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<nettime> ICANN's new role
Nettime's_roving_reporter on Mon, 29 Oct 2001 01:30:40 +0100 (CET)

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<nettime> ICANN's new role

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Date: Sat, 27 Oct 2001 18:24:41 -0400
To: ip-sub-1 {AT} majordomo.pobox.com
From: David Farber <dave {AT} farber.net
Subject: IP: ICANN's new role: It's about keeping people from being killed
  by  terrorist plots hatched over the net says Mike Roberts
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Reply-To: farber {AT} cis.upenn.edu


With apologies to the non-US members of this list, I'd like to make some
comments that are inevitably US-centric.

Today marked a watershed day in the history of the Internet.  In some
sense, the real date was September 11, when the leadership role of the
United States in world peace, in economic development, and in technology
innovation was challenged by a group of determined religious fanatics
using our own technology on us to cause the death of thousands of innocent

But the legal date between the "old" Internet and the "new Internet was
today, October 26, 2001,when President George Bush signed the
anti-terrorism bill that was passed by the upper house of Congress
yesterday with one dissenting vote.

This legislation brings the Internet and its developers, providers and
users directly into the new war on terrorism.  It extends extensive new
power to law enforcement to find, capture, and punish those who use the
network for terrorism or other criminal activity. It removes the previous
barriers between foreign and domestic anti-terrorism investigations and
establishes the principle that whoever you are, wherever you are, if you
use the net for terrorism, you are in the sights of the FBI, the CIA, the
NSA and their foreign counterparts.

In the New York Times this morning, under the heading "We are All Alone,"
widely respected columnist Tom Friedman said, "Focus instead on the
firemen who rushed into the trade center towers without asking, 'How
much?' Focus on the thousands of U.S. reservists who have left their jobs
and families to go fight in Afghanistan without asking, 'What's in it for
me?' Unlike the free-riders in our coalition, these young Americans know
that September 11 is our holy day - the first day in a just war to
preserve our free, multi-religious, democratic society.  And I don't
really care if that war coincides with Ramadan, Christmas, Hanukkah, or
the Buddha's birthday - the most respectful and spiritual thing we can do
now is fight it until justice is done."

After a week of tough fighting in Afghanistan where the battle is rapidly
deteriorating to the same "take no prisoners" ethic that prevailed on
September 11, the same week that professionally prepared anthrax kept
showing up in new places everyday on the U.S. east coast and killed two
postal workers, there is a determined and deadly resolve to follow the
Friedman advice.

A resolve that will affect many if not most institutions, among them

It's different now for ICANN.  What started out as your typical ritual
White House privatization effort; one that parroted the young Clintonites'
"Agenda for Action" of 1993; the Al Gore "Information Superhighway"
speech; that provided a last hurrah for Clinton advisor Magaziner at the
end of the second term.  A sly political move that solved, or maybe
solved, the National Science Foundation's honest mistake in giving Network
Solutions and SAIC a billion dollar monopoly. That is not the ICANN of
post-Sept 11.

It's different now.  It's not world government because national
governments are evil; it's not Internet governance because national laws
are unjust; it's not a response to some abstract imagining of the global
popular will; it's not solving poverty, famine, infanticide, drug abuse
and political oppression in the DNS.

It's serious.  It's first things first.  It's about keeping people from
being killed by terrorist plots hatched over the net.  All of a sudden it
matters that you know what you are talking about.  If you are an Internet
engineer, what about nailing down the RFC's needed for secure new
functionality in the DNS?  If you are a root server host organization CEO,
all of a sudden being a volunteer in Jon Postel's army takes on new
meaning.  If you're the manager of a top level domain name registry, it's
not a pc in a closet time anymore. Important people are watching, people
who have the ability to nationalize you overnight if you're not carrying
your weight in making the Internet more secure.  The Japanese government
and the United States government are sending cabinet level officers to
speak at the November ICANN meeting about how serious this really is.

So what does this have to do with At Large?  First, don't expect to get
the attention of the study committee, your fellow stakeholders in ICANN,
the dedicated members of the Board, or the governments whose sanction
makes this privatization effort possible, with a continuation of the
shallow rhetoric that has characterized the postings on this list.  
Second, think seriously about constructive improvements in the
recommendations of the ALSC.  Nobody cares that you don't like a
particular recommendation, they want to know whether you have a better
idea, an idea that is good enough to gather the support of a lot of other
interested parties that may not share your individual political or social
or economic background but are nevertheless interested in the future
welfare of ICANN.  Third, be prepared to compromise your goals in the
interests of forging an At Large organization that contributes to an ICANN
that is going to operate in a far different environment than its founders

The study committee has worked hard. It doesn't deserve the abuse it has
received on this list.  The several points of the action plan are
reasonable, centrist, and provide a basis for moving forward. They deserve
your support.

- Mike Roberts

For archives see:

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