Green Room

Homeland Security Seizing Websites

posted at 11:37 am on November 27, 2010 by

The year might be 2010, but it’s beginning to feel like 1984 all over again. Big Brother has indeed been watching us—for some of us, in our most intimate state thanks to advanced imaging airport scanners. Now the Department of Homeland Security appears to be taking the law into its own hands.

The investigative arm of DHS, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), has seized and shut down several dozen websites that are suspected of facilitating or violating copyright infringement. The operative verb in the previous sentence is suspected. In our system of jurisprudence a person or entity is deemed innocent until proven guilty, no matter how compelling the evidence of wrongdoing.

And sometimes, as the blog TorrentFreak notes, proving guilt in these cases is hardly a slam dunk:

When a site has no tracker, carries no torrents, lists no copyright works unless someone searches for them and responds just like Google, accusing it of infringement becomes somewhat of a minefield—unless you’re ICE Homeland Security Investigations that is.

But ICE doesn’t seem to believe it is impelled to play by the rules. As the exasperated owner of the file-sharing site Torrent-Finder told TorrentFreak, “My domain has been seized without any previous complaint or notice from any court!”

The strong arm tactic began almost simultaneously with the approval by a Senate Judiciary Committee of the Combating Online Infringements and Counterfeits Act (COICA). The bill, which would effectively give the U.S. Attorney General carte blanche to shut down a website without due process, has a long way to go before it becomes law—if in fact it ever does. It is already meeting criticism, including from some Democrats like Sen. Ron Wyden of Oregon, who finds the legislation too heavy-handed and has vowed to block it.

Sites that are barred by ICE carry a Prohibition-style label in place of content that reads “This domain named has been seized by ICE, Homeland Security Investigations.”

One question that comes to mind is “Why is this action being initiated by the Department of Homeland Security?” Granted, some of the illegal trafficking of copyrighted material originates overseas, but DHS was created expressly to deal with matters of terrorism and illegal border crossings. Doesn’t the department already have plenty on its plate without needing to dilute its resources to monitor the illegal sharing of popular media?

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Cross-posted at Libertarian Examiner. Follow me on Twitter or join me at Facebook. You can reach me at howard.portnoy@gmail.com or by posting a comment below.

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I guess the question that comes to mind is what can our newly elected Congress do about all of this? Is this the first salvo of the “ignore Congress and implement state control of everything via executive order” business plan our marxist fearless leader, the 0 (that’s a zero) has in store for us? Let’s hope we can last until 2012. Sarah, we need you NOW!

shmendrick on November 27, 2010 at 12:20 PM

First, get everyone comfortable with the idea that the Federal Government should shut down web sites, then you can argue over which ones should be seized.

Copy right infringement is a good first start because *everyone* understands that copying another persons work is a violation.

Next it can be hate sites. . . .

Skandia Recluse on November 27, 2010 at 12:37 PM

The first steps to building the American Gestapo, and out first glimps of what they really are. Question is, how long will it take them to start taking down sites like Drudge and even Hot Air, who link to news from other sites, or post opions they do not agree with, or they put it, are posting raw un edited news.?

Franklyn on November 27, 2010 at 12:42 PM

I wonder if these sites have legal standing to file suit? This could really get nasty. No telling who or how many could be shut down without any legal reason. Somehow bho and team has got to be stopped doing stuff like this!
L

letget on November 27, 2010 at 12:56 PM

I guess the question that comes to mind is what can our newly elected Congress do about all of this?
shmendrick on November 27, 2010 at 12:20 PM

Investigate, defund, impeach.

Copy right infringement is a good first start because *everyone* understands that copying another persons work is a violation.
Next it can be hate sites. . . .
Skandia Recluse on November 27, 2010 at 12:37 PM

Copyright is a mess, thanks to unions and corporatists buying Congress. A lot of things should’ve become public domain a long time ago, but the balance suggested in the U.S. Constitution is long gone.

From the looks of comments at Torrentfreak, the Kool-Aid kiddies are learning the hard way about corporate fascism and leftist government. Power to the pee-pull duuudes.

Feedie on November 27, 2010 at 4:07 PM

how long will it take them to start taking down sites like Drudge and even Hot Air, who link to news from other sites, or post opions they do not agree with, or they put it, are posting raw un edited news.?

Franklyn on November 27, 2010 at 12:42 PM

ANSWER: A lot less time than you ever suspected. Say goodnight, Dick.

oldleprechaun on November 27, 2010 at 4:47 PM

Rush said they would be coming after him. Might as well take down the flag and turn out the lights. My sister in law voted for the Won, just wait til the next family reunion.

Kissmygrits on November 27, 2010 at 6:10 PM

T H U G O C R A C Y .

hillbillyjim on November 27, 2010 at 9:03 PM

D of HS = Bush’s Folly. (One of them, anyway :>)

hillbillyjim on November 27, 2010 at 9:08 PM

BTW, this needs to be promoted to the Front Page, IMO.

hillbillyjim on November 27, 2010 at 9:10 PM

So if you use google to find a torrent for content that is copyrighted, does that mean that Google could be next?

Canadian Imperialist Running Dog on November 27, 2010 at 9:41 PM

Looks as if DHS makes us all less secure in our person and property. Wonder how the Constitutional Scholar in Chief reconciles these and other acts by DHS with the 4th Amendment Rights guaranteed by the Constitution?

The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.

EliTheBean on November 28, 2010 at 11:52 AM

Dear Mr Portnoy, have you atempted to confuse people by offering a partial quotation…

“This site has been seized by ICE — Homeland Security Investigations, pursuant to a seizure warrant issued by a United States District Court.

