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70,000 Blogs Shut Down by U.S. Law Enforcement (readwriteweb.com)
118 points by dwynings on July 19, 2010 | hide | past | web | favorite | 67 comments



If the hosting company says that they can't name the agency and can't say anything about the nature of the claim, that immediately makes me think of a National Security Letter:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/National_security_letter

"[A National Security Letter] is a demand letter issued to a particular entity or organization to turn over various record and data pertaining to individuals. They require no probable cause or judicial oversight. They also contain a gag order, preventing the recipient of the letter from disclosing that the letter was ever issued."


derwiki replied to this comment by saying:

"The gag order was ruled unconstitutional as an infringement of free speech, in the Doe v. Ashcroft case." (same article)

For some reason, his reply is dead, but it seems like a valuable comment so I'm reproducing it.


Thank god for the separation of powers. It is incredible how many rights the Bush presidency attempted to take away from its citizens all in the name of national security. The more I read stuff like this the more it seems that we were heading to a totalitarian government.

Edit: In case anybody wonders why I threw in Bush's name in there is because the Patriot Act, created during his presidency, greatly extended the NSL powers. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/National_Security_Letter


>The more I read stuff like this the more it seems that we were heading to a totalitarian government.

Well, by Mussolini's definition, the US has been a Fascist country for a long time [1].

[1] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/War_Is_a_Racket. And this is from the 30's.


Yes and even more incredible that Obama has done nothing at all to change it.


Not that incredible really. He inherits all those powers after all.


If you are going to down vote me at least explain why.


Maybe it is because you pick on a single president what every president has done. (From all parties.) Did Bush do things that where a violation of rights? Probably, but so did every president including but not limited to Obama, Clinton, Bush (senior), and Reagan. I would venture to guess it is impossible to name a president that did not infringe on the rights of citizens. Second, it was the current government that did this, not Bush.


Violation of rights seemed to have been more pervasive with the Bush presidency. He may had good intentions but looking at the big picture this is a huge step backwards. The Patriot Act, championed by his presidency, not created by the current administration, greatly increased the NSL power. That is why I single him, he was the main driving force during that time. Congress should have known better. Unfortunately they were probably being lied to, to scare them into submission the same way that they were lied to about the weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. Don't get me wrong, I want to protect this country (USA) with all my might, but we also have to be really careful about not taking steps backwards with regards to civil liberties. Essentially, that letter almost seems to give dictatorial powers to the government, which is what makes it extremely alarming.


I would venture to guess it is impossible to name a president that did not infringe on the rights of citizens.

The degree to which any perceived infringement occurs is what is significant. Bush pushed for and succeeded in suspending habeas corpus, a Constitutional protection by which people can challenge their imprisonment. This was only done twice in history, once by Bush and once by Lincoln at the start of the Civil War. By contrast, President Obama opposed the suspension of habeas corpus since he was a senator.


And yet is continued by the current administration: http://www.nytimes.com/2009/05/21/us/politics/21obama.text.h...

And Obama authorized the assassination of a US citizen; something even Bush never did: http://www.nytimes.com/2010/04/07/world/middleeast/07yemen.h...


The speech you point to does not support your point. My reading is that he is trying to cleaning up the toxic legal spill that the previous administration left behind (while trying not to give his Republic critics ammunition).

Re. the assassination of a US citizen, that hardly seems notable given that the guy is very actively involved in putting together terrorist attacks. Surely any president would make the same decision.


It seems the origigonal post was deleted I guess... Now it seems I'm like I'm talking to myself.

1) Among all his rhetoric about not continuing the policy he slips in

"there may be a number of people who cannot be prosecuted for past crimes, in some cases because evidence may be tainted, but who nonetheless pose a threat to the security of the United States...must be prevented from attacking us again "

His policy stays the same, he is just better at hiding it from the public.

2) Thats the same rhetoric people used to defend Bush. Innocent till proven guilty in a court of Law I say.


