[The following was published July 4, 2013.]
2.) Surveillance. There are two things that are really starting to scare those in power: the surge in firearms sales recent months, and the power of the Internet. There is no better example of the latter than the aftermath of the SOPA/PIPA protests, and no better example of the former than under-the-radar attempts to curb the availability of guns.
SOPA (Stop Online Piracy Act) and PIPA (PROTECT IP Act, full name Preventing Real Online Threats to Economic Creativity and Theft of Intellectual Property Act) were two proposed cybersecurity bills that started in the House and Senate respectively. Their stated goal was to “protect” intellectual property and copyright. The bills, which saw bipartisan Congressional support, were immensely unpopular outside the beltway. The bills used a form of DNS blocking, which would effectively shut down any sites deemed to have copyrighted material on them by making them inaccessible. The bills, ironically enough, had massive support from various media lobbies like the ESA, RIAA, and MPAA. News of the bills spread like wildfire through social media sites like Facebook, Twitter, Reddit, and many other sources. Eventually a movement was started to “black out” entire websites in protest and as a means of drawing attention to the bills.
On January 18th, major hubs for user-created content like Wikipedia, Craigslist, and even Minecraft went down for the entire day. Publications like WIRED magazine were still active, but made blatantly obvious modifications to their website in support of the blackout. The blackout, combined with the almost non-stop calls and emails to Congresspeople, led to both bills being shelved within days of the historic protests.
However, governments are not known for simply giving up on power grabs. By April, a new bill, known as CISPA, emerged. The bill, which as of this writing has only passed the House, ostensibly is designed to improve US efforts to fight cyber-terrorism (notice the pattern of “terrorism” as a universal bogeyman mentioned in the introduction). The bill was passed on a rushed vote, with some hastily added amendments that essentially allow the government to peer into a person’s digital life, if the government only claim that the person committed a “cybersecurity crime.”
Globally, there is a similar law in the pipeline. ACTA, the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement, is a multinational treaty that would ostensibly help curb global piracy. It has slipped largely under the radar, and while not being ratified by the Senate, the US government still backs the Agreement. The bill has been discussed largely in secret. Representative Darrell Issa (R-CA, more on him later) has called the bill “worse than SOPA.”
The Agreement has run into major resistance in the European Union.
3.) Guns. In terms of firearms, there are two major anti-gun efforts. The first is the now-dead “Fast and Furious,” an ATF gunrunning op that saw thousands of firearms end up in the hands of drug cartels. The project was blown wide open after Border Patrol agent Brian Terry was killed over two years ago. CBS News also reports that the project had the explicit goal of making the case for tighter gun regulations. (In other words, one had to be made up, since there was no actual evidence to make that case–certainly not any domestic evidence.)
The case has since exploded into a Congressional investigation headed up by Darrell Issa. Documents relating to F&F have been locked under “executive privilege” shortly before Attorney General Eric Holder was to be held in contempt of Congress. There is far too much information on the case to burn down into a few paragraphs, but examiner.com’s David Codrea has put together a very comprehensive timeline of the scandal for all who are interested. At present, Issa is still trying to get some more of the documents regarding F&F, but the Dept. of Justice has said that, regardless of the investigation, it will not prosecute Holder.
Globally, there is a “Small Arms Treaty” in the pipeline. The treaty is viewed by a lot of people as a backdoor to a gun ban The Treaty is ostensibly a means by which to regulate international weapons trade. This week, there is a major summit for negotiations on the Treaty. The events in Syria are also serving as both a backdrop and political tool. Supporters say that the massacre in Syria is proof that the “secret arms trade” needs to be regulated.