I’ve posted a good bit lately about abuses of power by the National Security Agency and other U.S. intelligence agencies. My friend Daniel Brandt recently e-mailed me some links to articles by a UK news service called The Kernel which are a good reminder that there are Islamic terrorists who really should be spied on.
The articles describe how terrorists are recruited through Islamic jihadist discussion forums. Typically there will be an open forum which argues the radical Muslim jihadists are justified. People who post on the forum and have someone to vouch for them are then admitted to closed forums which discussed actual terrorism.
I don’t believe the NSA and the other Homeland Security agencies should spy on all Americans. I don’t believe they should spy on peaceful protesters. I don’t believe they should encourage and then entrap people into terrorists plots. But they do have a right and duty to monitor pro-terrorist web sites so they can nip plots in the bud.
Here are links to The Kernel series.
The scariest sites on the Internet by Jeremy Wilson.
The hosts keeping radical Islamic forums online by James Cook.
CloudFlare: ‘terrorists little helper’ by James Cook.
Chaos on campus: Islamists and social media by Jeremy Wilson.
When ‘free speech’ means defending evil murderers by Milos Yiannopoulos, editor-in-chief.
The Kernel is especially concerned about an Internet company called CloudFlare. Daniel Brandt also is critical of that company. What CloudFlare purports to do is to provide services by which web sites can product their anonymity, survive denial of service attacks and optimize their efficiency.
The Kernel writers criticize CloudFlare for protecting radical Islamic web sites against denial of service attacks by US and UK intelligence services. Daniel Brandt’s criticism is broader. He says CloudFlare also provides a shield for malicious hackers, cyber-bullies, hard-core pornographers, copyright pirates and other kinds of lawbreakers.
Here are links to statements of CloudFlare’s position.
CloudFlare and Free Speech by Matthew Prince, chief executive officer.
Ceasefires Don’t End Cyberwars by Matthew Prince.
Here are links to statements of Daniel Brandt’s position.
What it all comes down to is which you fear more, abuse of freedom or abuse of power. This is not an easy question. What Milos Yiannopoulos fears most is abuse of freedom. What I fear the most is abuse of power.
Yiannopoulos thinks Twitter, YouTube and CloudFlare should be regarded as publishers, like Huffington Post, and exercise pro-active responsibility to take down dangerous content, based on their own judgment. He doesn’t think this is censorship, but what else would you call it.
I think Twitter, YouTube and the like should be regarded as public utilities, like Rochester Telephone, which provide services to all members of the public unless there is a specific legal reason not to do so.
What do you think?
James Cook’s article criticized CloudFlare for providing protection against distributed denial of service attacks by U.S. and U.K. intelligence services against the Kevkaz Center, which supports violent Islamist revolution in the Russian Caucasus and elsewhere. So if CloudFlare helps terrorists, why hasn’t the U.S. government tried to shut it down, the way it has tried to shut down WikiLeaks?
Denial of service attacks are contrary to both U.S. and U.K. law, so providing protection against such attacks is certainly a legitimate service unless there is a specific reason not to do so. CloudFlare CEO Matthew Prince said CloudFlare would comply with any court order forbidding them to provide this service to a company. He further said that CloudFlare has never received any request from a law enforcement agency to cease providing this service.
If you read Prince’s statement like a lawyer, you notice that he is not saying that he never received any such request from the CIA or NSA. Neither is a law enforcement agency. Maybe there are shady groups that work with the CIA and need security and anonymity. If so, then they would want CloudFlare to stay in business.
This is all guesswork, of course. All I can logically infer is that the U.S. government’s apparent lack of interest in CloudFlare means that either the government does not think CloudFlare’s activities are a threat or that it has other reasons for wanting CloudFlare to stay in business.