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Senator Wyden Asks DHS To Explain Domain Seizures 243

An anonymous reader writes "With Homeland Security continuing to seize domain names without warning and without giving site operators a chance to respond to charges, it appears that at least some people in the US government are quite concerned about this turn of events. Techdirt has a copy of the full letter Senator Wyden has sent to both Attorney General Eric Holder and ICE director John Morton, asking a series of pointed questions concerning the domain seizures and how they impact due process, free speech and sovereign rule in foreign countries."
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Senator Wyden Asks DHS To Explain Domain Seizures

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  • Epilepsy (Score:3, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday February 04, 2011 @12:07PM (#35104124)
    Obviously the domains were causing the seizures, that's why they had to be closed!
  • About time... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by mace9984 ( 1406805 ) on Friday February 04, 2011 @12:07PM (#35104126) Journal
    He has my vote..
    • The thing about his letter...He asked not just questions, but he asked the *right* questions.

      I'm sure Holder and the ICE enforcer are aware they are breaking the law. I am wondering how difficult it is to get a special prosecutor. I'm wondering why, after a certain number of American's complain that a special prosecutor isn't automatically assigned. Seems to me that'd be the way to go to get these guys under control.

  • Eric Holder and John Morton filed the congressman's letter in their circular file. They don't give a frak what congress thinks.

    • by Magada ( 741361 )

      I bet the good senator has the wherewithal to at least start an investigation.

      • 18USC242 I bet the good senator has the wherewithal to at least start an investigation.

        OMG No! Not another congressional investigation!

        Children will be running in the streets in abject terror. Teeth will be gnashed. Garments rended.

        CSpan will have 6 people watching the feed representing a 50% increase from baseline.

  • by Drakkenmensch ( 1255800 ) on Friday February 04, 2011 @12:12PM (#35104184)
    ... the terrorists have already won? That seems the logic behind the DHS seizing domains at the RIAA's request.
    • by chispito ( 1870390 ) on Friday February 04, 2011 @12:19PM (#35104254)

      ... the terrorists have already won? That seems the logic behind the DHS seizing domains at the RIAA's request.

      I'm pretty sure even if there were never 9-11 hijackers or a DHS, the RIAA and MPAA would have found some other government agency to overstep its bounds and pull this kind of crap. Hooray for the good senator in trying to shed light on it.

      • I'm pretty sure even if there were never 9-11 hijackers or a DHS, the RIAA and MPAA would have found some other government agency to overstep its bounds and pull this kind of crap. Hooray for the good senator in trying to shed light on it.

        True that. The best way to send the cockroaches flying into panic is to turn on the kitchen light.

    • by dkleinsc ( 563838 ) on Friday February 04, 2011 @12:28PM (#35104332) Homepage

      Weird Al described exactly how dangerous illegal downloading was:

      Once in a while maybe you will feel the urge
      To break international copyright law
      By downloading MP3s from file-sharing sites
      Like Morpheus or Grokster or Limewire or KaZaA

      But deep in your heart you know the guilt would drive you mad
      And the shame would leave a permanent scar
      'Cause you start out stealing songs and then you're robbing liquor stores
      And sellin' crack and runnin' over school kids with your car

      So really all this stuff is protecting the children and stopping drug crimes. Now, who could possibly be against that? Won't somebody please think of the children!

    • by The Moof ( 859402 ) on Friday February 04, 2011 @12:44PM (#35104472)
      The best part is from TFA. From Wyden's Letter:

      In an affidavit written by Special Agent Andrew Reynolds, he uses his ability to download four specific songs on the domain name as justification for seizure of this domain name. According to press accounts, the songs in question were legally provided to the operator of the domain name for the purpose of distribution.

      So it doesn't even matter if the distribution is legal or not anymore.

    • Just think of all the advertising income the terrorists are making off of their bit torrent servers . . .
    • by Beardo the Bearded ( 321478 ) on Friday February 04, 2011 @01:13PM (#35104796)

      Don't you remember 9/11?

      Terrorists flew downloaded MP3s into the Twin Towers and shot a child porn missile at the pentagon.

