Googlepisode: What Will Be The Tone Of Clinton’s Speech?

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Secretary of State Hillary Clinton will call tomorrow for an uncensored global Internet where individuals and companies can operate without fear of repression or computer attacks such as those Google Inc. says emanated from China.

Clinton will sketch out the Obama administrationís vision of promoting Internet freedom and security, highlighting how the U.S. is supporting organizations around the world to develop tools to circumvent firewalls and promote democracy and economic growth[.] (Businessweek)

I certainly hope that this speech is not another “You’re bad, we’re good. Why can’t you be like us?” type of lecture. Not that there are certain Internet policies over here that we could do without.

No, I just hate hypocrisy.

When the U.S. legislature had the chance to speak out against government abuses in the telecom area, specifically when it was discovered not only that the U.S. government was spying on its own people, but also that the telecom companies were complicit in those illegal acts, what did the legislature do?

2008. Amendment to the Foreign Intelligence Survey Act. Essentially legalized all of this crap. Details from Glenn Greenwald:

Surely, the U.S. Congress that is now putting its foot down on private companies cooperating with such abusive spying elsewhere would react very angrily in the face of revelations that it was being done here.† Actually, in the face of such revelations less than two years ago, they ended up on a very bipartisan basis legalizing the illegal spying program and immunizing the telecoms that enabled it all.† From The†New York Sun, July 9, 2008:

Bowing to President Bush’s demands, the Senate approved and sent the White House a bill today to overhaul bitterly disputed rules on secret government eavesdropping and shield telecommunications companies from lawsuits complaining they helped America spy on Americans.

Hypocrisy from the U.S. Congress? Surely I jest.

No, actually, this is a rather baldfaced display of political bullshit. Well, let’s be charitable. The U.S. Congress, the legislative branch, is constitutionally distinct from the executive branch. Certainly the Obama Administration has clean hands on this issue?

On the FISA vote in 2008, Clinton, Biden and Obama were all present and recorded votes. Some viewed the bill as covering up President Bush’s War on Terror excesses, so most of the “No” votes came from Democrats. So, with no further delays:

Sec State Clinton — No

VP Biden — No

President Obama — Yes (!!!)

Well, it’s a good thing that Clinton is giving this particular speech instead of Obama, huh?

OK, before the concern trolls come after me, let me point out that nowhere in this post have I argued that U.S. and China surveillance/Net restrictions are comparable. I am not making an equivalence argument here.

What I am suggesting is that if Clinton, or anyone else in the administration, comes out on this issue with scathing, fire-breathing, judgmental rhetoric, they better be prepared to explain why electronic surveillance on one’s own citizens is a mortal sin when Beijing does it, but laudable if done by Washington to “maintain the American way of life”?

Barf. I’ll let Greenwald have the last word:

That’s our Government and political class in a nutshell:††vocally condemning other countries for abuses which we ourselves engage in with impunity.

2 responses on “Googlepisode: What Will Be The Tone Of Clinton’s Speech?

  1. David Smith

    Here’s my •0.02 RMB.

    I wondered how the North American Chinese-language press would deal with the Google controversy. Here in the NY area we get the Duowei Shibao, a weekly, not consistently pro- or anti-PRC government. Last week, in a front page above-the-fold editorial, a bold Duowei headline asks, “Is Google Representing the US in Conflict with China?” It suggests that Google is being used by the US to open a new front in relations. The article is suspicious that the US State Department got in the middle of the controversy as early and as forcefully as it did. (Obama administration does not move fast. It spent many months on Afghan strategy, months to pick out a family pet for crying out loud.)

    The editorial quotes University of Maryland professor Gao Jing saying “The honeymoon is over.” Which made me wonder when was this honeymoon that I missed.

    Inside the same section another article describes a “wag the dog” angle: with everything going wrong for the administration, the loss of the Massachusetts Senate seat, the end of the healthcare plan that that implies, 10% unemployment and so on, the White House wants to divert attention to an international situation in which the American side is the good guy in clear-cut terms.

    This article notes the involvement of Google’s Eric Schmidt in the Obama campaign, transition, and economic advisory panels.

    The Duowei website with an ever-changing menu of Google material is at http://www.dwnews.com/gb/Jiaodian/00000otd/00000otd.shtm and the latest thing in seems to be that the Chinese government would prefer to deal with it as a pure commercial dispute and not escalate.