media took hold in India during the mid-1990s, with mobile-phone services and commercial internet connections first made publicly available in 1994 and 1995, respectively.1These services expanded rapidly in the late 1990s, with an increasing number of mobile service providers entering the Indian market, as well as with the opening up of the internet-service provider (ISP) sector in 1998 through the Central Government’s New Internet Policy.2Most major public encounters with state-driven attempts to monitor and regulate access to these technologies began during the first half of the current decade. Internet freedom in India faces threats, however, particularly due to increasing state regulation in response to the authorities’ rising abilities to control the internet, as well as regulation by different private interests and local political groups.
Obstacles to Access
Infrastructure limitations and cost considerations restrict access to the internet and other information and communication technologies (ICTs) in India. Though regarded by some as the country with the fourth-highest number of internet users globally, the degree of internet penetration in India is low. Although the actual figures are disputable given that different sources have presented different findings,3the cited figure of 82 million internet users in India pales in comparison to the total population, representing a maximum penetration rate of approximately 6.9 percent of the population.4Within this, there is a pronounced urban-rural digital divide, with the approximate rural user base only 5.5 million. Thus, on average, there are at least ten times more urban internet users than rural internet users in India.5While approximately 37 percent of India’s internet users access the internet via cybercafes, the number accessing the internet from home computers has increased.6Low literacy rates are also a major obstacle in permitting many Indian citizens to use the internet, especially in rural areas.7Though growing, the availability of internet content in India’s eight most widely-spoken languages is poor, with the current number of local language websites as low as 1,500.8
The overall mobile phone penetration figures are much better, with around 31 percent of the population using mobile phones, and the total national mobile subscriber base estimated at 347 million.9Despite the global economic crisis and the high level of poverty in India, the mobile phone market continues to increase at an astonishing rate; statistics indicate that in September 2008, India’s mobile market grew at the rate of four new phone subscribers every second.10While Indians use SMS messaging as a feature of their mobile phones, the number of messages is generally lower than in surrounding countries due to higher taxes on SMS messages. Since the deregulation of the telecom and ISP sectors in the late 1990s, users in India have had a choice between a number of different public and private providers. Bharat Sanchar Nigam Limited (BSNL; a state-owned public enterprise) and Videsh Sanchar Nigam Limited (VSNL; formerly state-owned and now privately-owned) are the two service providers with the most dominant market share, followed by wholly private service providers such as Sify Limited, Bharti Infotel, and Reliance Communications, among others.11
By and large, there has been no sustained government policy or strategy to block access to most categories of internet technologies or digital applications. Attempts to filter content have originated at the level of executive action by state governments, as well as by private individuals through court cases. Such attempts have focused on ordering ISPs to block access to social networking websites such as Orkut due to concerns about content,12as well as to block access to Google Earth due to national security concerns.13In November 2008, Indian authorities reportedly asked citizen journalists to stop updating their Twitter accounts with information on the Mumbai terrorist attacks, arguing that the posts were creating a security threat.14There is currently no sustained blocking of entire online media services or blogging platforms; the widespread blocking of Geocities in 2003 and blogging platforms in 2006 were the result of over-blocking by ISPs in the process of carrying out the government-mandated filtering of specific sub-domains, causing the collateral blocking of entire websites.15In May 2008, the central government threatened to ban Research-in-Motion’s Blackberry service from continuing to operate in India due to the firm’s refusal to facilitate the interception and decryption by Indian government agencies of information communicated across its network.16
The Telecom Regulatory Authority (TRAI) of India is the main regulatory body with respect to telecommunications matters; however, the scope of its regulatory power over internet matters in India is somewhat unclear given that the Ministry of Telecommunications and Information Technology, along with the Ministry of Home Affairs, also exercise control over several aspects of internet regulation. TRAI functions as an independent regulator with public consultations and other participatory decision making processes, while the Ministry of Telecommunications and Information Technology and the Ministry of Home Affairs function as government departments tied to the ministerial structure of the central government.
Limits on Content
Prior to 1999–2000, the then state-owned company VSNL had a monopoly in the ISP sector and sporadically filtered internet content. The two main publicly-known instances during this time pertained to blocking access to the website of TheDawn, a Pakistani newspaper, for the duration of the Kargil conflict.17Since 2003, the institutional structure of internet censorship and filtering in India has centred around the Indian Computer Emergency Response Team (CERT-IN), a body within the Department of Information and Technology. This body was created by a 2003 executive notification to be a nodal agency for accepting and reviewing requests from a designated pool of government officials to block access to websites. When CERT-IN decides to block a website, it directs the Department of Telecommunications to order all Indian ISPs licensed by it to comply with this order.18Among the noteworthy instances of such blocking was the Yahoo! group Kynhun (linked to the Hynniewtrep National Liberation Council) in 2003, and 17 various websites and blogs in 2006.