      For shame, Drakken. It's only been 10 years and you've forgotten the terrible cyber-events brought forward by the e-terrorists.

    • Re: (Score:2, Offtopic)

      by hairyfeet ( 841228 )

      Don't forget that they've recently grabbed domains that simply linked to where you can watch sports feeds, gotta protect the money those megacorps spent on the superbowl!

      What is pathetic is how blatantly the federal arm is used as nothing but free attack dogs for the megacorps. Can't be spending their time and our taxpayer money actually trying to keep our country safe, heaven for fend, no we must insure that these multinational megacorps can enjoy their God given right to ever increasing profit margins! Wh

      • With an ever growing underclass it won't take long before we get our own Lenin or little German to stir the underclasses into following Egypt, my guess is it will be right about the time those checks the fed keeps cranking out won't even buy a loaf of bread.

        Technically, he was austrian. Germany was so broke after WWI that they had to IMPORT their new fascist dictator.

  • by eldavojohn ( 898314 ) * <> on Friday February 04, 2011 @12:14PM (#35104212) Journal
    Allow me to answer the questions from the honorable Senator for the DHS which was established to protect me from the terrorists:

    concerning the domain seizures and how they impact due process

    Basically ICE assumes that since we are now dealing with the 'cyber' prefix, none of the old laws apply that don't specifically call out domain names. So your due process is largely non-existent and we just sorta make it up as we go along. I mean, a lot of the stuff gets reversed. You're actually guilty until proven innocent in our books! If you don't agree with that, it logically follows that you're a terrorist. That's your first warning.

    free speech

    Ah, yes, 'free speech.' Well, basically our domain seizing takes free speech, bends it over an arcade machine and violently rapes it in front of everyone. It's sort of funny because you'd think you wouldn't be able to rape anyone in public but, well, so far everyone's just been standing around and watching us so ... And I mean we're DHS so what're they gonna do anyway, right? Side note, this is your second warning for asking terrorist questions, Senator.

    sovereign rule in foreign countries

    Foreign countries? No no no, there are two countries in the world: United States and everybody else. Everybody else gets rules only after our rules are established []. And that's strike three, mister.

    That's an awful nice schedule you got there, Senator, be a shame if someone were to put you on the No Fly list! will now redirect to DHS and ICE seals until the good Senator can prove he did not import unlicensed pandas in 1978. Terrorists like Wyden make me sick.

    • by MoonBuggy ( 611105 ) on Friday February 04, 2011 @12:20PM (#35104262) Journal

      That's an awful nice schedule you got there, Senator, be a shame if someone were to put you on the No Fly list!

      Particularly worrying is the fact that recent developments suggest that they could very easily do exactly that [] - oversight seems to be pretty much non-existent. Unfortunately, the news media seem less than concerned [] about this one - I'm not suggesting any government conspiracy, it's just surprising given their common cries of "the sky is falling" to boost sales.

      • Went to share that first link via facebook and found porn in the thumbnails, Thank you Moonbuggy and Reuters for making my day!
      • In Canada we usually refer to it as "Snow" but whatever.

      • When you said "exactly that", what I thought you were going to refer to was the No-Fly placed on Senator Ted Kennedy years ago.

      • That's because there have been very few high profile mistakes for the media to latch onto. Put Katie Curic, or some other high level news person on the terrorist watch lists and not let her fly anymore and you will start to see change.

            The sheeple can scream until they are blue in the face, but until someone gets out there and really starts to talk about it nothing will happen.

      • Congress funds DHS does it not? Maybe just a couple of congressmen have the wherewithal to stand up for foreign domain names that were seized without due process but they ALL have the wherewithal to stand up when they themselves are threatened.
      • by wwphx ( 225607 )
        Personally, I think all Congresscritters should go through both the full body scanner and the enhanced patdowns every time they fly. It's probably going to be the only way we see that change.

        Not related to DHS domain seizure, but still a pleasant thought.
    • That's an awful nice schedule you got there, Senator, be a shame if someone were to put you on the No Fly list!

