Lawrence Lessig on the coming "i-Patriot Act"

T0AD says:

Lawrence Lessig, a respected Law Professor from Stanford University told an audience at this years Fortune’s Brainstorm Tech conference in Half Moon Bay, California, that “There’s going to be an i-9/11 event” which will act as a catalyst for a radical reworking of the law pertaining to the Internet.

Lessig also revealed that he had learned, during a dinner with former government Counter Terrorism Czar Richard Clarke, that there is already in existence a cyber equivalent of the Patriot Act, an “i-Patriot Act” if you will, and that the Justice Department is waiting for a cyber terrorism event in order to implement its provisions.

Lessig: "I had dinner once with Richard Clark at the table and I said 'is there an equivalent to the Patriot Act -- an iPatriot Act -- just sitting waiting for some substantial event just waiting for them to come have the excuse for radically changing the way the Internet works?' And he said, 'Of course there is' -- and I swear this is what he said, and quote -- 'and Vint Cerf is not going to like it very much.'"
Lessig starts talking about it around 4:30 into the video.

UPDATE: Video source is Silicon Valley Watcher.

Law Professor from Stanford University Predicting i-9/11 (Google Video)


  1. So, the internet was designed by DARPA (or whoever – too lazy to look it up!) to be fundamentally resistant to physical attack (eg Russkies with bombs).

    Pity that didn’t somehow include attack by the crypto-fascists within… or maybe it did?

  2. Why do I think an attack is inevitable, either from “real terrorists” or from those who just really want this law?

  3. This technique is better know as the Hegelian Dialectic.

    David Icke has coined the term,
    “Problem-Reaction-Solution” in his analysis into how the state orchestrates false flag events.

  4. yay! our wonderful gov’t (of the peeps, by the peeps for the rich, er… peeps) looking out for us idiots every step of the way! gawd, i feel safe!

  5. What to do about it? Encrypt, encrypt, encrypt..

    And stop using GMail! As in, now! You think an iPatriotAct wouldn’t let them read any GMail archive they want? Be in control of your own data!

  6. They’ll take away my encrypted software-defined mesh-network wireless fidonet when they pry it from my cold dead hands.

  7. This sounds like total BS but I’ll play along.

    I love the hubris to say it will “radically changing the way the Internet works”. The internet for the most part is decentralized. And while it is true that most of the the servers run in the US, any radical change would mean the end of the Internet as we know it.

  8. What we need is an internet/information tech equivalent to the space race.

    A very difficult, but glamorous and publicly attractive way to distract governments away from real, dangerous stuff. It worked for excess ICBM desire – Apollo drained all that away to the moon, and the Cold War ended, eventually. So what about excess surveillance desire, and the War on Terror?

  9. Of course there are FEMA-type response plans in case of Internet collapse. It’s considered infrastructure.

    To pun #2, The fact that Lessig’s just waiting for an ‘inevitable’ ‘i-911’ event makes him a tool, not a craftsman.

    Take that as name-calling if you will, but every time I see a so-called ‘civil liberties watchdog’ needlessly spreading FUD, I sometimes wonder what their ulterior motives are.

    A lot of people with those kind of leanings tend to just have god complexes. Turn everyone against establishment in order to… what, control them yourself?

  10. I just realized how reliant I am on Boing Boing and Ars Technica for info like this.

    I’ll just say it: I can’t say I understand everything that was discussed in this video but I aim to.

    Anyone recommend any other resources for info on creative commons?

    3D interfacing sounds like fun. Really not interested in becomming a WOW subscriber to experience it.

  11. @13: “…every time I see a so-called ‘civil liberties watchdog’ needlessly spreading FUD, I sometimes…”

    we’re all gods… especially Clapton, Hendrix, and Lessig.

    @Mark: That was over my head therefore you are a nerd.

  12. The internet /isn’t/ decentralised – the control structures are, but most of the pipes run through NY State and Denver.