You should have listed more of that quote. Directly above that President Obama said:

Now, finally, there remains the question of detainees at Guantanamo who cannot be prosecuted yet who pose a clear danger to the American people. And I have to be honest here -- this is the toughest single issue that we will face. We're going to exhaust every avenue that we have to prosecute those at Guantanamo who pose a danger to our country. But even when this process is complete, there may be a number of people who cannot be prosecuted for past crimes, in some cases because evidence may be tainted, but who nonetheless pose a threat to the security of the United States. Examples of that threat include people who've received extensive explosives training at al Qaeda training camps, or commanded Taliban troops in battle, or expressed their allegiance to Osama bin Laden, or otherwise made it clear that they want to kill Americans. These are people who, in effect, remain at war with the United States.

The ease/danger of a transition from a democracy to a totalitarian regime was something of which the Founders were aware. Our freedoms are protected precisely by a Constitutional framework which provides safeguards, like habeas corpus. President Obama is a Constitutional scholar, and acknowledges our bindings to it. Compare that with Bush who was rumored to say it's "just a piece of paper". There may be case by case issues which are difficult as well as debatable for any president to decide, but altering the legal framework in ways which diminish civil liberties and protections is dangerous, and can too easily lead a public that is not paying attention to a place they realize too late they don't want to be.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Wmc60JmaLbE


> Directly above that President Obama said:

It doesn't matter what he says in a speech. What matters is what he says via executive orders, policy, and executive branch action.

> President Obama is a Constitutional scholar, and acknowledges our bindings to it.

Oh really? Feel free to cite any of his scholarly writings.

> Compare that with Bush who was rumored to say it's "just a piece of paper".

By someone who had an axe to grind. What has that person said about Obama's continuation and expansion of the same policies? (To be fair, some folks who criticized Bush for doing certain things have criticized Obama for continuing and expanding, but they're a marginalized minority. The "good people" have largely fallen into line.)

Of course, if you want to play "was rumored to say", there are some doozies attributed to Obama.

Double-standard much?


It doesn't matter what he says in a speech.

I disagree. Words have both immediate and historical significance and impact, whether by a dictator like Hitler or a president like John F. Kennedy.

What matters is what he says via executive orders, policy, and executive branch action.

I agree.

Oh really? Feel free to cite any of his scholarly writings.

"Mar 28, 2008 ... Barack Obama is correct in saying he is a constitutional law professor." source: FactCheck.org (http://www.factcheck.org/askfactcheck/was_barack_obama_reall...)

Of course, if you want to play "was rumored to say", there are some doozies attributed to Obama.

I will retract the rumor text. I almost didn't put it in, but I wanted to give some context for G. W. Bush's apparent disregard for Constitutional law. But I don't need to. Just watch the 6 minute YouTube video with a noted Constitutional law professor I included. Here it is again: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Wmc60JmaLbE


>> Oh really? Feel free to cite any of his scholarly writings.

> "Mar 28, 2008 ... Barack Obama is correct in saying he is a constitutional law professor." source: FactCheck.org (http://www.factcheck.org/askfactcheck/was_barack_obama_reall...)

The claim was that he was a constitutional law scholar, not that he was a professor. While there are overlaps between the two groups, neither one is a subset of the other.

I'll ask again - if Obama is a constitutional law scholar, where is his scholarly output?


The claim was that he was a constitutional law scholar, not that he was a professor. While there are overlaps between the two groups, neither one is a subset of the other.

You're kidding, right? Him being a scholar is an even easier proof than him being a questionable professor -- which the link I listed at FactCheck.org also asserts is true.

Oxford Dictionary (First Definition):

scholar (scholĀ·ar): a specialist in a particular branch of study, especially the humanities; a distinguished academic

From the UC Law School statement at FactCheck.org:

"Senior Lecturers are considered to be members of the Law School faculty and are regarded as professors, although not full-time or tenure-track ... Like Obama, each of the Law School's Senior Lecturers have high-demand careers in politics or public service, which prevent full-time teaching. Several times during his 12 years as a professor in the Law School, Obama was invited to join the faculty in a full-time tenure-track position, but he declined."


>>The claim was that he was a constitutional law scholar, not that he was a professor. While there are overlaps between the two groups, neither one is a subset of the other.

>You're kidding, right?

Not at all. I have reasonably high standards for scholars.