Police agencies in different states have also played a role in attempting to mandate internet censorship and surveillance, most notably in the state of Maharashtra.19Instances in which websites and blogs were blocked due to national security, secessionist, and hate speech threats took place in 2003 and 2006, but were disjointed in their technical operation and were more event-specific in nature.20There has been no sustained state-mandated process of internet censorship or blocking, though some reports indicate that more sophisticated filtering mechanisms are being installed at the level of ISP gateways at the instruction of the central government.21
The Indian blogosphere is quite active, complimenting the rise in internet use by different interest groups as well as by civil society actors. The actual number of bloggers, though, still appears to be quite low, and the blogosphere is potentially fragmented given the large number of blogging platforms available.22Online communication and social networking services are increasingly being used as means to organize politically, as evidenced by prominent instances such as the meetings and rallies organized to protest the November 2008 terrorist attacks in Mumbai, the outcry against the blocking of blogging platforms in 2006, and social mobilization movements such as Blanknoise, among others.23Bloggers utilized the internet to voice concern and frustration over the inadequacy of government security capabilities after terrorist attacks throughout 2008, questioning that bombings were becoming a regular occurrence in India and predicting which city would fall victim next.24There was also extensive debate on the blogosphere over attacks on Christians by groups of radical Hindu nationalist rioters in various Indian states.25
Violations of Users’ Rights
Article 19(1)(a) of the Constitution explicitly protects the right to freedom of speech and expression, subject to reasonable restrictions that the state can impose. However, its application vis-à-vis internet content has not yet been directly clarified by a judicial ruling, though positive remarks regarding its applicability have been made in passing in cases decided by the Bombay High Court and the Supreme Court of India.26Article 19(1)(a) has also been held to apply—along with the right to life and liberty under Article 21—to the privacy of telephone communication, with guidelines established regulating the ability of state officials to intercept communication under the broad power granted to them by the Telegraph Act.27
The legal landscape for internet communication is laid out by statutes such as the Telegraph Act, the Indian Penal Code, the Code of Criminal Procedure, and the specialized provisions of the Information Technology Act (ITA). The ITA, enacted in 2000, was extensively amended by Parliament in December 2008 in three significant ways. First, it penalizes those who refuse orders from authorized state agencies to intercept or decrypt information. Most notably granting legislative sanction to the central government’s power to order that a website be blocked. It may be argued that the grounds listed in the amended law for the exercise of this power do not conform with the constitutionally permissible restrictions on the right to free speech listed by Article 19(2).28Secondly, these amendments have considerably broadened the scope of activity criminalized by the statute, in particular: sending messages deemed offensive, dishonestly receiving stolen computer resources or communication devices, identity theft, impersonation, violation of bodily privacy, cyberterrorism, the publication or transmission of sexually explicit material, and child pornography.29Finally, the amendment strengthens the immunity of network intermediaries (a category that can be roughly held to cover both ISPs and online service providers) from prosecution for offences under the statute, although to a lesser extent than the wide safe harbour rule that was originally intended to be introduced.30This immunity to network intermediaries was created in response to the high profile prosecution of the CEO of Bazee.com (now eBay India) by the Delhi Police for a controversial sexually explicit video clip uploaded via the service. On appeal, the Delhi High Court upheld its ruling (released before the ITA Amendment Bill was passed) that a case could in fact be made for intermediary liability for obscene content under the statute.31The substantive trial in the case is yet to be completed, however. The amended position in the ITA vis-à-vis the exemption of intermediaries from liability removes the burden of proof from intermediaries.32It is important to note that this amendment necessitates not only that service providers act when informed about their involvement in unlawful acts by state agencies, but that they must also observe guidelines that the central government might prescribe as to the due diligence they have to discharge.33These guidelines have not yet been publicly framed or notified. Overall, there seem to be few regular prosecutions under this statute, with 2006–2007 figures showing 99 cases registered with police units regarding the transmission of obscene content, and two cases regarding the failure of parties to comply with decryption as per the pre-amendment statute.34
The regulations found in the ITA may oblige companies to give up the names of individual users to demonstrate their own innocence and a company is presumed responsible for the content posted on the websites it hosts unless it can prove that it was not aware of the content posted by an individual user.35As a result, internet bloggers have individually experienced prosecution by Indian authorities for online postings. In May 2008, two men were arrested and charged under both the Indian Penal Code and the Information Technology Act for posting derogatory comments about Congress chief Sonia Gandhi on a community on the social networking site Orkut. While the text was posted on a community entitled “I hate Sonia Gandhi”, the person who formed the community did not face charges as voicing a personal dislike is protected in India under freedom of choice.36Google, owners of Orkut, accommodated the authorities’ request for the poster’s identity.37Authorities have subsequently ordered Google to disclose additional bloggers’ personal information for other court cases in India, including defamation suits.38
The exact shape and extent of surveillance of both internet communication and mobile-phone networks in India is currently unclear. Wire intercepts of telephone conversations are allowed under the guidelines prescribed by the Supreme Court,39and their admissibility as evidence in a court of law is not constrained by the legality of the process in which such evidence was procured.40The extent and level of sophistication of state surveillance of internet communication in India is unknown, though anecdotal accounts indicate that the government’s Intelligence Bureau began using a keyword-based interception system in addition to targeted-IP address interception as far back as 2001.41There is no requirement for prior judicial approval before intercepting communication either under the Telegraph Act or the ITA, and the post-amendment ITA grants both central and state governments the power to issue directions for the interception, monitoring, or decryption of computer information, while leaving the prescription of procedure and safeguards for the exercise of such powers to the government itself.42It also grants the central government the power to mandate the preservation and retention by intermediaries of such information, and makes the contravention of such orders an offence.43The monitoring and collection of traffic data by a government agency for the purposes of enhancing cybersecurity and network protection is also a power vested in the central government to exercise according to the amended statute.44
Cybercafes are regulated across most Indian states; the exact extent and manner of regulation varies according to the policies of the different state police forces concerned, but largely focus on the elimination of anonymous access by mandating the recording of certain basic user details in registers as a minimum requirement.45Some cybercafes may request a passport photo for their records or demand specific reasons for visiting cybercafes outside their localities.46With respect to mobile phones, the Department of Telecommunications has instructed operators to only issue and activate mobile SIM cards after users register their personal details with these companies; the rationale being that this helps ensure national security by preventing terrorists from easily securing anonymous access to SIM cards.47This system has been in place for some time, but became the subject of increased emphasis and oversight after the November 2008 Mumbai attacks, with the central government not only castigating mobile operators on their implementation of the verification process, but also reportedly asking them to disconnect all handsets that do not have international mobile equipment identity (IMEI) numbers.48
There have been past incidents involving service attacks and the hacking of websites by nonstate actors during incidents of cross-border tension with Pakistan and China,49particularly between 1998 and 2002, and during 2008.50Thus far, however, online journalists and bloggers have not been victims of physical attacks.
ACTA: Death Of Internet As We Know It
By Stephen Lendman 16 November, 2009 Countercurrents.org
During his 2008 campaign, Barack Obama promised to "Support the principle of network neutrality to preserve the benefits of open competition on the Internet."
Perhaps not given a worse record than his fiercest critics feared, worse than George Bush, across the board on both domestic and foreign policies, including:
-- failing to deliver promised change;
-- being the standard bearer for the corrupted political/business elite;
-- governing like a crime boss in league with Wall Street;
-- disdaining democratic rights, freedoms, and the rule of law;
-- betraying working Americans;
-- proposing social services cuts instead of increasing them when they're most needed;
-- denying budget-strapped states vitally needed aid;
-- ignoring growing poverty, hunger, homelessness and despair;
-- expanding militarism, imperial wars, and state-sponsored terrorism;
-- violating human rights and civil liberties; and
-- providing open-ended banker bailouts, an array of pro-business measures, and the greatest ever amounts of military spending at a time America has no enemies.
