The following was an email received by Jonathan Aronson:
Dear Dr. Aronson and Dr. Cowhey,
I have recently finished your book and liked it a great deal. My own work looks at the history of computers in the White House during the 1970’s. In that context I would like to direct your attention to an origin point for policy that is not mentioned in your book. During the Ford Administration, Ford and his NSC are deliberately crafting federal telecommunications security policy to prevent Soviet eavesdropping without informing Congress or the FCC. This is a conscious choice on their part because the Ford Administration, wary of public reaction following Watergate did not want to tell the public about this threat to communications and privacy.
The current debate over the Department of Commerce’s oversight authority over ICANN and by extension the Internet falls into much the same category. Executive authority to make far reaching policy decisions are not always visible to the public nor is the scope of presidential authority. Take for instance the full ground stop ordered for air traffic by President Bush on 9/11. There have been no constitutional challenges to this order and likely will not be as executive authority and control over commercial byways and infrastructure in times of emergency are quite strong. Similarly, if a large scale cyber attack to occur in the future, a president might order that international data connections be temporarily terminated under the very same mandate. The Department of Commerce’s and hence the executive branch’s ongoing resolve not to devolve their oversight over ICANN might be considered in this light. Moreover the current administration’s renewed concerns about cyber security create large, unseen impediments for any kind of global Internet governance.
Taking a page from Paul Kennedy, the Royal Navy and Great Britain was unwilling to countenance any other nation’s concept of maritime control policy until Britain’s maritime dominance had been eclipsed. Maritime law during the Pax Britannica was written to maintain British naval dominance. The US, as your book points out enjoys a similar position in global information and communication markets and seems to be pursuing a similar position. The policy for this however is not emanating from the groups of entities addressed by in the book.
Media, Technology, and Society Program
School of Communication