Bush v. Internet

by Beacon Staff • February 15, 2006

Legislation like the Patriot Act has allowed the government to tap phones without warrants, spy on activist groups and compile student databases for military recruiting purposes.,In the last few years, the government has compiled quite a record of personal intrusion.

Legislation like the Patriot Act has allowed the government to tap phones without warrants, spy on activist groups and compile student databases for military recruiting purposes.

Those are just some of the things we know about.

So, Uncle Sam, could you please the leave the Internet alone?

Google Inc., the corporate parent operating the country's most widely used search engine, was issued a subpoena last week by the Bush administration, which has demanded the company give information on what its users have been searching for.

The White House wants the Internet powerhouse to provide it with over 1 million random Web addresses and records of all searches from an entire week.

Google, at least so far, has not complied with these appeals, which were initially requested in a separate subpoena issued last year.

The company's motto is: "Don't be evil."

Google's legal representatives have admitted they are more worried about giving out trade secrets than taking a libertarian stance on Internet privacy rights, but there are many reasons to be alarmed.

This latest request is just one more example that illustrates how aggressive the Bush administration is in its dismantling of our most precious civil liberties and our fundamental right to privacy.

The fact that this order comes in the midst of the wiretapping controversy shows, with alarming clarity, that Bush is in no way going to ease up on his plans to expand and abuse his executive powers in the face of widespread criticism-dismal approval ratings be damned.

Some might call this fearlessness. It is sheer arrogance.

The Internet, despite its flaws, is a valuable tool for free speech and healthy debate.

Thanks to the Internet, anyone with a library card can have a voice.

You do not need to work for a major news outlet, be elected to public office, have a million dollars or "mainstream" political views.

The Internet provides a place for everyone to speak his or her mind.

Granted, the Internet is a vast arena, and it takes some navigation skills to separate the signal from the noise.

There is no denying, however, that the Web has turned into a powerful means to engage in free speech and has real influence on political events.

National Journal's K. Daniel Glover recently wrote a piece where he gave credit to the blogosphere for helping to stop Bush's Social Security reform.

Back in 1998, Forbes Online exposed The New Republic's Stephen Glass as a plagiarist and a fabricator.

Conservative Matt Drudge of the popular conservative Web site The Drudge Report exposed the Monica Lewinsky/President Clinton scandal.

And it was bloggers who shook up CBS News over "Rather-gate," when it was revealed that forged documents were used in a report about Bush's military service.

So clearly the Internet has become a place of substantive political activity.

And given the realities of media consolidation and waning circulation for newspapers, especially among young people, it is vital that the Internet remain a place that is free of government intervention.

We have learned that our President values national security over personal freedom.

He insists he does not need to pass new laws or consult Congress when he makes decisions over these matters.

There are certainly a few search terms that our commander-in-chief would like to remove from our minds: "Abu Ghraib," "Anti-War," "Imperialism," "Torture," "Weapons of Mass Destruction," "Chomsky" and "Impeachment."

So please, Google, don't be evil.