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Quote of the Day: Nader Warns of a Wikileaks-Inspired Internet Crackdown

BY Nancy Scola | Thursday, December 16 2010

We hear a lot about the information age. We hear a lot about what it's supposed to do for us. But the risk in this Wikileaks overreaction to control of the Internet, and to damaging the dissemination of [sic] compilation and access to information worldwide, is very, very serious. ...

At DARPA, Peiter Zatko and his group is [sic] busily working on a technical fix so that this kind of disclosure can never happen again. Many people think that that can not be done, that the genie of the Internet is out of the bottle. But it does seem to me that we should be very careful in not developing a bill of attainder mindset. If it's okay for Obama administration officials to conspire and collude with Bob Woodward...

-- That's public advocate Ralph Nader warning the House Judiciary Committee that there are those who might exploit the historic moment created by Wikileaks' State Department disclosures to go after a crackdown on the free and open Internet. Nader was testifying during the committee's hearing today on what the 1917 Espionage Act has to say about Wikileaks, and whether the century-old law might need rebooting in the wake of Wikileaks. Several witnesses told the committee that the most likely reaction by Washington to whatever threats are posed by Wikileaks will be an overreaction out of proportion to whatever legitimate risks these leaks might present to the United States.

So who's Peiter Zatko? According to a piece in the Los Angeles Times back in November, Zatko is former hacker, known by the nom de hacking "Mudge." At the moment, Zatko heads up something called the Cyber Insider Threat program at the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency. DARPA, of course, is the branch of the U.S. Defense Department that fits into the origin story of the Internet as a place that helped give birth to ARPANET, an information network that fed into the development of the modern Internet.

According to that LA Times piece, Zatko is at the moment leading a program that is looking for technologies that would detect the sort of improper access to sensative government information that alleged Wikileaks source Private First Class Bradley Manning is accused of engaging in. As Nader tells it, the very arm of the of the United States Government that helped foster the development of the modern open Internet decades ago is now focused on finding ways to lock it down.