…because you omitted that ending that I emphasized?

audiculous on November 28, 2010 at 12:56 PM

You’re too clever by half, audiculous/fuster. It says lots of other stuff, too, but none of it changes the reality that they are casting too wide a net.

Howard Portnoy on November 28, 2010 at 1:52 PM

Not sure why I’m being too clever when you’re the guy talking “1984″ and omitting that the seizures are a product of routine court-ordered law enforcement.
When did seizure of goods after showing a district court cause to suspect that there’s copyright infringement and receiving the court’s order to seize them a sign of a police state?

How about you show some good faith and update the post to note that there are court orders?
Is that fair?

audiculous on November 28, 2010 at 2:10 PM

Half-time, so let me respond quickly. By calling you clever at all I was being polite. I am in a good mood because the Steelers are cruising along, albeit against a terrible team.

Your using the phrase “good faith” is one of the funniest things I’ve heard in a long time. Nothing you do is in good faith. You are a pot stirrer from start to finish. You could care less about government overreach or lack of government at all. As long as you get your impish two cents in, you’re happy.

Howard Portnoy on November 28, 2010 at 2:27 PM

Well, i also like when the Steelers do well, but your reply doesn’t really say a thing about how you’ve neglected to correctly tell the story about this.

If it takes my “pot stirring” to get you to tell the truth, I’m quite willing to take a turn, Mr. P. and now that I’ve pointed out your omission for you, I again suggest that you correct your mistake.

Working full and fair and not making a mess of the facts doesn’t allow anyone much leverage to stir your mess.

Now half-time is over and the Giants best bestir themselves.

Talk to you later.

audiculous on November 28, 2010 at 2:39 PM

Steelers force a turnover. Fuster, you don’t give a damn about the truth. I’m done here.

Howard Portnoy on November 28, 2010 at 2:48 PM

Giants intercept and score 3.

Portnoy, baby, don’t do it for Me!!!!!

You owe to yourself and the readership to man up and tell the truth, even if it doesn’t support your 1984 narrative.

maybe you type “Court-ordered” slow it won’t sting much.

audiculous on November 28, 2010 at 2:57 PM

congrats on the OT W

audiculous on November 28, 2010 at 7:56 PM

The torrent sites will simply move to offshore servers out of the reach of DHS or simply not register domain names and use IP addresses without names.

It won’t be long before lists of IP addresses of various sites are floating around now. It won’t stop the problem. It won’t even slow it down. It will simply drive them deeper underground.

crosspatch on November 28, 2010 at 8:05 PM

crosspatch,
law enforcement hardly ever stops the problem of crime, but we still regard it as a worthwhile activity.

audiculous on November 28, 2010 at 8:11 PM

I agree this is a murky use of law-enforcement power. I never have a problem with questioning the non-traditional use of law-enforcement, particularly when it proceeds without apparent respect for the Bill of Rights.

Regardless of whatever USC citation DHS adduces, why is ICE seizing servers over copyright infringement? What arm of the federal government is going to start jumping out at us next? And over what? These are valid questions.

J.E. Dyer on November 28, 2010 at 9:11 PM

J.E. Dyer

which part of the Bill of Rights is being slighted, Kid?

audiculous on November 28, 2010 at 9:22 PM

crosspatch,
law enforcement hardly ever stops the problem of crime, but we still regard it as a worthwhile activity.

I do not consider confiscating domains without due process to be “law enforcement”. It is the DHS acting as cop, judge, and jury.

Additionally, people don’t understand how torrents work. That server, that domain, likely didn’t host a single illegal item. An individual had an illegal item on their computer and notified the server that they had it. The server then notified others where they could find it. If you use an application like Bit Torrent, you are simply sharing out content from your own computer. The torrent servers only act to list who is sharing what so that other users can go get it.

The domains probably didn’t host a single pirated piece of content.

But aside from that, since when does DHS have the right to seize something belonging to an American citizen without a hearing of any sort?

crosspatch on November 28, 2010 at 10:33 PM

Put another way, when is the DHS going to start “seizing” domains that have political content that the administration doesn’t like? Where does it end? What is the limit?

crosspatch on November 28, 2010 at 10:35 PM

crosspatch,

please read my previous comments to Mr Portnoy.

Due process seems to have been followed.

audiculous on November 28, 2010 at 10:35 PM

What is interesting is that the site dns name was seized. Which in no way impedes the operation of torrents. You don’t need a dns name, you can use IP address only just like http://74.84.198.233/ will get you to hotair.com

crosspatch on November 28, 2010 at 10:49 PM

“What we can’t debate is that the government has a right to enforce its own laws. If copyrights are being infringed upon and goods are being counterfeited, the government does have the authority to put a stop to those activities.

“But when legislators have taken great pains to construct and pass laws that create procedures for dealing with these exact issues, it does seem a bit off that none of those procedures were used.

“For example, COICA would create a blacklist of censored URLs. If infringement of copyright or the trafficking of counterfeited goods is central to the operation of the website, the Attorney General can ask a court to place that website on the blacklist.

“The DHS is bypassing typical laws and procedures to quickly stamp out file-sharing and counterfeiting — perhaps in time to thwart knock-off holiday shopping, we could speculate. We might also speculate that the reason for the rush job has something to do with the impending passage of COICA, which would create a longer process for closing these sites.

“Speculations aside, this great haste is as confusing as it is perturbing; it doesn’t sit well with the traditionally American sense of due process.”

http://mashable.com/2010/11/27/homeland-security-website-seized/

Score 1 for those who don’t want the feds peering in their windows. Score goose egg for argumentative little pissants everywhere.

Howard Portnoy on November 28, 2010 at 10:53 PM

dear Mr Portnoy, try reading the US code

see Sec 502 and 503,

and hold your pissanting and moaning till then.

audiculous on November 28, 2010 at 11:03 PM