Will Net Neutrality fare better? As the last frontier of press freedom, it gives consumers access to any equipment, content, application and service, free from corporate control. Public interest groups want it preserved. Giant telecom and cable companies want control to:
-- establish toll roads, or premium lanes;
-- charge extra for speed and free and easy access;
-- control content to stifle dissent and independent thought;
-- co-opt this essential public space for profit; and
-- subvert digital and political democracy.
Founded in 2002, "Free Press is a national, nonpartisan, nonprofit organization working to reform the media (by) promot(ing) diverse and independent media ownership, strong public media, quality journalism, and universal access to communication."
It says Net Neutrality "means no discrimination (by) prevent(ing) Internet providers from blocking, speeding up or slowing down Web content based on its source, ownership or destination."
Giant providers want it privatized to "discriminate in favor of their own search engines (while) slowing down or blocking services by their competitors. (They're) spending hundreds of millions of dollars lobbying Congress" and the FCC to defeat Net Neutrality and jeopardize the Internet's future.
Its loss will stifle innovation, limit competition, and control, restrict or prevent free access to information. "Consumer choice and the free market would be sacrificed to the interests of a few corporations."
The Internet will resemble cable TV with providers deciding "which channels, content and applications are available," and at what price.
At stake is whether digital democracy or corporate control will prevail. For media scholar Bob McChesney, it's "a defining issue (at a) critical juncture (window of opportunity) to create a communication system that will be a powerful impetus (for) a more egalitarian, humane, sustainable, and creative (self-governing) society."
Media reform activists agree that a corporate-free and open Internet must be defended at all costs. The stakes are that high. This battle must be won, but no law mandates it, and under George Bush and the Republican-controlled Congress, several proposed ones were quashed.
HR 3458: The Internet Freedom Preservation Act of 2009
Introduced on July 31, 2009, it's "To amend the Communications Act of 1934 to establish a national broadband policy, safeguard consumer rights, spur investment and innovation, and for related purposes." It was referred to the House Committee on Energy and Commerce for consideration.
On October 22, 2009, Senator John McCain (with no cosponsors) introduced S. 1836: A bill to prohibit the Federal Communications Commission from further regulating the Internet." In other words, to prohibit Net Neutrality, an idea McCain calls a "government takeover." It was referred to the Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation for consideration.
The Center for Responsive Politics and Sunshine Foundation found that from January 2007 - June 2009, McCain was the largest recipient of telecom and industry lobbyist contributions, getting $894,379, including amounts for his presidential campaign. During the same period, 244 members of Congress got $9.4 million, second only to what the pharmaceutical and health products industry gave, according to the Center for Public Integrity.
On October 23, 2009, a Federation of American Consumers and Travelers news release announced that:
"An aide to Sen. Byron L. Dorgan said the North Dakota Democrat will reintroduce his "Preserving Internet Freedom" bill, which he last sponsored in 2007." The bill "is intended to support and help codify new net neutrality principles announced Sept. 21 by" the FCC.
FCC to Establish New Net Neutrality Rules
On September 21, an FCC press release headlined:
"FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski Outlines Actions to Preserve the Free and Open Internet....in a speech today at The Brookings Institution."
He called the Internet "an extraordinary platform for innovation, job creation, investment, and opportunity (that has) unleashed the potential entrepreneurs and enabled the launch and growth of small businesses across America. It is vital that we safeguard the free and open Internet." The way forward will be debated pitting consumers against powerful industry groups wanting full control and the profit potential it holds. In the end, new rules will be crafted, hopefully to fulfill Obama's promise, but so far with no assurance.
Previously, the FCC embraced four open Internet principles giving consumers access to:
-- lawful Internet content;
-- applications and services of their choice;
-- legal devices not harmful to the network; and
-- whatever network, application, service, and content providers they wish.
Two new ones are now proposed:
-- preventing providers from discriminating against content or applications, "while allowing for reasonable network management;" and
-- ensuring providers are transparent about their management practices.
On October 22, Genachowski affirmed the six principles (applying to all Internet accessing platforms) in announcing a "Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM)," stating:
"With today's Notice, we seek public input on draft rules to preserve an open Internet - the next step in an ongoing and longstanding effort at the Commission....In examining the issue, the Commission has provided abundant opportunities for public participation, including through public hearings and requests for written comment, which have generated over 100,000 pages of input in approximately 40,000 filings from interested companies, organizations, and individuals."
"Throughout this extensive process, one point has attracted nearly unanimous support: The Internet's openness, and the transparency of its protocols, have been critical to its success....Because of the historically open architecture of the Internet, it has been equally accessible to anyone with a basic knowledge of its protocols," including for commerce, speech and "an immense variety of content, applications, and services that have improved the lives of Americans....The Commission has a statutory responsibility to preserve and promote advanced communications that are accessible to all Americans and that serve national purposes."
Up to now, the "Internet Policy Statement" helped preserve Internet openness, but it's time "to build on past efforts and to provide greater clarity regarding the Commission's approach to these issues through a notice-and-comment rulemaking....to help address emerging challenges to the open Internet." Comments are sought on:
-- the six principles in draft language;
-- the need for "reasonable network management;"
-- "managed" or "specialized" services;
-- how and to what extent they should apply to "non-wireline forms of Internet access, including, but not limited to, terrestrial mobile wireless, unlicensed wireless, licensed fixed wireless, and satellite;" and
-- enforcement procedures to ensure compliance.
A new FCC web site, openinternet.gov, was launched to encourage public input, with no assurance the agency or Congress will heed it.
Nonetheless, Free Press policy director, Ben Scott, said:
"After years of hard work, we are pleased that the FCC has begun this crucially important rulemaking on Network Neutrality. A well-crafted Net Neutrality rule can assure that the open Internet continues to serve as a great force for economic innovation and democratic participation for all Americans. (The agency is taking) an important step toward securing the open Internet and a victory for the public interest and civil rights organizations, small businesses, Internet innovators, political leaders, and millions of people who have fought to get to this point...."
