Home page logo

interesting-people logo Interesting People mailing list archives

From: Dave Farber <farber () central cis upenn edu>
Date: Sat, 27 May 1995 17:57:18 +0900

Posted-Date: Sat, 27 May 1995 03:04:32 -0400
From: Doug Michels <doug () sco COM>
To: farber () central cis upenn edu
Date: Fri, 26 May 1995 23:59:00 -0700 (PDT)

From sco.sco.com!woolf.individual.com!individual.com!first Thu May 25
23:21:05 1995
Date: Fri, 26 May 1995 02:19:11 -0400
From: first () individual com (An Information Service of INDIVIDUAL Inc.)
Message-Id: <199505260619.AA23377 () individual com>
To: individual () sco com
Profid: SCOKL1
Addrid: NEIL1

SOURCE:   ZiffWire via First! by Individual, Inc.
DATE:     May 25, 1995
INDEX:    [6]

 Inter () ctive Week via First! : A Senate panel went gunning for the
Internet. They didn't miss.

 During a May 11 hearing titled "The Availability of Bomb Making
Information On The Internet," several senators, led by presidential
candidate Arlen Specter (R-Pa.) and Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), made
the Internet out to be a prime purveyor of terrorism.

 Specter chaired the hearing of the Subcommittee on Terrorism. He did not
mince words: "There are serious questions about whether it is
technologically feasible to restrict access to the Internet or to censor
certain messages." His Subcommittee wants to find the answer.

 Although rumblings about the Internet's role in terrorism have been
echoing through the halls of Capitol Hill ever since the bombing in Oklahoma
City, Specter's hearing was the first to officially investigate the issue in
a congressional forum.

 The Subcommittee heard from five expert witnesses. Each acknowledged that
even the "mayhem manuals" -- as Specter called the Internet text files that
contain bomb-making information -- should be considered protected speech
under First Amendment guidelines. However, Rabbi Marvin Hier of the Simon
Wiesenthal Center questioned whether Congress couldn't, somehow, devise a
way to censor speech. The "obscene or threatening phone caller" doesn't have
protected speech, Hier said. "Why are those protections afforded if he
launches the same attack via the Internet?"

 Sen. Feinstein couldn't brook with the idea that the First Amendment
extended to "information . . . that teaches people to kill." The expert
testimony "really has my dander up," Feinstein said, suggesting that such
information be banned from electronic networks.

 Bomb-making instruction books made available online should be targeted for
censorship, Feinstein suggested, because that information is "pushing the
envelope of free speech to extremes." She told the experts that the
"doctrine of prior restraint is one we have to look at." After all, she
said, that such information "isn't what this country is all about."

 That line drew a sharp rebuke from Jerry Berman, executive director of the
Washington-based Center for Democracy and Technology: "Excuse me, Senator,
that is what this country is all about." Berman then asked: "Are you
proposing we outlaw that kind of speech for bookstores?" Feinstein just

 Sen. Herb Kohl (D-Wis.) added his two cents, saying that if Americans
"really knew about the dark back alleys of the Internet . . . they would be
shocked." Kohl went on to suggest that Congress would look at placing
artificial restraints on access to the Internet. "In other words, the
industry acts now or Congress will do it for you," Kohl said. "After all, if
we have the technology to get kids on the Internet, we have should have the
technology to get them off."

 The Department of Justice got its licks in when Deputy Assistant Attorney
General Robert Litt testified. "Not only do would-be terrorists have access
to detailed information on how to construct explosives," he said, "but so do
children." He followed that line with a shot aimed at commercial services
such as Prodigy, America Online and CompuServe: "This problem can only grow
worse as more families join the Internet 'society.'"

 America Online's Government Affairs Director William Burrington pointed
out that any restrictions the U.S. might place on Internet access would
largely be ignored by the rest of the world, given the "international
information ocean" that is the Net.

 Specter was set on his heels when he questioned Litt. "What first-hand
knowledge or statistics do you have about crimes that have taken place as a
result of information gathered from the Internet?" Specter asked. "None,"
replied Litt. Specter reframed the question twice, but Litt could find no
other answer. Specter asked him to "investigate" the question and report

 Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) broke from his colleagues, saying, "Before we
head down a road that leads to censorship we must think long and hard about
its consequences." He then cut to the bottom line of the debate: It is
"harmful and dangerous conduct, not speech, that justifies adverse legal
consequences," Leahy said.

 The most telling blow came from former U.S. Attorney Frank Tuerkheimer.
Currently a law professor, Tuerkheimer gained notoriety in the 1970s when,
arguing the government's case, he successfully blocked the publication of
the How to Make an H-Bomb article in The Progressive magazine, providing a
precedent for the "prior restraint" doctrine.

 Tuerkheimer said that today he regrets arguing that case, first because
the information was all available in public libraries, and second because
another publication ended up printing it anyway. Those circumstances, he
said, show the fallacy of trying to censor information, which "will find a
way to get out," he said.

 Tuerkheimer also pointed out to the Senate panel that even the
Encyclopedia Britannica includes detailed bomb making information. Further,
a publication called the Blaster's Handbook, which contains a detailed
recipe for an Ammonium Nitrate/Fuel oil bomb like that used in Oklahoma
City, is available for free -- from the U.S. Department of Agriculture's
Forestry Service.

 Brock N. Meeks, Inter () ctive Week

[05-25-95 at 17:27 EDT, Copyright 1995, ZiffWire, File: c0525204.4zf]

 Copyright (c) 1995 by INDIVIDUAL, Inc.  All rights reserved.


  By Date           By Thread  

Current thread:
[ Nmap | Sec Tools | Mailing Lists | Site News | About/Contact | Advertising | Privacy ]