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Obama Administration Pisses Away Two Years of Internet Freedom Efforts in WikiLeaks Crackdown

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Once you get beyond the possible damage of low-level cables being shared so that the general public has a better idea of what their own governments are up to, there is the massive damage being done to the global freedom to circulate truths and criticize governments. These are a few data points for the principles being sacrificed in the insane lynching mob directed at WikiLeaks and Julian Assange.

"Obama Talks Internet Freedom in China," Daily Tech, November 17, 2009.

President Obama made his first visit to China this week and in a talk with Chinese students, Obama issued a call for internet freedom. Obama spoke about internet freedom and free speech. Ironically, the comments made by Obama regarding free speech and internet freedom became targets of the Chinese internet sensors and fell prey to what is known as "The Great Firewall of China."

The Boston Globe quotes Obama saying, "I can tell you that in the United States, the fact that we have free internet - or unrestricted internet access - is a source of strength, and I think should be encouraged."

"Remarks on Internet Freedom," Hillary Rodham Clinton, Secretary of State, at the Newseum, Washington, DC, January 21, 2010

There are many other networks in the world. Some aid in the movement of people or resources, and some facilitate exchanges between individuals with the same work or interests. But the internet is a network that magnifies the power and potential of all others. And that's why we believe it's critical that its users are assured certain basic freedoms. Freedom of expression is first among them. This freedom is no longer defined solely by whether citizens can go into the town square and criticize their government without fear of retribution. Blogs, emails, social networks, and text messages have opened up new forums for exchanging ideas, and created new targets for censorship.

"Obama reaches out to Iranian people, vows free internet," AFP, Mar 20, 2010

WASHINGTON: US President Barack Obama Saturday subtly shifted US rhetoric on Iran, pledging to ensure Iranians could access the Internet without fear of censorship, and blaming Tehran for isolating itself. . . . Obama offered increased educational programs to allow young Iranians to come to the United States to study. And he placed faith in the power of the Internet, to trump efforts by the government in Tehran to stem dissent, and hinted at a more active US role to ensure that online communication could be maintained within Iran.

"US in touch with Kuwait about jailed writer," AFP, December 4, 2010

WASHINGTON -- The United States said Friday it is has been in touch with the Kuwaiti government about the case of a Kuwaiti writer serving a one-year jail term for allegedly slandering the prime minister.

Kuwait's appeals court on Wednesday refused a request to release writer Mohammad Abdulqader al-Jassem and set December 15 to issue its verdict in his appeal against the jail term handed down November 22, Jassem's lawyer said. "We are following his case very closely. We continue to be concerned," State Department spokesman Philip Crowley told reporters. "Our view is the ability of citizens and journalists of any country to freely and vigorously discuss, debate and critique the actions of government does not threaten national interest," he said. In fact, he added, "it strengthens civil society and makes governments better and more accountable." . . . During the trial, a public prosecutor called on the court to increase the jail term against Jassem, who is also a journalist and lawyer, for an article he wrote deemed highly critical of the prime minister. . . International human rights organizations have condemned the jail term and called for his immediate release and withdrawal of charges. Jassem, 54, is also facing several other cases, mostly filed by the prime minister alleging slander.

"State Department is taking right steps to foster Internet freedom," Washington Post editorial, July 21, 2010

BILLIONS OF people live in countries where the Internet is not free. Confined behind the elaborate firewalls of authoritarian regimes such as China and Iran, they find their rights to expression threatened online and off -- by elaborate systems of monitoring and censorship and by harsh laws that punish bloggers with imprisonment or even death.

"Stephen Conroy and US at odds on net filter," The Australian, March 29, 2010

THE Obama administration has questioned the Rudd government's plan to introduce an internet filter, saying it runs contrary to the US's foreign policy of encouraging an open internet to spread economic growth and global security. Officials from the State Department have raised the issue with Australian counterparts as the US mounts a diplomatic assault on internet censorship by governments worldwide.

"Internet Freedom in the 21st Century: Integrating Technologies into Diplomacy and Development,"
Department of State, February 4, 2010

Five Key Freedoms of the Internet Age

  1. Freedom of Speech: Blogs, emails, text messages have opened up new forums for the exchange of ideas.
  2. Freedom of Worship: The Internet enhances people's ability to worship as they see fit.
  3. Freedom from Want: Online connections expand people's knowledge and economic opportunities including locating new markets.
  4. Freedom from Fear: Those who disrupt the free flow of information threaten individual liberties and the world's economy and civil society.
  5. Freedom to Connect: Connecting with others near and far offers unprecedented opportunities for human cooperation.

"Official: Cloud Computing Raises Diplomatic Issues, the National Journal, April 15, 2010

Cloud computing is a double-edged sword in the fight for Internet freedom, a top State Department official said on Wednesday. Networks that host software and hardware for multiple companies, people and agencies -- collectively referred to as the cloud -- promote the free exchange of ideas when operated by democracies, Nextgov.com reported.

But when the servers hosting such applications are located in repressive regimes, government officials might lay claim to the information processed through that equipment, including dissidents' personally identifiable information, said Alec Ross, senior adviser for innovation to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

...

During a major policy speech in January, Clinton announced that Internet freedom would become a strategic priority for the United States in 2010.

"Clinton Voices Support for RIM: Citing Right of 'Free Use,' Secretary of State Enters Fight Over U.A.E. Plan to Curb BlackBerry Access," Wall Street Journal, August 5, 2010

The Obama administration stepped into the spat over some foreign governments' plans to restrict use of the BlackBerry this fall, acknowledging security concerns but stressing users' rights to unfettered access to email and the Internet.

Lebanon expresses security concerns over the use of Research in Motion's BlackBerry as a growing number of nation's are considering or have issued orders to block BlackBerry service. Now Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is weighing in on the issue.

...

Promoting Internet freedom has become a key part of U.S. foreign policy under Secretary Clinton. But the Obama administration also has repeatedly stressed the need to hamstring terrorists' efforts to use the Internet to recruit, raise funds and plot attacks.

And this gem from BoingBoing.

"U.S. to Host World Press Freedom Day in 2011," Department of State, December 7, 2010

The United States is pleased to announce that it will host UNESCO's World Press Freedom Day event in 2011, from May 1 - May 3 in Washington, D.C. UNESCO is the only UN agency with the mandate to promote freedom of expression and its corollary, freedom of the press.

The theme for next year's commemoration will be 21st Century Media: New Frontiers, New Barriers. The United States places technology and innovation at the forefront of its diplomatic and development efforts. New media has empowered citizens around the world to report on their circumstances, express opinions on world events, and exchange information in environments sometimes hostile to such exercises of individuals' right to freedom of expression. At the same time, we are concerned about the determination of some governments to censor and silence individuals, and to restrict the free flow of information. We mark events such as World Press Freedom Day in the context of our enduring commitment to support and expand press freedom and the free flow of information in this digital age.

Finally, Hilary Clinton July 21, 2010, on Youtube.com

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