Author of USA Freedom Act Says “Nobody’s Got to Use the Internet”

As a number of outlets have reported, at a town hall last week, Wisconsin’s Jim Sensenbrenner told a constituent, asking about her congressman’s vote to overturn Obama’s broadband privacy rules, said, “Nobody’s got to use the Internet.”

“Facebook is not comparable to an ISP. I do not have to go on Facebook,” the town hall meeting attendee said. But when it comes to Internet service providers, the person said, “I have one choice. I don’t have to go on Google. My ISP provider is different than those providers.”

That’s when Sensenbrenner said, “Nobody’s got to use the Internet.” He praised ISPs for “invest[ing] an awful lot of money in having almost universal service now.” He then said, “I don’t think it’s my job to tell you that you cannot get advertising for your information being sold. My job, I think, is to tell you that you have the opportunity to do it, and then you take it upon yourself to make the choice.”

It’s of course an absurd comment. It is difficult to get a job in this day and age without Internet access; it’s hard to find a place to live. It’s not a matter of convenience, at this point it is necessary to be on the Internet to be a fully integrated citizen.

But note why Sensenbrenner said this: he pitched it in terms of the beneficent ISP providers who have kindly provided us all gateways to the Internet.

What no report I’ve seen has noted is that Sensenbrenner also happens to be the author of the USA Freedom Act as passed. In spite of his key role in defeating prior efforts to shut down the PATRIOT Act dragnets, Sensenbrenner managed to pose as a privacy advocate (making horseshit claims about knowing about the dragnet) so as to push through a bill that took the heat off telecoms, all while making more innocent Americans’ data available to NSA’s analytical maw.

Here, he reveals his true colors, a completely unrealistic view of the importance of the Internet on actual human beings.

Marcy Wheeler is an independent journalist writing about national security and civil liberties. She writes as emptywheel at her eponymous blog, publishes at outlets including Vice, Motherboard, the Nation, the Atlantic, Al Jazeera, and appears frequently on television and radio. She is the author of Anatomy of Deceit, a primer on the CIA leak investigation, and liveblogged the Scooter Libby trial.

Marcy has a PhD from the University of Michigan, where she researched the “feuilleton,” a short conversational newspaper form that has proven important in times of heightened censorship. Before and after her time in academics, Marcy provided documentation consulting for corporations in the auto, tech, and energy industries. She lives with her spouse in Grand Rapids, MI.

5 replies
  1. earlofhuntingdon says:

    I suppose it’s possible that Sensenbrenner is not an ignorant ass, and that he knows that an e-mail address and ready internet access are required for the most mundane tasks: keeping in touch with family, friends and co-workers; applying for all but the most menial jobs; dealing with employers, insurance companies, and government tax authorities; and communicating with public officials.

    It’s possible that he’s selling to the anti-intellectual, anti-corporate, anti-establishment crowd – as if he were not now a charter member of the establishment. More likely, he wants us to accept the “Nothing to see here, now move along” passivity that makes his job as a public employee – although one heavily subsidized by private industry lobbying and “fund raising” – so much easier. Mr. Sensenbrenner seems to be a caricature of an alternative congresscritter.

    • Rayne says:

      You’re very generous. The man hasn’t had a job outside the public sector, going directly from law school to the Wisconsin State Assembly in 1969. He really has little idea what the rest of the world requires of individuals to be employable in private sector.

      I’m only surprised he hasn’t referred to the internet as a series of tubes nobody needs. Thank goodness he hasn’t been involved with the House Committee on Science and Technology since 2001. He couldn’t keep up with the pace of change. Hope Wisconsin retires him in 2018.

  2. John Casper says:

    Thanks ew.

    I tweeted your piece to the Congressman, Jake Tapper, Brietbart’s John Carney, and Gannett’s Washington correspondent for Wisconsin–Craig Gilbert.

  3. SpaceLifeForm says:

    OT:

    https://www.debian.org/News/2017/20170417

    Statement concerning the arrest of Dmitry Bogatov

    April 17th, 2017

    The Debian Project is concerned to hear that one of our members, Dmitry Bogatov, has been arrested by Russian authorities.

    Dmitry is a mathematics teacher, and an active Debian contributor. As a Debian Maintainer, he worked in the Debian Haskell group and currently maintains several packages for command line and system tools.

    We await further details of the case against him, but hope that he receives fair treatment and due process.

    In the meantime, the Debian Project has taken measures to secure its systems by removing Dmitry’s keys in the case that they are compromised.

    The Debian Project honours his good work and strong dedication to Debian and Free Software, and we hope he is back as soon as possible to his endeavours.

    We send our full support to him and his family.

  4. SpaceLifeForm says:

    OT: Not good.

    http://www.ringroadbug.com/

    Security protocols like QUIC are using a mode of encryption called Advanced Encryption Standard Galois/Counter Mode (AES-GCM) for its speed and performance. By default, AES-GCM’s cipher text is the same length as the original plaintext. For transmitting sensitive communications like passwords, an eavesdropper could use the Ring-Road vulnerability to identify the length of your password and increase their chances to guess your password and successfullly login into your account.

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