      I'd venture to guess that that's not how it's done, Kennedy's token, highly-publicized difficulties not withstanding:

      Paul Wellstone was the only progressive in the U.S. Senate. Mother Jones magazine once described him as, "The first 1960s radical elected to the U.S. senate." He was also the last. Since defeating incumbent Republican Rudy Boschowitz 12 years ago in a grassroots upset, Wellstone emerged as the strongest, most persistent, most articulate and most vocal Senate opponent of the Bush administration.

      In a senate that is one heartbeat away from Republican control, Wellstone was more than just another Democrat. He was often the lone voice standing firm against the status-quo policies of both the Democrats and the Republicans. As such, he earned the special ire of the Bush administration and the Republican Party, who made Wellstone's defeat that party's number one priority this year.

      Various White House figures made numerous recent campaign stops in Minnesota to stump for the ailing campaign of Wellstone's Republican opponent, Norm Coleman. Despite being outspent and outgunned, however, polls show that Wellstone's popularity surged after he voted to oppose the Senate resolution authorizing George Bush to wage war in Iraq. He was pulling ahead of Coleman and moving toward a victory that would both be an embarrassment to the Bush administration and to Democratic Quislings such as Hillary Clinton who voted to support "the president."

      Then he died.

      Wellstone now joins the ranks of other American politicians who died in small plane crashes. Another recent victim was Missouri's former Democratic governor, Mel Carnahan, who lost his life in 2000, three weeks before Election Day, during his Senatorial race against John Ashcroft. Carnahan went on to become the first dead man to win a Senatorial race, humiliating and defeating the unpopular Ashcroft posthumously. Ashcroft, despite his unpopularity, went on to be appointed Attorney General by George W. Bush. Investigators determined that Carnahan's plane went down due to "poor visibility."

      Carnahan was the second Missouri politician to die in a small plane crash. The first was Democratic Representative Jerry Litton, whose plane crashed the night he won the Democratic nomination for senate in 1976. His Republican opponent ultimately captured the seat from his successor in November.

      While an article in the New York Times on Saturday pointed out the danger politicians face due to their heavy air travel schedules, the death of a senator or member of Congress is still relatively rare, with only one other sitting U.S. Senator, liberal Republican John Heinz, dying in a plane crash since World War II. Heinz, who entered office as an outspoken opponent of the Vietnam War, later emerged as a strong proponent of health care, social services, public transportation and the environment. He also urged reconciliation with Cuba. He died when the landing gear on his small plane failed to function, and a helicopter dispatched to survey the problem crashed into his plane.

      One former senator, John Tower, also died in a small plane crash. Tower was best known as the chair of the Tower Commission, which investigated the Reagan/Bush era Iran/Contra scandal.

      Another member of a prominent government commission who died in a small plane crash was former Democratic representative and House Majority Leader Hale Boggs. Boggs was best known as one of the seven members of the Warren Commission, which investigated the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. The commission found that Lee Harvey Oswald was acting alone when he killed the president. Boggs, it turns out, had "strong doubts" that Oswald acted alone, but went along with the commission findings. Later, in 1971 and 1972, he went public with his doubts. He was presumed dead after the small plane carrying him and Democratic Representative Nicholas Begich disappeared in 1972.

      Texas Democratic Representative Mickey Leland also died in a plane crash. In his case, the six-term member of Congress and outspoken advocate of sanctions against the apartheid government of South Africa, died while traveling in Ethiopia. Another American politician to die overseas in a plane crash was the Clinton administration's Commerce Secretary, Ronald Brown, whose plane went down in the Balkans.

      Anyone familiar with my work knows that I'm certainly not a conspiracy theorist. But to be honest, I know I wasn't alone in my initial reaction at this week's horrible and tragic news: that being my surprise that Wellstone had lived this long. Perhaps it's just my anger and frustration at losing one of the few reputable politicians in Washington, but I also felt shame. Shame for not writing in my column, months ago, that I felt that Paul Wellstone's life, more so than any other politician in Washington, was in danger. I felt that such speculation was unprofessional and would ultimately undermine my credibility. In the end, my own self-interest triumphed, and I never put my concerns into print. Neither did any other mainstream journalist, though I know of many who shared my concern.