"We welcome a new era at the FCC in which decisions made in the public interest withstand the cynical lobby of special interests from a few big phone and cable companies," and those in Congress who support them like John McCain and the man Free Press calls the "Congressman from Comcast," Robert Brady (D. PA), because of his "long-standing history of supporting (its) policies" to the detriment of consumers.
Potential FCC Net Neutrality Loophole
Free Press' Tim Karr fears it may undermine Internet freedom if not addressed and corrected, and a group of six prominent law professors agree. They include:
-- Jack Balkin, YaleLawSchool;
-- John Blevins, SouthTexasCollege of Law;
-- Jim Chen, University of Louisville School of Law where he's also Dean;
-- Larry Lessig, HarvardLawSchool;
-- Barbara van Schewick, StanfordLawSchool; and
-- Tim Wu, ColumbiaLawSchool.
They've all "spent many years devoted to research on the architecture of the Internet and its related policies (and) published widely on" Net Neutrality.
On November 2, they emailed Chairman Genachowski to "flag what (they) believe are two (serious) ambiguities in the Notice that (they) hope can be addressed early to provide a clearer foundation for comments:"
For nearly a century, this has been a central concept in telecommunications law and policy. Nothing should be done to subvert it, so a clear definition is essential. So far, it's "surprisingly narrow."
"Reasonable Network Management"
It's a significant ambiguity because what's not reasonable is "key to the entire rule."
The professors "seek to understand whether, by (NPRM's) language, the Commission seeks comments on what the standard should be, or whether (it) proposes not to have one."
They ask why "the FCC would not want to provide some guidance on the applicable standard for reasonable network management, lest....the exception swallow the rule," and want clarification now to prevent it. Otherwise, these ambiguities will "provide generous opportunities to try to work around the Commission's efforts in this area." In other words, subvert Net Neutrality, not affirm it.
To be effective, FCC rules and congressional legislation must be unambiguous and strong with clear standards in the public interest, especially regarding content.
Free Press Policy Brief on the FCC's Proposed Net Neutrality Rule
Free Press calls the NPRM "a very important step in the right direction," but some elements need clarification to "preclude ISP's from preventing their customers from sending and receiving lawful content, running lawful applications, or connecting lawful devices to the network." Also to assure them free choice among network, applications, service, and content providers.
If properly crafted, new rules will establish a legal framework to require nondiscriminatory treatment of all Internet traffic under reasonable, fair network management standards. Yet significant ambiguities may subvert final ones because of loopholes that must be avoided.
So far, it appears that the FCC "is very committed to protecting the open Internet with rules that have meaning and teeth....This is clearly a very good start (that) lays a good foundation for a final rule that will serve as an unassailable, yet appropriately flexible, firewall to protect and preserve the open Internet." With precise clarification, established standards "once enacted will withstand scrutiny in the courts" and be a victory for digital democracy. But not easily against powerful interests determined to subvert it, so therein lies the struggle ahead.
Disturbing Implications of The Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA) for Net Neutrality, Consumer Privacy, and Civil Liberties
Launched on October 23, 2007, America, the EU, Switzerland and Japan began negotiating a new intellectual property enforcement treaty, ACTA. Other nations as well, including Canada, Australia, Korea, New Zealand, Mexico, Jordan, Singapore, and the UAE. Ostensibly for counterfeit goods protection, critics say it's more about Internet distribution and information technology rules to subvert Net Neutrality, privacy, and personal freedoms.
Powerful interests want stronger global intellectual property rights, and are pursuing them through the:
-- World Customs Organization (WCO, "the only intergovernmental organisation exclusively focused on Customs matters);"
-- the G 8;
-- the World Intellectual Property Organization's (WIPO) Advisory Committee on Enforcement: WIPO is a UN agency "dedicated to developing an accessible international intellectual property system which reward creativity, stimulates innovation and contributes to economic development...;" and
-- the Intellectual Property Experts' Group's (IPR) protection and enforcement efforts to "achiev(e Pacific region) free and open trade and investment."
So far, few details are known, yet ACTA is being secretly fast-tracked to completion.
Concerned Americans got some information through Freedom of Information (FOA) requests. Canadians also through Canada's Access to Information Act (AIA).
Of concern are provisions endangering consumer privacy, civil liberties, legitimate commerce, restrictions on developing nations' rights to choose their preferred policy options, and, pivotal for this article, a free and open Internet.
The US Trade Representative's (USTR) Fact Sheet and 2008 "Special 301" report shows an intent to create tougher intellectual property enforcement standards than under the Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS). If successful, they'll override national sovereignty, be binding on ACTA members, and give them enough power to enforce global compliance.
The Foundation for a Free Information Infrastructure (FFII) is "a not-for-profit association registered in twenty European countries, dedicated to the development of information goods for the public benefit, based on copyright, free competition, open standards."
In 2008, Brussels rebuffed its request for ACTA documents saying:
"the documents contain negotiating directives for the negotiation of the above mentioned agreement. These negotiations are still in progress. Disclosure of this information could impede the proper conduct of the negotiation."
In appealing the ruling, FFII accused the EU of "a gross violation of the basic democratic principles (these nations are) supposed to stand for." In a November 10, 2008 press release, it said:
"The EU Council of Ministers refuses to release secret (ACTA) documents. (This) secrecy fuels concerns that the treaty may give patent trolls the means to extort companies, undermine access to low-cost generic medicines, lead to monitoring all citizens' Internet communications and criminalize peer-to-peer electronic file sharing."
In May 2008, Wikileaks obtained a leaked four-page document titled, "Discussion Paper on a Possible Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement," saying:
"If adopted, (ACTA) would impose a strong, top-down enforcement regime, with new cooperation requirements upon (ISPs), including perfunctionary disclosure of customer information. The proposal also bans 'anti-circumvention' measures which may affect online anonymity systems and would likely outlaw multi-region CD/DVD players. The proposal also specifies a plan to encourage developing nations to accept the legal regime," with perhaps consequences for those refusing.