  13. @Rich

    Do you have a suggestion for another e-mail provider that will be safe from said law?

    I can run my own e-mail at home and encrypt, but you bet it will be a punishable offense not to decrypt upon court order.

    I can use an encrypted e-mail service which will also bow under pressure immediately. Even foreign ones will likely have enforcement attempted by US officials.

    Seriously, any suggestions? I am all ears. So far I’ve just decided not to have any form of important conversation via e-mail.

  14. This brings to mind a Google video I watched a couple years back (possibly posted here), where a gentleman explains a method of setting up an untraceable and more importantly undetectable private phone system over the internet.

    I seem to recall that he was using Asterisk with wifi phones, but not much else… but you *know* I’m going to start digging for it now.

  15. @13 Yes yes, it’s always the crazy people wary of curtailing our civil liberties who want to control us. Not the people actually curtailing our civil liberties. Fantastic logic. Impeccable. If you think Lawrence Lessig and the EFF have some crazy agenda to get us high on civil liberties and therefore under their thumb, well, I wont resort to name calling.

  16. Makes me think of a fact not discussed much (or all, that I’ve come across) – The Patriot Act was written and signed off on long before 9/11. Of course. I have no evidence of this, but I consider it obvious, standard operating etc. It’s not that the spineless traitor Congressdrones didn’t “have a chance to read it” before they signed it – they’d either been told to or already signed off on it or something very similar in closed session long, loooong before. To think that they didn’t have “strengthen the police/surveillance state in case of homeland megadeath” legislation on the secret books and raring to go seems ridiculously naive to me. The question (perhaps the main question we in the US should be asking ourselves in regards to the “representative” system as a whole) is, how much choice did they have in crafting it, or how much was it imposed on them, and through which mechanisms of power?

    So, of course there’s an opportunistic iPatriot act already on the books. I think it’s important to think about how (if it’s possible at all) do we pressure our representatives to make sure that what they do, which of course they can’t tell us about or even admit to, while under the who-know-how-fucked-up security clearance rules of closed session / subcommittee / invitation-only-skulluminati orgy rituals further strengthens the fascist state as little as possible? How do we make sure that once these prefab authoritarian federal power grabs become public (in the middle of an emergency and accompanying media-fueled reactionary hysteria)that the little actual opposition left in the marbled psuedo-roman halls of power can do something to blunt the worst of it?

    Or do we just prepare our own alternative infrastructure (and let the non-ubernerds rot?) and accept the inevitability of more and more overt fascism , as the comments here seem to suggest?

    Of course, voting for Obama will fix everything. Hopechange!

  17. Anything Lessig says should be taken with a huge grain of salt.

    I take him exactly as seriously as Stallman. He clearly knew so little about how the software industry works back when writing for Wired but was so willing to make all sorts of unfounded attacks upon it apparently without a single bit of vetting from Wired that it finally drove me to cancel my wired subscription.

    I certainly hope Boing Boing makes *some* effort to think about the qualifications and motivation of any point of view they promote here to avoid becoming a dumping ground for every nutbar with a microphone out there.

  18. US cracks ‘biggest ID fraud case’
    The US authorities have charged 11 people in connection with the theft of credit-card details in the country’s largest-ever identity theft case.

    Hope this isn’t ‘the straw’:
    “They are accused of stealing more than 40m credit and debit card numbers before selling the information.

    They allegedly hacked into shop and bank computer systems using a technique known as “wardriving” and installed software to access the data.”

  19. Re #24 Takuan, to save others from having to load up Drudge, “Cyber-criminal gang infecting tens of thousands of computers; stealing passwords, other personal information… Developing…” but no links as of yet. The phrasing makes it sound like it is happening *Right*Now*. Well, let’s see what develops, or maybe nothing. Whispered rumours, repeated through the echo-net. Yay, ‘journalism’!

  20. @#5, Hegelian Dialectic actually consists of a thesis, its resulting reaction and antithesis, and a synthesis which resolves the thesis-antithesis pair.

