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Homeland Security Issuing Its Own DMCA Takedowns On YouTube To Stifle Speech (techdirt.com)
161 points by tomse on Aug 1, 2012 | hide | past | web | favorite | 37 comments

If you call the US "IP cops" for a perceived violation of IP or copyright, then the response will probably involve DHS.

The Department Of Homeland Security (DHS) is the home of the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency (ICE), and ICE has had responsibility for the enforcement of copyrights, intellectual property and related. ICE has had that role for a while now, too.

Which means you see DHS listed on various postings.

Here is one of many previous OMG-DHS-WTF kerfuffles:


Waving the latest round of DHS enforcement in front of nerds is probably great for the clicks, but not really all that newsworthy.

Thank you. I only learned recently that traditionally Customs was in charge of IP enforcement, because so much of it happened overseas. It was a little weird but similar to the way that the Secret Service that protects the President was (until recently) part of the Treasury Department.

So when ICE was made in 2003, the same department stayed under it. And ICE is under DHS.

The U.S. has somehow historically been really bad at producing this kind of paranoia over computer-related stuff through strange assignments of responsibility. The fact that '80s hax0r kids were raided by the United States Secret Service, rather than by some normal-sounding police agency, added a whole layer of mythos to that historical episode.

They were raided by the US Secret Service because the Secret Service is/was actually the Treasury Police (the Protective Service assignment to the Secret Service is an accident of fate).

In other words, it is/was weirder that the Secret Service protects the President than it was that they were involved in Sun Devil.

And, as someone who came up close enough to Sun Devil to know a couple things (I graduated high school in '94 and went almost directly to working in vulnerability research): many of the people who got caught up in Sun Devil were ultimately good people playing MIT-style pranks that just got out of hand... but don't valorize it. For a good long chunk of time, people were routinely hacking phone switches and rerouting calls. Almost the whole phone infrastructure --- and EVERY Internet-connected Unix system --- was owned up. It was NUTS.

Yeah, I'm vaguely aware of that history. But naming a government agency "secret service" is just a mythology-building choice in any circumstances, regardless of having a good explanation. Though the later association with guys wearing earpieces and black sunglasses taking a bullet for the President didn't help, either.

I don't valorize the '80s BBS scene per se, I just think the response was a bit over the top. Instead of fixing their shit, they tried to paint a bunch of teenage pranksters as some kind of apocalypse, as if these were uniquely evil geniuses, and raiding some BBSs and board game companies to incapacitate them was the real fix to the problem. If you're so wide-open that critical infrastructure is being owned by teenage kids of the level of technical sophistication that you find in '80s Phrack issues, there might be a bigger problem. If anything, the companies were lucky it was teenage kids and not, at that time, anyone more nefarious.

As far as the "mythos" part, the writings are what's appealing to me, mainly; there's a certain breathless, naive technical wonder of discovery that runs throughout the '80s textfiles on the subject, which is somehow endearing.

Ok, you just heard me explaining why I think the situation was apocalyptic, right? You could not have had a successful commercial Internet built on infrastructure as thoroughly owned up as the early '90s telco networks were.

I am also not talking about "the BBS scene" (which I was very much a part of). The BBS scene didn't own up switches. The BBS scene didn't have lists of X.25 outdials. The BBS scene couldn't rig you up a conference bridge. Lots of people posted comments on BBSs. Very few of them would know what to do with a DMS-100.

I am not saying the people to whom I am alluding were evil. They were not. I'm saying they were much smarter than "the BBS scene" as a whole, and that the pranks they were playing got way out of hand.

Also: I don't know why you're talking down early Phrack issues. Say what you will about today's Phrack, but in the early '90s, those were teenagers talking about how to reconfigure telco switches. The telco switches they had broken into and owned up.

Also, "Secret Service" originally referred to "The Secret Service Division of the Treasury", which was the anticounterfeiting task force of the US Treasury. It is less ominous in context. I do agree, though, that the name is ominous when you strip away the context.

Well sure, but that's an argument for fixing the infrastructure!

I'm thinking mostly of '80s Phrack issues; I haven't read too much of the '90s stuff. The '80s issues don't read to me like particularly high-level technical genius. They feel more like kids just learning relatively basic things about how different machines and networks work, sharing newbie advice (some of it cargo-cult), and then, somehow, also getting accounts on big telco systems at the same time. It's mostly the proximity that's striking, that you have kids clearly not up to the level of a Bell Labs engineer or anything, still trying to learn stuff, who are simultaneously breaking into everything using even their quite-in-progress knowledge.

Well sure, but that's an argument for fixing the infrastructure!

I'm not so sure... Most things in the world don't require as much security as information infrastructure. For some reason there is a cultural understanding that attacking it is OK.

Thought you might be interested in this.

At that time, for most teenage hackers, unix accounts were hard to come by. To even the odds, a war dialing search began and by sheer later night persistence, they discovered vast networks and operating systems. They dumpster dived, social engineered and brute forced their way to knowledge. On rare occasions, they may have shot off a flare gun when guards attempted to crack their developing bodies, become a line man for leads, or run various password permutations by hand.

what the masses aren't aware of is some of those kids quietly inoculated a virus in Chase Manhattan systems, showed the ss how banks can be compromised via tymnet, trw, etc. Not a cent was taken from those institutions, if anything, maybe a sneaker.

In the end, the ss threw them in the fed pen with hardened criminals. What a waste. After couple of decades, couple are leading startups funded by sandhill vcs. The rest are in darkness.

Maybe one day, we will realize what teenage spirit smells like and how to wield it for the good of mankind. Then again, we might be on the cusp of it - hackernews.