The document covers:
-- legal measures to encourage ISPs to cooperate with right holders to remove infringing content;
-- material on anti-camcording laws; and
-- network-level filtering to enforce a three-strikes-and-you're out rule. That is, consumers found three times to have infringed copyrighted content will have their Internet connections terminated.
These provisions way exceed current treaty obligations by imposing binding copyright demands requiring:
-- ISPs to police copyrighted material and deter unauthorized storage and transmission of alleged infringed content;
-- terminate Internet access of alleged "repeat infringers" or be liable;
-- remove alleged infringed material;
-- enforce digital rights management (DRM) rules relating to systems that identify, track, authorize and restrict access to digital media - to protect and enforce copyrights, patents, trademarks, and other forms of intellectual property; and
-- impose global US Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) rules relating to intellectual property that will impose censorship, subvert free expression, and undermine innovation.
IP Justice is "an international civil liberties organization promoting balanced intellectual property laws and free expression." It addressed ACTA as follows:
Its "text will be 'locked' and other countries who are later 'invited' to sign-on to the pact will not be able to re-negotiate its terms....few countries will have the muscle to refuse an 'invitation' to join, once the rules have been set by the select few conducting the negotiations."
Other IP Justice concerns are over:
-- secret negotiations;
-- an undemocratic process;
-- the exclusion of public interest groups;
-- using questionable data,
-- the burdens imposed on public and private interests;
-- criminalizing ordinary consumer activity;
-- free expression;
-- privacy issues;
-- due process rights;
-- the need for flexibility to address technological change;
-- anti-innovative and anti-competitive provisions;
-- the claim that stronger consumer protections aren't needed; and
-- universally binding top-down rules overriding national sovereignty.
On April 6, 2009, the USTR released a summary of ACTA negotiations stating they're to:
-- "negotiate a new state-of-the art agreement to combat counterfeiting and piracy;" and
-- help "governments around the world....more effectively combat the proliferation of counterfeit and pirated goods."
-- Also presented was a draft agenda for the November 4 - 6, 2009 Seoul, Korea negotiations to be followed by a press release similar to the post-July 5th Morocco round saying little more than "discussion focused on International Cooperation and Enforcement Practices and Institutional Issues" as well as others regarding "transparency."
From what's known, if ACTA measures are adopted, consider the implications. Consumer Internet communications and content will be monitored, threatening privacy, civil liberties, and a free and open Internet. In addition, new Net Neutrality rules and congressional legislation codifying them will be subverted by ACTA authority.
The Cybersecurity Act of 2009
This writer's May 22 article said the following:
On April 1, two bills endangering a free and open Internet were introduced in the Senate:
-- S. 773: Cybersecurity Act of 2009 "to ensure the continued free flow of commerce within the United States and with its global trading partners through secure cyber communications, to provide for the continued development and exploitation of the Internet and intranet communications for such purposes, to provide for the development of a cadre of information technology specialists to improve and maintain effective cybersecurity defenses against disruption, and for other purposes."
S. 773 was referred to the Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee, but not yet voted on.
-- S. 778: A bill to establish, within the Executive Office of the President, the Office of National Cybersecurity Advisor (aka czar). The bill was referred to the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee where it remains.
Accompanying information said Senators Jay Rockefeller and Olympia Snowe introduced the legislation to address:
"our country's unacceptable vulnerability to massive cyber crime, global cyber espionage, and cyber attacks that could cripple our critical infrastructure."
We presently face cyber espionage threats, they said, as well as "another great vulnerability....to our private sector critical infrastructure - banking, utilities, air/rail/auto traffic control, telecommunications - from disruptive cyber attacks that could literally shut down our way of life."
"This proposed legislation will bring new high-level governmental attention to develop a fully integrated, thoroughly coordinated, public-private partnership to our cyber security efforts in the 21st century" through what's unstated - privacy violations by subverting a free and open Internet.
During a March Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee hearing, Senator Rockefeller said that we'd all be better off if the Internet was never invented. His precise words were: "Would it have been better if we'd never have invented the Internet and had to use paper and pencil or whatever!" Left unsaid was that without a free and open Internet, few alternatives for getting real news and information would exist, at least with the ease and free accessibility computers provide.
The Electronic Frontier Foundation's (EFF) Jennifer Granick expressed concern about "giving the federal government unprecedented power over the Internet without necessarily improving security in the ways that matter most. (These bills) should be opposed or radically amended."
Here's what they'll do:
-- federalize critical infrastructure security, including banks, telecommunications and energy, shifting power away from providers and users to Washington;
-- give "the president unfettered authority to shut down Internet traffic in (whatever he calls) an emergency and disconnect critical infrastructure systems on national security grounds....;"
-- potentially "cripple privacy and security in one fell swoop" through one provision (alone) empowering the Commerce Secretary to "have access to all relevant data concerning (critical infrastructure) networks without regard to any provision of law, regulation, rule, or policy restricting such access...."
In other words, the Commerce Department will be empowered to access "all relevant data" - without privacy safeguards or judicial review. As a result, constitutionally protected privacy protections will be lost - ones guaranteed under the ElectronicCommunications Privacy Act, the Privacy Protection Act, and financial privacy regulations.
Another provision mandates a feasibility study for an identity management and authentication program that would sidestep "appropriate civil liberties and privacy protections."
At issue is what role should the federal government play in cybersecurity? How much power should it have? Can it dismiss constitutional protections, and what, in fact, can enhance cybersecurity without endangering our freedoms?
S. 773 and 778, as now written, "make matters worse by weakening existing privacy safeguards (without) address(ing) the real problems of security."
Months later, S. 773 was secretly redrafted, but from what's known, leaves it mostly unchanged. Like the original version, it gives the president carte blanche power "to decide which networks and systems, private or public, count as 'critical infrastructure information systems or networks," according to the EFF's Richard Esguerra. It also lets him shut down the Internet in both versions of the bill.
The original one states:
"The President....may order the disconnection of any Federal Government or United States critical infrastructure information systems or network in the interest of national security."
The new bill says:
"The President....in the event of an immediate threat (may) declare a cybersecurity emergency; and may, if the President finds it necessary for the national defense and security, and in coordination with relevant industry sectors, direct the national response to the cyber threat and the timely restoration of the affected critical infrastructure information system or network."
