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OpEdNews Op Eds    H2'ed 5/17/11

New US International Cybersecurity Strategy Aims to Institute 'Rule of Law' on the Internet

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In the cables from Sweden is the assertion from a European Union top negotiator on ACTA, who tells the US embassy, "The secrecy issue has been very damaging to the negotiating climate in Sweden" The secrecy around the negotiations has led to the legitimacy of the whole process being questioned." Critics wanted the process of developing the agreement to happen before a place for transparency like the WIPO, which could involve public interest groups. Cables from Japan show the US pushed back against the approach because of the fear that other nations wouldn't support the restrictions it wanted included in the agreement.

Furthermore, US Trade Representative official wanted this to be a "a freestanding agreement, not related to any international grouping such as the G8 or OECD, which might make it more difficult to construct a high-standards agreement." As described at Ars Technica, they wanted a ""coalition of the willing' bent on creating tough new enforcement rules that they would slowly seek to impose on other countries."

"We should move as fast as possible and keep in mind that the intent of the agreement is to address the intellectual property rights problems of third-nations such as China, Russia and Brazil, not to negotiate the different interests of like-minded countries," one Japanese Trade official notes.

Sweden is expected to play a central role in cyber warfare . The US has used Sweden, along with other countries, to map out the world's digital infrastructure. Details on this mapping in the cables demonstrates what the US believes to be its "security zone" is the entire world.

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Upon considering revelations in the cables, it is likely the implementation of any international cybersecurity strategy will not be open, fair or transparent. It will be cutthroat and conducted on behalf of US industry. And, diplomats will engage in squalid conduct and negotiations in order to make certain a specific agenda is implemented.

Sprinkled throughout the strategy are references to arenas in which the US might work to develop cyber security policy. Mentioned are the Organization of American States (OAS), Asian-Pacfic Economic Cooperation (APEC), the Association of Southeastern Asian Nations (ASEAN), the G8 and the United Nations. The Tunis Commitment of the World Summit on the Information Society and the Budapest Convention on Cybercrime both are mentioned as initiatives that might help inform how the US secures cyberspace in cooperation with other countries.

The Convention on Cybercrime is a treaty that was ratified in 2006 and is considered by the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) to be one of the "worst Internet laws." EFF wrote then the treaty would not just put "one bad Internet law into America's lawbooks, but invite the enforcement of all the world's worst Internet laws."

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The treaty requires that the U.S. government help enforce other countries' "cybercrime" laws - even if the act being prosecuted is not illegal in the United States. That means that countries that have laws limiting free speech on the Net could oblige the F.B.I. to uncover the identities of anonymous U.S. critics, or monitor their communications on behalf of foreign governments. American ISPs would be obliged to obey other jurisdiction's requests to log their users' behavior without due process, or compensation.

In conclusion, the strategy portends a future where the language of open Internet advocates and freedom of speech activists is used and re-branded as an ideological weapon to advance purposes that have little to do with preserving the Internet and more to do with expanding America as a world power. If you read James Peck's Ideal Illusions, this is what happened to the language of human rights.

The strategy will build America's "soft power" in the world. It will seek to achieve desired outcomes through attraction rather than coercion in the same way Obama's speech to the Muslim world aimed to repair the damage done between the US and Muslims during the Bush Administration era.

Also, this strategy asserts that there will be "rule of law" in cyberspace. It calls for the "rule of law" to be put in place "to prevent the risks of logging on from outweighing the benefits." This is defined in the strategy as, "civil order in which fidelity to laws safeguards people and interests; brings stability to global markets; and holds malevolent actors to account internationally--both supports our national security and advances our common values."

The strategy affords countries (presumably ones that support the strategy) the "right to self-defense." This "right to self-defense" is the same right that nations like the US has exploited to justify wars like the pre-emptive war in Iraq. Will the world see this clause pushed into binding agreements and later used to justify cyber war on countries' communications infrastructure?

The world has seen America purport to advance the "rule of law" offline. They have seen the US in the past decade create a "new normal " where individuals are shielded from accountability for engaging in warrantless wiretapping, torture, or rendition; state secrets are invoked to prevent transparency; detainees are denied habeas corpus; prisons like Guantanamo and Bagram (along with black prison sites that likely still exist) continue to hold detainees perhaps indefinitely; the right to target and kill U.S. civilians and bypass due process is asserted; and military commissions or "kangaroo courts" force detainees into Kafkaesque proceedings that make it nearly impossible to not be found guilty.

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If this is what the "rule of law" looks like offline, what will any "rule of law" the US works to promote look like online?

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Kevin Gosztola is managing editor of Shadowproof Press. He also produces and co-hosts the weekly podcast, "Unauthorized Disclosure." He was an editor for
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