For example, even though the degree is "Juris Doctor", I don't call lawyers "Dr.". (However, I will call them "Esquire".)

Meanwhile, you'd call a 6th grade history teacher a "scholar" if they teach some constitution....


Not at all. I have reasonably high standards for scholars.

This is not about you. It's about the definition in the dictionary. It has as a primary entry for scholar "a distinguished academic".

The definition for "professor" from Wikipedia:

The meaning of the word professor (Latin: professor, person who professes to be an expert in some art or science, teacher of high rank[1]) varies by country. In most English-speaking countries it refers to a senior academic who holds a departmental chair ... etc.

I don't know how you equate "Senior Lecturers regarded as professors" by a university to a 6th grade history teacher who may also be the school gym teacher filling in. That's stretching things a bit.


> In most English-speaking countries it refers to a senior academic who holds a departmental chair

Which Obama didn't....

In general, real professors have publications. Heck, so do real academic doctors. Honorary and "we're giving him an appointment to curry favor" ones don't.


Bottom line:

Point 1: You had a problem with me referring to President Obama as a scholar. Regardless of your semantic arguments, dictionaries also define scholar as simply a student or learned person.

Point 2: The university statement clarifies how and why Obama was regarded as a professor -- and not just an "honorary" one.

Point 3: Most academic doctors or professors with publications do not go on to become the President of the United States. Have you ever stopped to think maybe he was busy in service of the public as well as his family?

Honestly, the original point was about the contrast in perspective, as far as the Constitution is concerned, between Obama and Bush. I really don't see what you are challenging.


> Most academic doctors or professors with publications do not go on to become the President of the United States.

Irrelevant. Becoming president doesn't imply that he's anything else.

Or, do you want to argue that he's an astronaut too? He didn't ever go into space, but that's just because he had better things to do.

> Have you ever stopped to think maybe he was busy in service of the public as well as his family?

It doesn't matter why he doesn't have scholarly output. If he doesn't....

FWIW, almost every other editor of the Harvard Law Review managed to crank out a paper or two during their tenure.

> Honestly, the original point was about the contrast in perspective, as far as the Constitution is concerned, between Obama and Bush. I really don't see what you are challenging.

You seem to think that teaching a class tells us something important. Without scholarly output, we know nothing about what he did. (I'm a lecturer at a major university....)


You seem to think that teaching a class tells us something important.

Correct. In the context of a presidency, along with his words, I believe we can infer a regard for the Constitution. And Obama made essentially this point. Take a look at an excerpt from a speech by President Obama on national security:

We are building new partnerships around the world to disrupt, dismantle, and defeat al Qaeda and its affiliates. And we have renewed American diplomacy so that we once again have the strength and standing to truly lead the world. These steps are all critical to keeping America secure. But I believe with every fiber of my being that in the long run we also cannot keep this country safe unless we enlist the power of our most fundamental values. The documents that we hold in this very hall - the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, the Bill of Rights -are not simply words written into aging parchment. They are the foundation of liberty and justice in this country, and a light that shines for all who seek freedom, fairness, equality and dignity in the world.

I challenge you to find any reference Bush made to any of the above documents at any time while on the subject of national security where he is clearly expressing a regard for the document(s) as a guide.


>> It doesn't matter what he says in a speech.

> I disagree. Words have both immediate and historical significance and impact, whether by a dictator like Hitler or a president like John F. Kennedy.

Both Kennedy and Hitler followed up on their words. Their words were significant because of their actions.

With Obama, at least on these issues, the words and actions are very different.


Both Kennedy and Hitler followed up on their words. Their words were significant because of their actions.

John F. Kennedy was assassinated more than a year before his first term as president was up. But thankfully his words live on as in this quote which was posted recently here on HN (and is currently the top comment in the thread!) by another member here: http://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=1528441

The very word "secrecy" is repugnant in a free and open society; and we are as a people inherently and historically opposed to secret societies, to secret oaths and to secret proceedings. We decided long ago that the dangers of excessive and unwarranted concealment of pertinent facts far outweighed the dangers which are cited to justify it. Even today, there is little value in opposing the threat of a closed society by imitating its arbitrary restrictions. Even today, there is little value in insuring the survival of our nation if our traditions do not survive with it. And there is very grave danger that an announced need for increased security will be seized upon by those anxious to expand its meaning to the very limits of official censorship and concealment. --JFK

If speeches don't matter as you say, why did the HN member bother to post this? And why is it the top voted comment in the thread?


