We Don’t Need No Stinkin’ Evidence

I posted earlier about the provisions of the New Years Eve-signed National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) a/k/a the “Homeland Battlefield Bill,” allowing the President of the U.S., at his or her sole discretion, to order the indefinite detention of any U.S. citizen, with no burden of proof whatsoever, and no recourse for the detainee—in fact making the President judge, jury, and jailer.

Congress now proposes to provide U.S. bureaucrats the power to block any internet site or provider, with no due process or recourse available to the blocked sites. A group of distinguished law professors has gone through the proposed legislation, Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA), also known as House Bill 3261, and advises that it would:

Allow the government to block internet access to any website that ‘facilitated’ copyright or trademark infringement—a term that the Department of Justice interprets to mean nothing more than having a link on a web page to another site that turns out to be infringing.

The professors go on to warn:

By failing to guarantee the challenged web sites notice or an opportunity to be heard in court before their sites are shut down, SOPA represents the most ill-advised and destructive intellectual property legislation in recent memory.

I would go farther and propose that its passage would add another nail in the coffin for the expectation that government always and forever bears the burden of proof prior to being able to deprive anyone of his or her freedom or property.

Further, the legislation provides government the surely nearly irresistible cover for gaining control over a medium that poses the perhaps greatest threat to its exercise of limitless power.

The totalitarian regimes targeted by the “Arab Spring” found themselves unable to withstand the power of the people connected through the internet. Today, those in power everywhere, from petty bureaucrats to despots, must certainly be feeling vulnerable and eagerly seeking the means to disarm dissenters, of which the internet is a hotbed. Whatever else its aims, SOPA fills this bill quite nicely for the U.S. government. Governments everywhere, from China to Venezuela, must be drooling at the prospect of soon being able to pass their very own SOPA.

The call has gone up for massive protests and a campaign of calls and letters to elected representatives to stop SOPA and its Senate-equivalent, the PROTECT IP Act. However, after similar outcries of a vast majority against the TARP legislation of 2009, and the passage of ObamaCare, we must not be surprised if such protests fail to stop this incredibly dangerous power grab.

After all, the concept of “representation” is so 18th century.

Mary L. G. Theroux is Senior Vice President of the Independent Institute. Having received her A.B. in economics from Stanford University, she is Managing Director of Lightning Ventures, L.P., a San Francisco Bay Area investment firm, former Chairman of the Board of Advisors for the Salvation Army of both San Francisco and Alameda County, and Vice President of the C.S. Lewis Society of California.
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