    Those unsure whether the U.S. government might stage a cyber-terrorism incident to justify its i-Patriot Act should research the WMD Incident (which “justified” the invasion of Iraq), the Tonkin Gulf Incident (which “justified” the Vietnam War) and the Maine Incident (which “justified” the attack on Cuba).

  21. The discussion of the i-Patriot act is interesting, though not surprising and I believe Mr. Clarke said much the same to me when I met him last year, but I was very interested in what Mr. Ito said about the march toward a mobile internet in Japan that is still locked to carriers.

  22. I wonder if internet 2 is going to tie into this I-Patriot act. I can see the advertising now “Hey you there, sitting on your computer worried if you are violating Federal Law by watching Two Girls One Cup. Have we got a deal for you. Its internet 2. You’ll never violate the I-Patriot act because we wont let you go to those pesky alternative websites. Internet 2, its like basic cable for the web.”

  23. After a quick read of the posts, I say:

    Already a smear against Lessig’s rep, implying that he is discredited — without stating where and when. Lessig is anything but. I sense a nasty rightist smear campaign against catbellers, starting with their reputations. Saw it in the Salon letters today as well – a sudden surge in rep savaging and implied incompetence without cites. A curious sudden uptick.

    Encrypting email… sigh. The iPatriot act will deal precisely with encryption: you won’t get to use it without giving the shadow lords your decrypt key. Cleverness will get you prison time. After all that’s happened in the last seven years, it’s disingenuous to pretend you can’t anticipate what will happen. No one would have believed 2008 in 2000. Yet few notice or care that we live in a police state with nameless overlords.

    Here’s a brief list of the new lords’ wishes: logins linked to ID cards and/or credit cards, no encryption (except for businesses and military, who will be required to escrow keys with HS), absolute route tracing, no proxies allowed, no anonymity, provisions for moral content monitoring ie ratings and censorship, email reading, download monitoring with mandatory registered hashes of files to verify authorization for download, policing of copyrighted content, centralized control of packeting routing, router registration, ID chips in anything that connects (already done), and laws, laws, laws to arrest, convict and imprison anyone who messes with the new order. That’s just a start.

    Of course the Patriot Act was pre-written months or years before the implementation. Does anyone believe that the hundreds of pages of tight language was written in weeks? Please.


  24. In a week where Sy Hersh reported that Cheney kicked around the idea of a false flag attack in order to get some steam behind his invade-Iran-dream AND we find that the 2001 Anthrax came from our own labs sent out by a “crazy” dead patsy as the main suspect how can anyone not read this news and get chills?

    The internet’s education value is too powerful to not be controlled by a government who would rather we remain as uneducated as possible. They will stage an i-9/11 and they will close this unbridled, beautiful exchange of information down once and for all.

  25. In case of disaster:

    Didn’t have a plan = screwed-up government.
    Did have a plan = screwed-up government.

    Preparing a rope ladder to exit your house
    doesn’t mean you plan to set your house on fire.

  26. @#38 posted by paulm: “Preparing a rope ladder to exit your house doesn’t mean you plan to set your house on fire.”

    But preparing to invade your neighbour’s house just may.

  27. Suspect:

    Not sure what you mean, so I’m guessing.

    The government wants to control the internet
    so it’s planning a disaster to implement its disaster plan?

    And maybe you think this because it planned
    the 9/11 tragedy so it could implement the
    Patriot Act and invade Iraq?

  28. Yes, I do believe with a high degree of certainty that the U.S. government’s decision-makers created the myth of the Iraqi WMD in order to invade Iraq.

    This technique worked pretty well, as it has in the past, and it will likely be employed again.

  29. Indeed, the *exact* same thing it worked VERY well for Germany, too.

    Do a search on the ‘Gleiwitz incident’ specifically and ‘Operation Konserve’ in general, for comparison.

  30. You folks worry too much. The infrastructure of this country is going to crumble so much the gov will be lucky to collect parking fines. Cripe, New York state is thinking of selling off its toll roads.