> If speeches don't matter as you say, why did the HN member bother to post this?

You'll have to ask the poster.

> And why is it the top voted comment in the thread?

Wowsers, now that's an argument....

As someone said in ancient times, "this is usenet, not something important".

On second thought, I'll venture a guess as to why it was posted - it sounded nice and the poster agreed with it. As to its impact on the real world....


No comment.


If possible, it's generally better to link to someplace other than the You Must Be A Registered Member Times. A signup form is not very informative.


Interesting I'm not a member and get full access. Are you outside the US?


Nope, I'm in California. IIRC, the first N views are free, then they throw up a registration form for the next week or so.


You might want to put in a few examples to bolster your case


Why? Because there seems to be a short attention span downvoting cabal on HN. Any post that is mildly controversial and requires people to think has a moderate to high chance of going to -2 within the first 45 minutes, only to bounce back to more than 10 after a few hours. Don't worry about early votes.


If you are being downvoted, at least wait a few hours for the score to settle itself, before complaining.


From my reading of the wikipedia articles about those cases, there has been no definitive decision on these-- just some refusal to vacate a stay, and then congress revised the law to have some congressional review.

Perhaps someone else can point me to something more definitive describing how the gag orders were ruled unconstitutional?


I am skeptical - The host, https://www.burst.net/ Looks like a template monster design with a reseller system, no traffic rank and a nearly empty forum- From a outsider looking in, it looks like a host that is barely in business and likely ran by one guy from his apartment.

Maybe they are over-exaggerating for press? Maybe the server crashed, and they dont want the bad press so did a bogus excuse? Stranger things have happened. But I highly doubt this has even remotely anything to do with "operation in your sites" and is likely related to some issue at burstnet. I wouldnt be surprised if law enforcement isnt even involved.


Trust me, burstnet is far from a small host. They went through a rebranding I believe as part of their clean up effort from their last brand which had a reputation for attracting high bandwidth questionable sites.


From their site:

"The company has experienced exceptional growth and currently hosts 5000+ dedicated servers and co-located machines, 5000+ Virtual Private Servers (VPS), and millions of websites."

If it's one guy running it from his apartment, that's gotta be one amazing apartment.


I definitely got the vibe of this being handled a bit amateurishly.


BurstNET is located very close to where I am. About a year and a half ago I toured their facilities for a colocation project. Upon walking in I was horrified. They rows of tower based servers with their cases ripped off on the wire-frame racks you would find in a home improvement store. After seeing that and hearing they lacked any fire suppression system I respectfully walked away from their bid.


Well, there is a link to a thread on a webhostingtalk.com, where some people are discussing the issue. After reading the original posting by the blog service provider and some of the replies, here are some basic lessons to be learned from this.

1. A lot of people have no clue as to the legal process

2. It pays REALLY well to have external backups

3. It might be a good idea to use encrypted volumes to store sensitive data, so if authorities are involved, they have to serve you with papers to get your decryption keys. This way you stay more informed.

4. Your hosting provider probably has a clause in their ToS that more or less says "we can terminate your service whenever, the hell, we want and there is nothing you can do about it". Deal with it.

5. This story still sucks.

6. Seems like this guy was simply small enough to just serve a court order and shut down his service. I don't think anyone would shutdown Google for questionable content on a blogger account or google web pages.

7. I am pretty sure, that there is no legal way for a law enforcement agency to remain anonymous while doing something like this. Either I am wrong about it or something is amiss.


Your hosting provider probably does have such a clause, but after exercising it they should expect to go out of business.


Not if they only do it to a small percentage of clients and within common sense. Generally the clause is there, so that they have a legal ground to shut you down without waiting for legal process to catch up (i.e. if legal authorities ask them without providing a warrant, if they get complaints about some questionable content etc.)