      When I heard Wellstone's plane went down, I immediately thought of Panamanian General Omar Torrijos, who in 1981 thumbed his nose at the Reagan/Bush administration and threatened to destroy the Panama Canal in the event of a U.S. invasion. Torrijos died shortly thereafter when the instruments in his plane failed to function upon takeoff. Panamanians speculated that the U.S. was involved in the death of the popular dictator, who was replaced by a U.S. intelligence operative, Manuel Noreiga, who previously worked with George Bush Senior.

      There is no indication today that Wellstone's death was the result of foul play. What we do know, however, is that Wellstone emerged as the most visible obstacle standing in the way of a draconian political agenda by an unelected government. And now he is conveniently gone. For our government to maintain its credibility at this time, we need an open and accountable independent investigation involving international participation into the death of Paul Wellstone. Hopefully we will find out, beyond any shadow of a doubt, that this was indeed an untimely accident. For the sake of our country, we need to know this.

  • by Zerth ( 26112 ) on Friday February 04, 2011 @12:17PM (#35104244)

    Does the Administration consider whether a domain name operated overseas is in compliance with the domestic law from which the domain name is operated?

    What standard does DoJ expect foreign countries to use when determining whether to seize a domain name controlled in the U.S. for copyright infringement?

    Does the Administration believe that websites that facilitate discussion about where to find infringing content on the Internet represents speech or the distribution of infringed content? What if the discussion on these websites includes hyperlinks to websites that offer downloadable, infringing content?

    I'd find it hilarious if other countries protested by grabbing a few domains that violated laws Americans think are kooky, e.g. Germany confiscating domains that sold Nazi memorabilia.

    • by OzPeter ( 195038 ) on Friday February 04, 2011 @12:27PM (#35104318)

      I'd find it hilarious if other countries protested by grabbing a few domains that violated laws Americans think are kooky, e.g. Germany confiscating domains that sold Nazi memorabilia.

      Its kind of like when Brazil started finger printing all US citizens who arrived in their country. Which upset said citizens until it was pointed out the the US was doing that to all foreign nationals arriving in the US. At least some people in the world still have balls.

    • by Nadaka ( 224565 )

      Even better, Germany seizing US domains that show images of the nazi flag in a historical context. That is also illegal in Germany from what I hear.

      • Oh please let this happen. I'll post swastikas all over Fark and 4chan.

    • It would have been hilarious if eBay and other stores *accessible* from France and Germany weren't sued for listing Nazi memorabilia already.

      That ship sailed years ago.

  • by hsmyers ( 142611 ) * on Friday February 04, 2011 @12:39PM (#35104428) Homepage

    I wrote Senator Wyden even though he is not mine--- I live in orange county north, i.e. Idaho. Here is what I said:

    I believe that your recent letter to John Morton and Eric Holder represents a "still small voice" of resistance in a dangerous slide to corporatism. When former President Eisenhower warned against the military-industrial complex no one listened--- and perhaps rightfully so since the attack on our rights comes not from Northrup and Boeing, but from Hollywood and Walt Disney. It is still an attack designed to eliminate precious rights that all citizens need preserved even if they don't clearly under stand them. I salute your efforts and would like to know how I might help in your efforts.

    I don't particularly expect a response and have no idea of what I could do, other than to voice my support. Still as the events of the last month or so have shown, great change comes from critical mass and critical mass is acquired incrementally...

    • by guyminuslife ( 1349809 ) on Friday February 04, 2011 @12:50PM (#35104560)

      Well, you could write him a check for his re-election campaign. I would but I'm broke.

      • by hsmyers ( 142611 ) *

        Will when the time comes--- there by gaining the time to scrape together some funds as I am likewise broke. Hit both the age ceiling and the experience ceiling so have been unemployed for some time now. At the moment words are all I have...