Then why can't they simply respond?

Why does Homeland Security exist again? Even the name doesn't suggest it's coming from a "free" country.

There is a comedian one liner that goes Q: "Why do we have the Department of Homeland Security?" A: "Because the Russians own the trademark on KGB."

Its one of those painful chuckles.

That said, take down notices from law enforcement or intelligence agencies would generally cite either an investigation in progress or a confidential information. I saw a takedown which related to the a video that included extensive footage of the federal building in San Jose. The amateur music video was using the concrete pillars for some coreographic moves but the Feds complained it contained too much 'site intelligence' with respect to the building. Which you really couldn't argue with, watching it you could see where all the fire exits were, office partitions, etc etc.

But why, in a free country, is that sensitive information?

Because in the wake of 9/11 one major criticism of how the US had managed (very real) threats was that it was operating an incompetently coordinated hodgepodge of fiefdoms that in many cases at an organization leadership level were set up to sabotage each other in much the same fashion as Eichenwald describes Microsoft's stack-ranking debacle.

One possible answer was thought to be, put all non-military national security under one umbrella and have it report cabinet-level to the President, so you won't have some petty squabble between the Coast Guard and I don't know INS preventing operations from being executed.

Obviously, the Federal Government is not in fact Voltron, and glomming together a bunch of large bureaucracies into one giant bureaucracy doesn't make government more efficient. But it's not an Illuminati plot, if that's what you're getting at.

Or... what, you just don't like the name? Would you prefer "The United States Coastal, Border, and Federal Emergency Customs, Immigration, Transportation and Protective Services Intelligence and Management Agency"?

It's not just not liking the name. Language influences thought and the phrase 'Homeland' rings up a range of Orwellian associations that are at risk of becoming reality, because of the name. People and institutions are always at risk of slowly conforming to the image others have of them. Names are not magical, but still powerful.

In the US, "state" has a different meaning from most countries, and "federal" is rather unpopular in certain circles. Hence the term "homeland".

In most times and places, the institution would be called "State Security". Which is a commonly used name for the main instrument of repression in totalitarian countries (for instance Stasi or Securitate, both of which went by the full name "Department of State Security".)

Most free countries have given their national security agency a rather more neutral name and a less powers to distance themselves from such practices. The US has chosen to actually start an agency with that name and give it unprecedented powers. You do the math.

Just because the name is similar to names used in other places doesn't mean it's inherently repressive. Try to look beyond the cover of the book.


Kind of funny how a department setup to ostensibly protect us from terrorists is now involved in taking down websites and sending DMCAs.

Scope creep from government departments is a frightening thing when you think about it.

Personally, I think all government departments should be automatically dissolved every 5 years, and require politicians to renew them. It's unlikely that it would ever happen, but just the remote possibility that it might could hopefully put a check on this type of massive scope creep.

Requiring a "renewal" hasn't stopped the PATRIOT Act yet. I can't imagine why it would stop "Homeland Security".

At least it means there would be a debate about them, rather than sailing through smoothly with no worries, and keeping asking for bigger budgets to expand their mission, like I'm sure TSA wants to do, by checking subway stations and bus stops, and whatnot.

The 'National Homeland Security Agency' was conceived by the Hart-Rudman Commission, the results of which were released in January of 2001.


Shortly thereafter G.W.Bush started pushing for the National Guard to become "more involved in homeland security."


Several months later 9/11 happened.

Because "Motherland" and "Fatherland" were taken?

Stupid headline nitpick: the DHS's goal in this case is not "Hey guys, let's stifle free speech", so it is dishonest to word it as "DHS <doing something> to stifle free speech". It is true that free speech in this case is stifled, so it would be less deceitful to say, "DHS stifles free speech by <doing something>" or "DHS <does something>, which stifles free speech".

Really??? None of us know their motives for sure, but I think it's more than plausible that they did this TO stifle speech.

It's plausible though doubtful that this was done to stifle free-speech.

That said it appears DHS were given ample time to give a comment and decided not to. That was their choice and it left their motives open for speculation, which the article writer took full advantage of when selecting a title. It's probably a bit of yellow journalism, but DHS could have squashed it with a comment saying they simply didn't want their copyrighted material to be associated with such views.

In the article, the author tries and fails to come up with some other reasons to explain this action.

So, if the takedown was not done with the intent of silencing someone, why was it issued?

Because the uploader did not own the rights to parts of his video?

Why would the DHS be issuing takedown requests on someone else's behalf, then? I believe that it's been established that isn't even legal.

Because it's possible for the DHS to hold copyrights if someone else transfers it to them.

Somehow I think the DHS is competent enough to be aware of the http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Streisand_effect If this was a plot to stifle speech, it was very poorly executed.

you say that as if you have a link to a mirror of the video, if not many.. ?

It is the dhs. They don't exist to be boyscouts.

Once again the HSA shows why they should not exist. I am not saying it is a conspiracy per-se. You give a group of people great power over others with limited oversight or accountability and soon they will be running over everything in their path. This isn't a conspiracy theory this is simple human behavior, one that has been proven time and time again through out history.

Here's Google's Transparency Report for the United States:


Looks like ~1700 videos have been taken down.

This is very likely a hoax; someone typed "Department of Homeland Security" into a form, and YouTube didn't do anything to verify it. Quite likely the same person who made the video in the first place, actually. The Streisand Effect is well-enough known that people have started to use pretending to be censored as a strategy.

Perhaps a FOIA for all DHS DMCA take town activity is appropriate. https://www.muckrock.com

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