    How are the stinkballs gonna monitor everything when all the good stuff will be black market and anarchy rules the roost?!!

    Most people in the US of A are too apathetic to care about Fascistic oversight and that includes government employees. I’m counting on the apathy to take over when the ACLU can’t litigate. I think us worry-warts assign too much power to the National Security State crowd. They can only work their agenda by riling up us plebs and from what I see, it’s nothing but crisis fatigue.

    You’ll never see true (small “d”) democracy in the US, but you’ll never see an Orwellian state either. Everyone will go through the motions and there will only be selective enforcement of anti-civil liberty laws. That’s terrible, but even that will crap out too. Then we can all get back to our dreary lives. Internet porn is here to stay too, even the super gross stuff.

  31. #47, Hedges forgot to add the trouble with mutant irradiated whales capable of walking on land and devestation wrought by Orgone energy.

    That article might have included a few too many could happens/might happens. Yeah, the power elite in the US is nutso. Yeah, they could unleash unfunking-real horror, but it’s less likely the more we move toward 2009. Not impossible, but increasingly less likely. I’m betting on a passive dystopic crumbling of the Empire, not a global perfect storm of ultimate horror and authoritarian doom.

    On the other hand, we are at war with Oceania and have always been at war with Oceania…

  32. Mrvl t hw strs ftrng th bggst crckpts ttrct cmmnts by th bggst crckpts. Brds f fthr, ch chmbrs, tc.

    Taking down the Internet is nowhere as simple as flying planes into buildings. It’s also a lot less permanent. damage to the internet can be fixed with a reboot or reconfig.

  33. Maybe he’s implying Richard Clarke is a crackpot. That’s what Bush Chaney, Rice, et al thought he was when he tried to tell tham al Quada was coming.

  34. Takuan -I’m calling lessig one. And Clarke. Maybe they understand law and politics, but they sure don’t know IT.

    Which is usually the problem when law and politics are applied to IT.

    I’ll even apply that to my own fields of knowledge. To certain commenters here: I’m not a shrink, so I won’t try to diagnose.

  35. “by turning government completely over to business”

    Business like say … Enron? Or business like, say, GM? Or business like,say, Bear-Stearns? Or business like ….

    But you can see where this is going.

    Let’s change health care by turning the hospitals over to cancer and curing the urge to cure.

  36. I’m not sure we even need an “i-9/11.” Just look at what South Korea — a nominal democracy — has managed to do already.

    Korea started censoring the web almost from the moment the Mosaic beta was released. It’s illegal to even look at North Korean websites, and has been for over 10 years. Laws allow the South Korean government to force ISPs to block or delete material which is “injurious to public morality” or might “damage national sovereignty.” They do so regularly.

    Still, supporters of their previous center-left president, Roh Mo-Hyun, managed to use the internet to mobilize voters (especially young ones) and get him into office. (He really let them down, but that’s another story.)

    More recently the right wing GNP (“Grand National Party,” the rough equivalent of the US Republican party) used similar leverage to gain power.

    But now they don’t much like the popular complaints about them circulating on the web. You can bet they’ll do something about that nuisance in a hurry. Building on previous proposals to ban anonymity on the web, the SK legislature has recently introduced a “Cyber Defamation Law” which will further expand the government’s control over the net. See for more info.

    Could it happen in the US or UK? Of course. All they need is the right excuse, and something as simple as massive identity theft or accusations of “spreading panic” ought to do nicely.

  37. It’s all crackpot theories. Until a (small) percentage turn out to be true.

    For a good guess at which crackpot theories will eventually turn out to be true, follow the money.

    Now imagine how much money there is in a pwnd Internet.

    I’m with Lessig on this one.

  38. Look at the DNS flaws being discussed.

    Now that had real potential to hijack the Internet… except everyone has already patched their stuff.

    You’re looking at infrastructure that was designed from the ground up to be able to respond immediately to threats and attacks.

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