      • Exactly (Score:5, Informative)

        by ThatsNotPudding ( 1045640 ) on Friday February 04, 2011 @02:24PM (#35105512)
        Remember folks: EVERYONE in the House who was pro-Net Neutrality was removed from power via massive corporate campaign donations (which are now unlimited because of our Wing Nut Supreme Court).
    • by PPH ( 736903 )

      I wrote Senator Wyden even though he is not mine--- I live in orange county north, i.e. Idaho. Here is what I said:

      I hope his domain name stays up long enough for him to receive all the supporting e-mail.

    • by zwede ( 1478355 )

      I salute your effort in supporting the good senator, but it would have been better had you checked on the definition of the word "corporatism" before sending it.

      From wikipedia:

      Corporatism, also known as corporativism, is a system of economic, political, or social organization that views a community as a body based upon organic social solidarity and functional distinction and roles among individuals.[1][2] The term corporatism is based on the Latin word "corpus" meaning "body".[2] Formal corporatist models a

      • by NFN_NLN ( 633283 )

        I salute your effort in supporting the good senator, but it would have been better had you checked on the definition of the word "corporatism" before sending it.

        Meh, it's a moot point. He'll skim over or just read the first sentence, much like I did with your post.

    • I wrote in support of him as an Ohio resident. I very rarely contact representatives outside of my district, but when one of them does something spectacular I will anyway. I encourage others to do so as well.

      When an elected official does something that you strongly support or oppose you should let them know - especially if that person is in your district. How else are they supposed to know if what they're doing is pissing people off or making them happy?

      A lot of us fill out a ballot then go home and bitch a

  • Murder is bad (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Cajun Hell ( 725246 ) on Friday February 04, 2011 @12:44PM (#35104462) Homepage Journal

    Murder is bad. I mean, really bad and it has all sorts of negative consequences to our society, and government needs to something about it.

    Therefore, suspected murderers shouldn't have due process.

    Looks like airtight logic to me! Anyone see a problem with it?

  • by al0ha ( 1262684 ) on Friday February 04, 2011 @12:49PM (#35104542) Journal
    show just how many people there are in the US who either don't give a flying F about the principal of Free Speech or don't understand the Constitution.

    Luckily for us they are the minority, as the Tea Bagger movement has so effectively demonstrated. Even so, constant vigilance people!
    • by MickyTheIdiot ( 1032226 ) on Friday February 04, 2011 @01:06PM (#35104722) Homepage Journal

      Oh no... clearly the majority of people in the US are contented idiots or just more concerned about themselves and their lawns. Most people I know wouldn't care if half their city blew up as long as there was still food at the grocery store. It's why basically the powerful can do what they want... there isn't a knowledgeable base or voters to stand up and fight and make sure someone who really wants to lead the country and not use office as a chance to line their pockets with corporate cash. (And even if these imbeciles in Congress aren't getting paid right now, they will get a paid off down the road with a cushy job or the like. They are ALL getting paid by corporate cash now or later.)

    • Not everything revolves around Free Speech. It is however quite ridiculous how few people actually understand what Free Speech is and what is and is NOT protected.

      • You're right, this isn't primarily a free speech issue, it's a due process issue. Which is arguably more important, although less well-defined.

  • Time to Godwin (Score:5, Insightful)

    by jimmydevice ( 699057 ) on Friday February 04, 2011 @12:54PM (#35104602)
    I hate to point this out, But isn't "homeland security" going down the same path those guys in brown shirts tried some 80 years ago?
    Even their names, "homeland security" and ICE sound Orwellian.

    People from Oregon may be kooky ( I was born and lived there for 30 years ) but they believe in freedom, The real kind, not the plastic,
    corporate centric mommy state the feds have crapped out since 911.
    Every morning is a Smirnoff morning., but I'm having beer for breakfast.
    • Live free, or die, baby. I've not succumbed, nor do I intend to. They'll have to kill me first. What was it Ben said? "Those who would trade essential liberties for security, deserve neither?" Or something real close to it.
    • People from Oregon may be kooky ( I was born and lived there for 30 years ) but they believe in freedom.

