Letter: The Internet

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HJL/JWR:

I am a former G6 (army comms) and closet geek, and a stability operations (Civil Affairs) practitioner. Suffice to say the issue of open Internet access and destabilizing influences on the ground have been the center of my world and work for over a decade. You’re not going to like this, but here it is:

The only way to preserve the Internet AND reduce the spread of radical ideology is to register users’ to each IP address. Here’s why.

The Internet IS like a big, wonderful library (paraphrasing yesterday’s poster). However, there’s a problem. Imagine your children in that library, along with your grandma and all your financial records, too, when a stranger comes in the door, masked, in a fedora and trenchcoat. He flashes your kids, kicks your grandma in the teeth, and swipes your financial data. How did this happen?

It’s because we let a guy come in the library with a mask on.

That’s the Internet. The anonymity we all have grown to see as a “right” is really just a function of the way the Internet and our lives evolved together. Your town would NEVER let a stranger come into the library with a mask on, so why in the world would we allow the same thing to occur in cyberspace?

IP address registration and biometrics can be linked operationally, strategically, and yes biblically, but please understand that they are not automatically concurrent. As a libertarian, I loathe to say this but the registration and tracking of IP addresses and users is a textbook government function.

We cannot allow anonymous users access to the Internet; if any three of us had sit around the kitchen table and planned the ubiquity, rate of growth, and saturation of the Internet into our lives, we would NEVER allow a SINGLE unregistered user access.

I am certain there will be people in the survival-blogosphere who will denounce me, and that’s okay. I’ll leave you with one thing to think about, as a stability practitioner: think about the increased event density with regard to terrorism and radicalism. Think about the geographic, religious, cultural, financial, social, and other spheres involved. Now tell me: what is the ONE single unifying factor among all of the things you’ve considered? It’s communication.

Marshal McLuhan was right: the medium IS the message.

The (open) Internet IS the problem. In Christ – T.K.

HJL Responds: Anonymity on the Internet does not exist today, and I’m not sure it ever existed. Having spent considerable time in the industry, I can tell you that every bit of “metadata” is saved for several months, and the only thing keeping it from being saved for years is the ISP’s unwillingness to use the disk space. To my knowledge, every ISP operates more-or-less to the same standard with the only difference being in how long such records are maintained. The logging of the data is inherent to the design of the Internet and is how system administrators troubleshoot networking problems. Each ISP also maintains those records for their own protection. They keep those records so that if illegal activity is traced to any particular ISP, they can point the finger at someone else. The natural check/balance that keeps this information from being pooled in a massive database is that a court order is required to pull the data from every single ISP involved in the network path of the data.

If you are using the Internet, you must assume that the metadata is always saved. If any particular entity along the path of the data is under active investigation or current search warrant, the content of the data may also be saved. In addition, it has been revealed that the intelligence community has the capability of duplicating and saving every packet of data that passes through a major routing point within the United States. Even though the saving of data is only supposed to apply to data passing to and from foreign destinations or people of interest, it has been shown that the intelligence community keeps data with up to three or four degrees of separation from the actual entity of interest. Can you guarantee that the person/entity you are communicating with does not know someone else who knows someone else of interest to the NSA? Always assume that your Internet communications are tracked, because they are, if not by the NSA (or other alphabet agency), then by the local ISP, and the data is only a court order away from being public.

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