In other words, he can shut down the Internet and leave privacy, authority, and security effectiveness unresolved. According to EFF's senior staff attorney, Lee Tien:
"The language has changed but it doesn't contain any real additional limits. It simply switches the more direct and obvious language they had originally to the more ambiguous (version). The designation of what is a critical infrastructure system or network as far as I can tell has no specific process. There's no provision for any administration process or review. That's where the problems seem to start. And then you have the amorphous powers that go along with it."
"there is vague language about mapping federal and private networks; there is an unexplained scheme to certify cybersecurity professionals at the federal level; and the mandated implementation of a 'cybersecurity strategy' before the completion of a legal review that could protect against inadvertent privacy violations or inefficiency."
In late February, Director of National Intelligence, Admiral Dennis Blair, told the House Intelligence Committee that the NSA, not DHS, should be in charge of cybersecurity even though it has a "trust handicap" to overcome because of its illegal spying:
"I think there is a great deal of distrust of the National Security Agency and the intelligence community in general playing a role outside of the very narrowly circumscribed role because of some of the history of the FISA issue in years past...." So Blair asked the committee's leadership to find a way to instill public confidence.
On February 9, Obama appointed Melissa Hathaway to be Acting Senior Director for Cyberspace for the National Security and Homeland Security Councils - in charge of a 60-day interagency cybersecurity review, now completed. On August 3, she resigned citing personal reasons, but people close to her said the president's economic advisers marginalized her for favoring private sector regulatory options. As of late October, her position is still unfilled.
On April 21, NSA/Chief Central Security Service director, General Alexander, told RSA Conference security participants that "The NSA does not want to run cybersecurity for the government. We need partnerships with others. The DHS has a big part, you do, and our partners in academia. It's one network and we all have to work together....The NSA can offer technology assistance to team members. That's our role."
Spying is its role with DHS enforcement. Cooperatively with the administration, they threaten our constitutional freedoms. Infringing them can't be tolerated nor measures to subvert a free and open Internet.
Justice Department Targets Internet First Amendment Freedoms
On January 30, US Attorney Tim Morrison subpoenaed the Philadelphia-based Independent Media Center (IMC) to give an Indianapolis grand jury all IP address logs, times, and other ID information for June 25, 2008. In addition, under a gag order, its system administrator was prohibited from "disclos(ing) the existence (or contents) of this request" without Justice Department permission.
On November 9, EFF discussed the "Anatomy of a Bogus subpoena: How the Government Secretly Demanded the IP Address of Every Visitor to Political News Site Indymedia.us."
According to senior staff attorney Kevin Bankston:
"Secrecy surrounds law enforcement's communications surveillance practices like a dense fog. (Especially the) demands issued under 18 USC 2703 of the Stored Communications Act (SCA) that seek subscriber information or other user records from communications service providers."
Court orders can require phone companies or online service providers to reveal them, "along with a gag order preventing (them) from disclosing the existence of the government's demand. More often, companies are simply (subpoenaed) by prosecutors without any court involvement; these demands, too, are rarely made public."
EFF called the gag order "Bogus (for) Demanding the Recipient's Silence Without Any Legal Basis." It's "ready to provide assistance (whenever) government knocks on someone's door with an unlawful, invalid, overbroad, free speech-threatening, privacy-invasive demand for your sensitive Internet data." It represented IMC and prevailed, in part because the site doesn't keep historic logs on its visitors.
On November 13, indymedia.us announced:
"....we've managed, after nearly a year of legal action on our behalf by (EFF), to successfully fight back against a bogus (DOJ) subpoena request in conjunction with a grand jury investigation....not only did (we) object to this blatantly illegitimate and overly broad request, but, per accepted Indymedia best practices, we do not keep such logs in the first place, in order to maximally ensure the privacy of our site users. Also troubling was the (gag order prohibiting any discussion of) the legal issue with the broader network of collectives cooperating on the indymedia/us site."
EFF stresses that "the level of secrecy surrounding how the government uses its surveillance authority under the Stored Communications Act encourages abuses," including a free and open Internet. What Jefferson understood by saying that:
"If a nation expects to be ignorant and free, in a state of civilization, it expects what never was and never will be."
Stephen Lendman is a Research Associate of the Centre for Research on Globalization. He lives in Chicago and can be reached at email@example.com.
Also visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com and listen to The Global Research News Hour on RepublicBroadcasting.org Monday - Friday at 10AM US Central time for cutting-edge discussions with distinguished guests on world and national issues. All programs are archived for easy listening.
Internet censorship is control or suppression of the publishing or accessing of information on the Internet. The legal issues are similar to offline censorship.
One difference is that national borders are more permeable online: residents of a country that bans certain information can find it on websites hosted outside the country. A government can try to prevent its citizens from viewing these even if it has no control over the websites themselves.
Filtering can be based on a blacklist or be dynamic. In the case of a blacklist, that list is usually not published. The list may be produced manually or automatically.
Barring total control on Internet-connected computers, such as in North Korea, total censorship of information on the Internet is very difficult (or impossible) to achieve due to the underlying distributed technology of the Internet. Pseudonymity and data havens (such as Freenet) allow unconditional free speech, as the technology guarantees that material cannot be removed and the author of any information is impossible to link to a physical identity or organization.
In November 2007, "Father of the Internet" Vint Cerf stated that he sees Government-led control of the Internet failing due to private ownership.
Some commonly used methods for censoring content are:
IP blocking. Access to a certain IP address is denied. If the target Web site is hosted in a shared hosting server, all websites on the same server will be blocked. This affects IP-based protocols such as HTTP, FTP and POP. A typical circumvention method is to find proxies that have access to the target websites, but proxies may be jammed or blocked, and some Web sites, such as Wikipedia (when editing), also block proxies. Some large websites like Google have allocated additional IP addresses to circumvent the block, but later the block was extended to cover the new IPs.
DNS filtering and redirection. Don't resolve domain names, or return incorrect IP addresses. This affects all IP-based protocols such as HTTP, FTP and POP. A typical circumvention method is to find a domain name server that resolves domain names correctly, but domain name servers are subject to blockage as well, especially IP blocking. Another workaround is to bypass DNS if the IP address is obtainable from other sources and is not blocked. Examples are modifying the Hosts file or typing the IP address instead of the domain name in a Web browser.