      I lived in Oregon for ~20 years. For historical reasons, Oregon doesn't have much of a defense industry, and consequently not much vested interest in the fear-of-terrorists business. In certain regards Oregon is arguably less authoritarian than other places, but overall, authoritarianism seems to me to be about as strong there as elsewhere in the US.

      Here's a couple of anecdotes as examples....An acquaintance of a friend who lived in the 'historic district' in Albany, Oregon, needed to replace his windows.

      • Oregon has terrible land use laws. Other than the state land use laws to protect farm land from development (that worked well, with development all down the Willamette valley), most of this historical preservation crap comes from local govs. and the outsiders calling the shots that moved here in the 70-80 from northern cal. I can relate, My family owned 40 acres outside Turner, The smallest parcel that could be sold was 20 acres and non-farm structures (a house) could not be built on the property.
    • by hey! ( 33014 )

      But isn't "homeland security" going down the same path those guys in brown shirts tried some 80 years ago?

      No. That doesn't mean they aren't doing bad things.

      There's nothing wrong with Nazi analogies, as long as they're specific and substantive. Calling anything detrimental to freedom Nazism just makes your defense of freedom sound silly.

    • You don't need to go back to the brownshirts to get the gist of what these guys are up to. You could just as easily point to every single authoritarian regime that's existed in modern times from the USSR to the Chinese Communist Party to the House UnAmerican Activities Committee to Fidel Castro to Hosni Mubarak

      The basics: 1. Spy on your own people so you know who's dissenting from the government. 2. Use whatever means at your disposal to suppress those who are dissenting. 3. If you get caught, enjoy the sca

    • by Spykk ( 823586 )

      I hate to point this out, But isn't "homeland security" going down the same path those guys in brown shirts tried some 80 years ago?

      Homeland Security may have its issues, but comparing them to UPS is uncalled for.

  • by jdev ( 227251 ) on Friday February 04, 2011 @01:05PM (#35104716)
    Considering ICE just seized a Spanish domain that was deemed legal in Spain [], I hope this gets more attention. The government is totally out of control here.
    • The government is totally out of control.

      FTFY. No qualifications are needed on that statement.

  • [] Write him and tell him you appreciate it. Especially since it's not even time for elections yet... :D If you don't live in Oregon, write your rep and tell them that you see something like this and that it actually matters to you... And that you'll remember this come time to vote. []
  • by bradley13 ( 1118935 ) on Friday February 04, 2011 @02:02PM (#35105326) Homepage

    Following links from TFA, we find this fascinating quote []: "Law enforcement officials picked this week to shut down the sites for a reason. The Superbowl, the most-watched sporting event of the year, is this Sunday. ICE wants to make sure football fans who planned on going online to watch the big game turn to legitamate broadcasters instead."

    Who needs due process? Just follow the money...

  • by Joe U ( 443617 ) on Friday February 04, 2011 @02:09PM (#35105390) Homepage Journal

    DNS is the Achilles Heel of the Internet. If the Internet is going to be controlled, DNS is going to be the most likely way to do it.

    A few Senators are not going to stop this trend. It's going to get worse. It's good to see that someone is paying attention, but I don't see anything that can be done to fix the basic flaw with DNS. DNS is controlled by one group that you can't trust.

    So, yet again, I'm calling all the smart people out there, lets start talking about replacing DNS once and for all.


    • by fnj ( 64210 )

      Let's get one thing straight. DNS is not the problem; our government is. If the government didn't use DNS manipulation to further their evil purpose, they would use something else. They would just lock up the site owner, or put out a hit on him or send a hellfire missile if he is not in US territory. This is what you get when you cease to be vigilant about an agency (national government) whose power is inherently unlimited. The system of constitutional limits on that power only works when the people ar

  • by darth dickinson ( 169021 ) on Friday February 04, 2011 @02:36PM (#35105614) Homepage

    And AG Holder's reply:

    "Why did we seize them? Because SHUT UP, that's why!"

God made the integers; all else is the work of Man. -- Kronecker