For #7, I'm pretty sure there would be a way if it was a national security concern.


Doesn't it sort of defeat the purpose? If nobody can anonymously shutdown a web site but the NSA, then every time web site is shut down anonymously, it probably IS NSA.


A blogging service works on a per-account basis, for them to shut down the whole server instead of just taking down the offending account(s) seems to be pretty excessive, no matter what those accounts have 'done'.

There is some chance they found themselves the unwitting participant in a child pornography distribution network, and that they don't know which accounts are 'the ones', and they've taken everything off-line until they've verified which accounts are bad and which are good.


Why keep it a secret if it's just kiddie porn?


Brand damage.


If this isn't just sensationalist reporting, then this is pretty bad. I wonder if it's related to the piracy crackdown that was recently announced by the White House.


The spokesperson said it wasn't a copyright thing; it sounds a little extreme for that anyway. I'd rather not speculate on what it is though until we get more details.


Sorry, I missed that the first time I read through the article.


Not piracy:

A spokesperson for the company later told CNET that this case had nothing to do with copyright violations.

I wonder what it is.


From BurstNET:

"We cannot give him his data nor can we provide any other details"

I guess this is one of the dangers of hosting a user-generated content site- law enforcement may confiscate your server. This seems highly unusual even for something like child pornography. Usually they ask (politely then forcefully) the server owner for cooperation. It's possible that the owner of Blogerty is a suspect.


Instead of closing down the blogs why not impose fine on print & electronic media, if they publish a lie.


Yeah! joshwa's got a point there! Law enforcement agents concerned with not publicly identifying themselves might also likely be concerned with: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Posse_Comitatus_Act


That only applies if this was done by the military though.


A phrase with the words sledgehammer and nut comes to mind.

Obviously somebody was a naughty boy, but what about the other users of the server?


More details from BurstNet's CTO: http://news.cnet.com/8301-31001_3-20010923-261.html


This is why I don't trust the government with an internet kill switch.


That is a bit Kafkaesque.

Everyone has the right to know why their right is being denied or what they are being charged with. If it was a privet firm then fine, but the government can't just go around closing websites without saying if not in detail then in general what the charges are. How, if the website owner is wronged, is he able to challenge the decision if he does not even know what the allegations are against him.


What you say was more or less true in 2000. Things have changed a bit since then. The fact that many recent laws and programs obviously defy the first ten amendments to the US Constitution have gone "unnoticed" by the SCOTUS, and both major brands (D & R) seem content with how things have developed the last decade.

"We the rabble" are likely in for a 10 year slog to fix things, if we are lucky: paper ballots; some kind of coalition or runoff voting rule changes to take down the "two" party system; reestablishment of the rule of law.


I am sorry. I can not quite agree with that. I do not know about the united states, but here in the united kingdom we have a very independent judiciary which has ruled against the government time and time again.

I do agree in a way, just before Tony Blair left, which I think was 2008 or 2007 things seemed to be going in a very dark direction, but frankly, it is the peoples fault.

We are so lucky as to be able to change government without bloodshed and in the UK for what I know we are so lucky as to not go down without a very real power struggle between the executive and the judiciary.

Take them to court I say. That is what they are for.


I am thinking that the subject might be child pornography, espionage or cyber terrorism. Should some of those blogs had some sort of method of communicating information with terrorists I do not see why the NSA would not shut the whole thing down.

I hate to be in the shoes of those 70000 people but from the article and evidence available right now this is a really serious matter.


maybe the fbi thinks terrorists were communicating via blog comments, in a secret code designed to look like spam? as far as 'movie-plot terrorism' goes, i don't think it's too far fetched.


Does it mean that any site can be shut down if it's used by terrorists? Which one is next: facebook, because terrorists can create a group there and send messages, twitter, because a terrorist cell can use it to coordinate attacks, or perhaps wordpress? Which service will be shut down next?


Maybe terrorists were communicating using spam! That would rock!


The NSA doesn't have legal authority to do anything as you have indicated. Legal authority to bring down these sites were almost certainly done through the FBI, via a National security letter http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/National_Security_Letter




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