Packet filtering. Terminate TCP packet transmissions when a certain number of controversial keywords are detected. This affects all TCP-based protocols such as HTTP, FTP and POP, but Search engine results pages are more likely to be censored. Typical circumvention methods are to use encrypted connections - such as VPN and TLS/SSL - to escape the HTML content, or by reducing the TCP/IPstack's MTU/MSS to reduce the amount of text contained in a given packet.
Connection reset. If a previous TCP connection is blocked by the filter, future connection attempts from both sides will also be blocked for up to 30 minutes. Depending on the location of the block, other users or websites may also be blocked if the communication is routed to the location of the block. A circumvention method is to ignore the reset packet sent by the firewall.
Web feed blocking. Increasingly, incoming URLs starting with the words "rss", "feed", or "blog" are blocked.
Reverse surveillance. Computers accessing certain websites including Google are automatically exposed to reverse scanning from the ISP in an apparent attempt to extract further information from the "offending" system.
Automatic censorship sometimes stops matter which it was not intended to stop. An example is that automatic censorship against sexual words in matter for children, set to block the word "cunt", has been known to block the Lincolnshire (UK) placename Scunthorpe.
Proxy websites are often the simplest and fastest way to access banned websites in censored nations. Such websites work by being themselves un-banned but capable of displaying banned material within them. This is usually accomplished by entering a URL address which the proxy website will fetch and display. They recommend using the https protocol since it is encrypted and harder to block.
Java Anon Proxy is primarily a strong, free and open source anonymizer software available for all operating systems. As of 2004[update], it also includes a blocking resistance functionality that allows users to circumvent the blocking of the underlying anonymity service AN.ON by accessing it via other users of the software (forwarding client).
The addresses of JAP users that provide a forwarding server can be retrieved by getting contact to AN.ON's InfoService network, either automatically or, if this network is blocked, too, by writing an e-mail to one of these InfoServices. The JAP software automatically decrypts the answer after the user completes a CAPTCHA. The developers are currently planning to integrate additional and even stronger blocking resistance functions.
Using Virtual Private Networks, a user who experiences internet censorship can create a secure connection to a more permissive country, and browse the internet as if they were situated in that country. Some services are offered for a monthly fee, others are ad-supported.
Psiphon software allows users in nations with censored Internet such as China to access banned websites like Wikipedia. The service requires that the software be installed on a computer with uncensored access to the Internet so that the computer can act as a proxy for users in censored environments.
Sneakernet is a term used to describe the transfer of electronic information, especially computer files, by physically carrying data on storage media from one place to another. A sneakernet can move data regardless of network restrictions simply by not using the network at all.
The volunteer organization Information Without Borders is attempting to implement a sneakernet routing protocol for providing cheap Internet access to developing and post-conflict regions using donated flash drives, PDAs and mobile phones. The protocol is also useful for providing free and open Internet access to people living under repressive regimes that restrict free expression by limiting access. This protocol is still under development, but actual flash-drive sneakernets are known to exist in Cuba. Flash-drive sneakernets were used in 2008 to distribute a video of a student asking why Cubans are not permitted to access web sites like Yahoo.
AN APPEAL TO UNION DEFENSE MINISTER , GOI , NEW DELHI.
Dear Sir ,
INDIA: The extrajudicial execution of two men in army custody in Baksa district must be investigated Name of victims:
1. Mr. Jainto Singh Gaur, son of Profulla Singh; Tekelibhanga; under the jurisdiction of Palashankuchi police station, Baksa district, Assam state.
2. Mr. Rajesh Bando, son of Chomnu Bando; Tekelibhanga; under the jurisdiction of police station, Baksa district, Assam.
Name of alleged perpetrators: 1. Mr. Phulen Kalita, Tekelibhanga; under the jurisdiction of Palashankuchi police station, Baksa district, Assam.
2. Mr. Nobojyoti Das
3. Captain B.R.Singh, Kumaon Regiment, stationed at Tihu.
4. Mr. Giridhar Choudhury, Advocate, Pathsala, Baksa district, Assam
Date of incident: Between 26 November 2008 and 28 April 2009 Place of incident: Baksa district, Assam
I am writing to express my deep concern regarding the extrajudicial execution of two men in Assam earlier this year, and the lack of an investigation into it. I am informed that officers from the Kumaon Regiment are suspected to be behind the murder, along with a local lawyer and two villagers.
According to the information I have received, the victims had visited the Nathkuchi and Tihu camp of the Kumaon Regiment a number of times on the advice of a local lawyer, Mr. Giridhar Choudhury, after they were introduced to him by persons 1 and 2 named above. The victims visited the camp at least twice at the instruction of the army officers and had returned home both times. However I hear that officers killed the victims on 28 April 2009, and have called it an encounter killing.
I am aware that at the time of autopsy, a day after the official date of the murder, the men's bodies were in an advanced state of decomposition. People residing near the place where the bodies were found have claimed that they had heard only two shots, yet the bodies had several projectiles lodged inside them. The two men had also suffered multiple and compound fractures on limbs before their deaths, with ligature marks on their wrists as if their hands had been tied from behind. This contradicts the official report, and raises strong suspicions about the use of torture, and the time and place of death.
The families also discovered notes written by the victims' and hidden among their belongings in detainment, which describe a trap involving a corrupt army captain and the local lawyer. The men had originally told their families that they had been offered a deal that would reward them if they allowed army officers to falsely present them as surrendering cadres from the United Liberation Front of Asom (ULFA). Despite these incriminating circumstances being released in the media, police have refused to register a case or start an investigation.
I am aware that the government as well as the army has claimed that the victims were killed in an encounter on 28 April and that they were the members of the 709 Battalion of the ULFA, which is unsubstantiated. Even if a person is a terrorist, there is no law in India that legalises extrajudicial execution.
