Despite concerns from 30 civil liberties groups as well the author of the Patriot Act, James Sensenbrenner(R-W), the House Judiciary Committee has passed a very controversial ISP data retention bill that requires Internet service providers to retain data for 18 months on what web-surfing activity individuals do. The legislation is supposed to be aimed at protecting children from Online predators, however the legislation raises very serious civil liberties concerns if government is allowed to see what websites all individuals visit or post Online without a search warrant. Far beyond a concern for making the Internet a safer place, the new legislation is very similar to what Communist China does in using Internet surfing data to track down pro-democracy individuals.
The legislation opens serious new concerns that all ISP users will be targeted with “fishing expeditions” by police agencies, having to explain their activities Online even if they are completely innocent of any sort of illegal activity or interests. Further, the new legislation further erodes the rule of law where individuals must first be at least suspected of some crime before police may seek a search warrant to see if evidence exists of that crime.
In the Senate, Orrin Hatch(R-UT) has introduced a version of the new legislation as well. Orrin Hatch has long history of supporting legislation that oversteps the rule of law. He was disappointed to not have been nominated as a Supreme Court justice by past presidents. However, he has shown exceptional ignorance when it comes to understanding the rule of law.
Earlier this week, Wizbang Pop reported how Hatch was among 42 U.S. senators who called upon U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder to investigate and prosecute constitutionally protected non-obscene adult entertainment businesses even if they didn’t commit any crime.
Legislators are showing an increasing tendency to deliberately pass or support clearly unconstitutional legislation, chipping away at civil liberties until some court restrains their actions. The ISP data retention bill will certainly be challenged in court as some ISPs still believe in the doctrine of some semblance of privacy for their users who haven’t been suspected of any crime. Further, many search engines such as Google do a good job making the Web safer by removing listings they believe may promote illegal activity. But, many legislators aren’t satisfied at the careful and legal rule of law approach to policing the Internet, and instead sometimes want legal shortcut legislation that throws out a wide net instead. However, this wide net approach to law enforcement by investigating all ISP Web surfing activity makes all Americans a suspect of some illegal activity by government until proven innocent. That’s too wide of a net to cast out.