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Republicans Revive Proposed Legislation to Force ISPs to Retain User Data

Kurt Nimmo
Wednesday, January 26, 2011

In order to protect the American people from “malicious cyber actors,” the Justice Department and an organization representing police chiefs from around the country insist Congress pass legislation requiring ISPs to retain customer usage data for up to two years.

The calls were made during a hearing on Tuesday held by a House subcommittee chaired by Rep. James Sensenbrenner, Republican congressman from Wisconsin.

Law enforcement considers current policies insufficient. ISPs are only required to save data at the specific request of law enforcement. Police argue the current policy hampers their investigations and efforts to pursue online predators and criminals.

“There is no doubt among public safety officials that the gaps between providers’ retention policies and law enforcement agencies’ needs, can be extremely harmful to the agencies’ investigations,” Jason Weinstein, deputy assistant attorney general at the Justice Department, told Sensenbrenner’s subcommittee.

In 2006, Sensenbrenner proposed similar legislation that would have imprisoned ISP executives for up to a year if they did not comply.

In addition, according to Declan McCullagh, the law would have created a federal felony targeting bloggers, search engines, email service providers and websites. The law was reportedly aimed at any site that authorities might have “reason to believe” facilitates access to child pornography through hyperlinks or a discussion forum or by other means.

Sensenbrenner’s legislation was ultimately shelved.

In 2008, the FBI and numerous members of Congress attempted to revive the dormant proposals.

“From the perspective of an investigator, having that backlog of records would be tremendously important if someone comes up on your screen now,” FBI Director Robert Mueller told a House of Representatives committee. “If those records are only kept 15 days or 30 days, you may lose the information you may need to bring that person to justice.”

Both Republicans and Democrats supported new legislation. Rep. Ric Keller, R-Fla., said that internet chat rooms are teeming with with sexual predators. Rep. Lamar Smith of Texas, the senior Republican on the House Judiciary committee at the time was a data retention enthusiast and Democrat Rep. John Conyers, the senior Democrat and committee chairman, said that proposed data retention legislation submitted by the FBI “would be most welcome,” according to CNET News.

The current effort by Congress and the Justice Department to force ISPs to hold data in order to facilitate government snooping dovetails with the Department of Homeland Security’s expansion of its “If You See Something, Say Something” program.

As we reported last month, the DHS recently partnered with Walmart in a coordinated effort to propagandize the public on an aggressive government effort to create a widespread Stasi-like informer network in the United States. The DHS plans to roll out over 800 telescreens at Walmart stores across the country.

The Justice Department is deliberately flaunting the Constitution and the Bill of Rights with its call to force ISPs to retain information on customers.

The Fourth Amendment states that the government must have probable cause “supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.” The proposed legislation would strike this constitutional requirement.

The Justice Department is arguing that the government has the right to engage in unreasonable searches and seizures without evidence of specific crimes being committed.

If House Republicans go along with the Justice Department’s effort, it will underscore the fact members read the Constitution earlier this month as a theatrical stunt and they are not seriously interested in protecting the rights enshrined in the Constitution, rights they have sworn to protect and uphold.


DOJ seeks mandatory data retention requirement for ISPs, Jaikumar Vijayan, Computerworld, January 25, 2011.

Statement of Jason Weinstein, Deputy Assistant Attonry Genral, to the Committee On Judiciary Subcommittee On Crime, Terrorism, and Homeland Security, January 25, 2011.

Congress may make ISPs snoop on you, Declan McCullagh, CNET News, May 16, 2006.

ISP snooping plans take backseat, Declan McCullagh, CNET News, May 18, 2006.

FBI, politicos renew push for ISP data retention laws, Declan McCullagh, CNET News, April 23, 2008.

Wal-Mart Invasion Part of Larger DHS Takeover of America,, December 7, 2010

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