I am aware that the families are approaching the Guwahati High Court seeking a judicial intervention in the case. In these circumstances, I request you to intervene to ensure that:
1. A crime is registered to investigate the murder of the two men;
2. The statement of witnesses, including the members of the victims' families is recorded;
3. An impartial and prompt investigation is conducted;
4. The family members, if required, are provided with protection;
5. The findings of the investigation are made public;
6. The Assam Bar Council looks into allegations of the involvement of Advocate Giridhar Choudhury and acts accordingly and that;
7. The families are paid an interim compensation pending the investigation of the case.
AN APPEAL TO UNION HOME MINISTER , GOI , NEW DELHI
Dear Sir ,
INDIA: The government must investigate the police firing in Narayanpatna
Name of victims:
1. Mr. Kendruka Singanna, Podapadar village, Narayanpatna Block, Koraput district, Orissa
2. Mr. Andru Nachika, Bhaliaput village, Narayanpatna Block, Koraput district, Orissa
3. 60 other persons injured in the police firing who are yet to be identified Name of alleged perpetrators: 1. Mr. Gouranga Charan Sahu, Officer-in-Charge, Narayanpatna Police Station, Koraput district, Orissa
Date of incident: Since 20 November Place of incident: Narayanpatna Police Station I am writing to express my concern regarding the police firing reported from Narayanpatna, Koraput district, Orissa. I am informed that on 20 November, the police opened fire at an unarmed crowd gathered in front of the Narayanpatna Police Station at close range killing two persons on the spot and injuring 60 others. Under orders from Mr. Gouranga Charan Sahu, the Officer-in-Charge of the police station, police officers from the Orissa state police, the Indian Reserve Battalion, Central Reserve Force and the Cobra Battalion fired 300 rounds at the people. The people were unarmed and were posing no threat to the police or to the station. The police even shot pedestrians and street side vendors injuring several of them. I am informed that the crowd had gathered in front of the police station requesting the Officer-in-Charge to discuss with them about their grievances and that the officer refused to listen and further verbally abused the people. The police locked the gate preventing anyone from entering the station. I am informed that Ms. Kumudini Behera and Mr. Kendruka Singanna, broke open the lock and entered the station compound demanding to meet the Officer-in-Charge. The two persons went inside the police station compound and soon the Officer-in-Charge started arguing with them. Without reason, the officer then ordered his armed men to open fire at the crowd, who by then had gathered inside the station compound. The crowd was 200 strong, with women and children and were unarmed. I am disappointed to know that even after six days the state government has not ordered an investigation in the case, nor the officers involved in the incident suspended. One of the deceased, Singanna, was shot ten times from behind. This shows the extent to which the police were concerned about following rules and regulations while engaging a crowd. The fact that the police fired 300 shots at close range at a gathering of 200 persons, even when they were fleeing from the station compound is yet another indication to the lack of command, discipline and responsibility of the officers involved in the incident. I am also informed that about 60 persons are arrested in the past six days and that all of them are tribal persons. I am aware that the police are engaged in combating extreme leftist elements operating in the state. But that must not be an excuse to fire at will upon persons who have come to a police station to lodge a complaint. The information provided to me indicates that the Officer-in-Charge of the station threatened and insulted the people, than listening to them. I am informed that owing to the fear of torture, detention and even murder at the hands of the police, most of the injured are refusing to get treatment in public facilities. This shows the extent to which the ordinary people have isolated from the state apparatus due to fear.
I therefore request you to intervene in the case. The people have a right to know the truth behind the incident and it must be respected. This will also prevent the Maoists exploiting the volatile situation to their favour. For this the facts behind the incident must be exposed without any delay. There must be a public and impartial investigation in the case and the statements of the witnesses must be recorded guaranteeing their safety. At the least, all officers involved in the incident must be immediately suspended from active duty and be removed from the jurisdiction. The media and the members of the civil society must be allowed access to the injured so that those who require immediate treatment is provided the same. Such a move will also facilitate to diffuse the tension prevailing in the area. Your’s sincerely, NAGARAJ.M.R.
AN APPEAL TO CHIEF MINISTER , KERALA , INDIA
Dear Sir ,
INDIA: Please ensure a credible investigation into the nine-month-old case of murder in police custody Name of victim:
Mr. Rajappan (deceased), former resident of Kaapuchalil house, Kalvary MountPost, Idukki, district, Kerala state. Name of alleged perpetrators:
1. Mr. K.Raveendran, Assistant Sub-Inspector of Police; Kattappana Police Station, Idukki,
Kerala state; currently posted at Marayoor Police Station.
2. Mr. Shaji, Police Constable with Badge Number 2626, Kattappana Police Station, Idukki,
Kerala state; currently posted at Idukki Police Station.
3. Mr. Saji Thomas, Police Constable, Badge Number 2152; Kattappana Police Station, Idukki, Kerala state; currently posted at Wandenmedu Police Station.
4. Mr. Vijayankutty, Forest Officer; Ayappankovil Range, Kattappana, Idukki, Kerala state.
5. Mr. Augustine, Forest Officer; Ayappankovil Range; Kattappana, Idukki, Kerala state.
Date of incident: From 20 to 24 February 2008 Place of incident: Kalvary Mount, Idukki, Kerala state
I am writing to express my concern regarding the slow pace of investigation in the case of a suspected custodial murder. I am informed that the local police took Mr. Rajappan, the victim, into custody on 20 February 2008 and that within hours of his arrest he was admitted to the hospital in a critical condition and placed on an artificial respirator. He died whilst still in police custody in hospital, on 24 February 2008.
The officers named above are suspected of having fatally tortured Mr. Rajappan while he was in their custody, and eyewitnesses, including his wife, Ms. Maniyamma, and neighbour, Thomas, saw police officers assaulting Mr. Rajappan at the time of his arrest.
I am concerned that the unwarranted, violent manner of arrest, which in itself is illegal and a clear abuse of police authority, has not been investigated. Mr. Rajappan suffered 17 anti-mortem injuries, which have been insufficiently explained by officers as part of a suicide bid.
Although the police officers who are suspected to have murdered Mr. Rajappan were placed on suspension, within months they were reportedly recalled to active duty. Nine months into this case, witnesses including Ms. Maniyamma, have not been examined and no statements have been taken.
At the very least, Ms. Maniayamma has a right to know how her husband died and who killed him. For this, the primary requisite is that the CID investigation be completed. The witness statements must be recorded without further delay. In addition, the suspected officers named above must be placed on suspension until the investigation of the case is complete.