Originally published June 12 2015
Clearing your browser history could land you in prison
by Daniel Barker
(NaturalNews) Over the past couple of decades, our increasingly authoritarian government has become particularly adept at using "terrorist" events and threats both real and imagined as an excuse for curtailing ordinary citizens' freedom and criminalizing their actions.
An obvious example is the USA PATRIOT Act, which was created as a response to the September 11, 2001 attacks. Under this act, many freedoms were taken away from Americans while simultaneously authorizing the government to begin spying on its own citizens and violating what were once considered precious and inviolable rights to privacy.
The PATRIOT Act was the excuse for the NSA's mass collection of phone call data, as revealed by Edward Snowden. This policy has just been extended, albeit with a few ineffectual and largely symbolic changes designed to whitewash the continued practice of spying on innocent citizens.
The latest move towards criminalizing what most would consider normal behavior follows in the wake of the Boston bombings and the subsequent prosecution of those involved, however marginally.
The Nation reports:
Khairullozhon Matanov is a 24-year-old former cab driver from Quincy, Massachusetts. The night of the Boston Marathon bombings, he ate dinner with Tamerlan and Dhzokhar Tsarnaev at a kebob restaurant in Somerville. Four days later Matanov saw photographs of his friends listed as suspects in the bombings on the CNN and FBI websites. Later that day he went to the local police. He told them that he knew the Tsarnaev brothers and that they'd had dinner together that week, but he lied about whose idea it was to have dinner, lied about when exactly he had looked at the Tsarnaevs' photos on the Internet, lied about whether Tamerlan lived with his wife and daughter, and lied about when he and Tamerlan had last prayed together. Matanov likely lied to distance himself from the brothers or to cover up his own jihadist sympathies -- or maybe he was just confused.
What happened next is crucial: Matanov then went to his home and cleared his internet browser. That action led to him being charged with destruction of records under what is called the Sarbanes-Oxley Act, a law that was passed after the Enron scandal and was ostensibly created to protect Americans from predatory practices by corrupt corporations.
Matanov is not the only person being subjected to the law; there are other cases where citizens are being charged and convicted of acts that amount to little more than clearing one's browser history, something many of us do innocently on a regular basis.
The problem is that the use of this law to charge and convict individuals has become more common, and its application is often questionable. The Nation gives a hypothetical example and an explanation of why the increasing use of this law is so dangerous:
Prosecutors are able to apply the law broadly because they do not have to show that the person deleting evidence knew there was an investigation underway. In other words, a person could theoretically be charged under Sarbanes-Oxley for deleting her dealer's number from her phone even if she were unaware that the feds were getting a search warrant to find her marijuana. The application of the law to digital data has been particularly far-reaching because this type of information is so easy to delete. Deleting digital data can inadvertently occur in normal computer use, and often does.
This is a clear example of how our government uses high-profile and emotionally-charged cases to convince us that it's excusable to strip us of our rights. It also shows how vaguely worded laws can be used in broad ways to control us and limit our freedoms.
Curtailing Second and First Amendment RightsAnother recent example concerns proposed regulations by the State Department that seek to limit "unregulated" discussions and videos on internet forums dealing with firearms.
The Washington Examiner states:
In updating regulations governing international arms sales, State is demanding that anyone who puts technical details about arms and ammo on the web first get the OK from the federal government -- or face a fine of up to $1 million and 20 years in jail.
Is anyone else beginning to see a pattern here?
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