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[] Webzensur / J.Pike nimmt nichts vom Netz,
    Columbia Daily Spectator October 30, 2001

    By Ben Wheeler,

    Thomas Friedman calls it "Jihad Online." The Sept. 11
    attackers used modern means: some used e-mail to
    coordinate; they formed in decentralized networks,
    thwarting attempts of counterintelligence to infiltrate
    their structures; they chose recently built Boeing planes
    as their weapons of destruction.

    Yet at the same time, the attacks were shockingly
    low-tech, practically involving kitchen utensils. And
    though the network theory sounds fancy, in practice it
    rests on old-fashioned secrecy and patience. Osama bin
    Laden is perceived by the American public as a Luddite, a
    kindred spirit of the Unabomber who envisions a society
    lived out of caves. This image was constructed at least in
    part by bin Laden himself, who chooses to pose in natural
    settings as if in the field of battle, rather than in
    comfortable dwellings indoors where he actually spends
    most of his time.

    But Islam's relationship toward modernity is far more
    nuanced than commentators like the Times' Friedman would
    have us believe. "What makes [the terrorists]
    super-empowered, though," writes Friedman, "is their
    genius at using the networked world, the Internet, and the
    very high technology they hate to attack us."

    Do members of al Qaeda hold opinions about technology
    anywhere near as strongly as they do about United States
    foreign policy? Not likely. But our government certainly
    knows that they and other clandestine groups use
    technology, as we all do, to further their aims. For this
    reason, Congress has long worked to selectively block
    their access to certain technologies.

    A key technology that has aroused controversy is strong
    cryptography, featured in applications like Pretty Good
    Privacy (PGP, that allow
    anyone to send encrypted messages readable only by the
    intended recipient. The proliferation of PGP would mean an
    FBI nightmare -- electronic communications that are
    impossible to tap. Until recently, the government
    classified PGP as an armament so potent that it was
    illegal to export or post for downloading. In the name of
    the surveillance powers of the FBI, the privacy of the
    broader public was compromised.

    Hacking also poses a complex problem in the eyes of the
    government, though it is difficult to see how the
    penalties introduced in last week's USA PATRIOT Act will
    hinder terrorism. The list of "federal terrorism offenses"
    now includes practically any low-level computer intrusion
    -- even though such hacking was already a crime under
    other laws. The Electronic Frontier Foundation, a civil
    liberties organization that focuses on computer-related
    rights, warns that in addition to possible life-sentences,
    the act means "adding broad pre-conviction asset seizure
    powers and serious criminal threats to those who
    'materially assist' or 'harbor' individuals suspected of
    causing minimal damage to networked computers."

    Other targets are Web sites, which face censorship both by
    governments and by hosting companies. Since Sept. 11, many
    Web pages that feature military blueprints, maps of
    government facilities, or other sensitive material have
    been voluntarily removed by their owners. Other sites
    considered pro-terrorist have been taken down in the
    United States and Britain, including 55 sites in a
    jihad-related web ring that Yahoo disabled at the request
    of federal agents.

    Completely removing information from the Internet,
    however, is not easy. Sites are frequently mirrored by
    other sites, cached by individual browsers, or stored by
    search engines for later searching. Even when sites are
    taken down, a copy usually remains at, which
    has the Web's most prominent cache of much of the Web. has offered to remove its cached copies, but
    not all censors know it exists. As a spokesman for
    militant site told The Wall Street Journal, "One
    cannot shut down the Internet."

    It often makes sense to censor sites that pose a clear
    danger to the public good; consider sites that provide
    home addresses of doctors who perform abortions. But cause
    for censoring websites is frequently ambiguous. When the
    company that hosts received threats and requests
    -- including one originating from the FBI -- that the site
    be disabled, they complied. Of course, there is no way now
    to evaluate the decision, since we don't know what the
    offending content was.

    Nor is censorship consistent. Some sites in the
    Azzam-affiliated Qoqaz network have been shut down; others
    have not. The Qoqaz France site remains, linking to bin
    Laden videos and featuring the quote, "Only jihad and the
    gun. NO negotiation, NO conferences, and NO dialogue."
    Should it, too, be unequivocally censored? Because
    censorship, once in place, is unequivocal.

    Censorship can also be pointless. When John Pike of was asked to pull old military data
    from his sites, he looked at the information and decided
    the request was mere paranoia. "Apart from demonstrating
    the fact that these facilities exist," Pike said, "there
    was nothing that would help a terrorist planning an
    attack." He decided to keep the info on the site.

    The current wave of censorship is nothing if not reckless,
    and legislation is not far behind. The biggest problem
    with the measures being passed during this period of
    urgency is that they are as permanent as all laws are.
    Later sessions of Congress may realize the dangers of such
    draconian measures, but they will be loath to strike down
    legislation so deeply associated with patriotism. After
    all, restricting Internet rights may have nothing at all
    to do with fighting terrorism. But protecting these rights
    amid the fervor for security? That would be downright

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