Thinking for Yourself is Now a Crime

Paul Craig Roberts
Information Clearing House
January 4, 2008Extinguishing Liberty’s Light and Independent Views

What was the greatest failure of 2007? President Bush’s “surge” in Iraq? The decline in the value of the US dollar? Subprime mortgages? No. The greatest failure of 2007 was the newly sworn in Democratic Congress.

The American people’s attempt in November 2006 to rein in a rogue government, which has committed the US to costly military adventures while running roughshod over the US Constitution, failed. Replacing Republicans with Democrats in the House and Senate has made no difference.

The assault on the US Constitution by the Democratic Party is as determined as the assault by the Republicans. On October 23, 2007, the House passed a bill sponsored by California Democratic congresswoman Jane Harman, chairwoman of a Homeland Security subcommittee, that overturns the constitutionally guaranteed rights to free expression, association, and assembly.

The bill passed the House on a vote of 404-6. In the Senate the bill is sponsored by Maine Republican Susan Collins and apparently faces no meaningful opposition.

Harman’s bill is called the “Violent Radicalization and Homegrown Terrorism Prevention Act.” [ http://www.govtrack.us/congress/bill.xpd?bill=h110-1955 ] When HR 1955 becomes law, it will create a commission tasked with identifying extremist people, groups, and ideas. The commission will hold hearings around the country, taking testimony and compiling a list of dangerous people and beliefs. The bill will, in short, create massive terrorism in the United States. But the perpetrators of terrorism will not be Muslim terrorists; they will be government agents and fellow citizens. Read the rest of this entry »

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Imagine that every time you printed a document, it automatically included a secret code that could be used to identify the printer – and potentially, the person who used it. Sounds like something from an episode of “Alias,” right?

Unfortunately, the scenario isn’t fictional. In a purported effort to identify counterfeiters, the US government has succeeded in persuading some color laser printer manufacturers to encode each page with identifying information. That means that without your knowledge or consent, an act you assume is private could become public. A communication tool you’re using in everyday life could become a tool for government surveillance. And what’s worse, there are no laws to prevent abuse.

The ACLU recently issued a report revealing that the FBI has amassed more than 1,100 pages of documents on the organization since 2001, as well as documents concerning other non-violent groups, including Greenpeace and United for Peace and Justice. In the current political climate, it’s not hard to imagine the government using the ability to determine who may have printed what document for purposes other than identifying counterfeiters.

Yet there are no laws to stop the Secret Service from using printer codes to secretly trace the origin of non-currency documents; only the privacy policy of your printer manufacturer currently protects you (if indeed such a policy exists). And no law regulates what sort of documents the Secret Service or any other domestic or foreign government agency is permitted to request for identification, not to mention how such a forensics tool could be developed and implemented in printers in the first place.

With no laws on the books, there’s nothing to stop the privacy violations this technology enables. For this reason, EFF is gathering information about what printers are revealing and how – a necessary precursor to any legal challenge or new legislation to protect your privacy. And we could use your help.

In the preliminary research paper linked below, we explain what we’ve observed so far, briefly explore the privacy implications, and ask you to print and send us test sheets from your color laser printer and/or a color laser printer at your local print shop. That way, we can watch the watchers and ensure that your privacy isn’t compromised in ways that harm your fundamental consitutional rights.

In addition to documenting what printers are revealing, EFF has filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request, and we will keep you updated on what we discover. In the meantime, we urge you to participate and pass the word along about this research project. Thank you for your support!