Wednesday, March 19, 2003

The War on the Web Sites to see on the road to Baghdad.

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The War on the Web
Sites to see on the road to Baghdad.
By Avi Zenilman
Updated Wednesday, March 19, 2003, at 3:05 PM PT

The Iraq invasion will be the first major war on the Web. When the bombs start dropping, millions of Americans will crowd the Internet to catch up on the latest news, see pictures, and send e-mail to loved ones in danger. After you've checked out Slateyour first stop, right?—here's where you should you go for updates, speculation, on-the-ground blogging, official statements, and even war comedy.

Mainstream Media
The special Iraq Web sites for the Washington Post, the New York Times, MSNBC, and CNN are all good sources for late-breaking news, streaming video, maps, and nifty interactive backgrounders.

If you find the American Iraq pages overwhelming, then jump across the Atlantic to England's Guardian newspaper's Special Report: Iraq. The page's efficient organization and solid reporting make it easier to use than the American news sites. Don't miss the Guardian's "Weblog," which is less a blog than a portal to the day's best journalism. Track the effects of the war on the global economy and on oil markets at Bloomberg's energy markets page.

Background Information
What exactly is a BLU-118 Thermobaric bomb? How about a GBU-16 Paveway II? has an excellent encyclopedia of the weapons and vehicles the United States will use in the war. Its Target Iraq page is jam-packed with links and specific military information. The site also publishes U.N. documents and resolutions. is a blog that provides a boatload of information on new military technologies and national security. While not organized in any systematic way, it always has something new and interesting.

The Council on Foreign Relations runs a superb Iraq Resource Center with everything from a timeline to journal articles.

The Official Story
(Almost) daily State Department briefings can be found here. The White House posts free video of all presidential speeches and announcements (as well as Ari Fleischer's press briefings). Britain's official briefings are also available.

Also online is the Iraq News Agency, a mouthpiece for Saddam's positions and propaganda.

Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty's Iraq crisis section shows how the U.S. government is conveying the news to the people of the Middle East.

The United Nations' official Iraq page is hopelessly cluttered and often unresponsive (not unlike the organization itself), but if you can get it to work, it's a great clearinghouse.

Dear_raed is a must-read blog by a current Baghdad resident. Read his fascinating March 16 ramble about how he reluctantly supports the U.S. march to war and doubts the influence of fundamentalist Islamism in Iraq. It's not clear how the author manages to evade Saddamite censorship and scrutiny. We sent an e-mail asking how he does it. If he replies, we will tell you. is a blog by Kevin Sites, a CNN correspondent stationed in northern Iraq. Sites' reporting is unvarnished, direct, and full of the nitty-gritty details of war reporting A March 17 post, "Whispers of War," is a window on the professional rivalries that persist, even a war zone.

The Middle-East Reaction
Arab News is an English-language, semiofficial Saudi media outlet. Although its reporting may not always be reliable, it suggests how this war is playing in Riyadh. Lebanon's Daily Star is more trustworthy but much less entertaining. For a quick digest of how the Middle-East media portrays the war, the World Press Review's Middle-East section is excellent.

Al Jazeera video is available at, an English-language Web site that streams from various TV and radio stations worldwide. It is often unreliable, so if you understand Arabic, the official Al Jazeera site may be a better source for the broadcasts.

Ha'aretz's special Iraq section will be a valuable source of news if Saddam decides to attack Israel. For a more offbeat Israeli view of the war, check out the Iraq-centric

If Chatterbox's Kurd Sellout Watch isn't enough, visit KurdMedia, a news site/portal for all things Kurdish.

We can't find any real-time satellite photographs on the Web that would help track the war, but Terraserver posts satellite images of nearly every world city, including Baghdad. It's hard to make out what exactly is going on in the pictures, but it's very cool nonetheless.

Should United States troops worry about sandstorms? Check out this Iraq weather map.

Who's going to lead Iraq after the war? What are the odds of capturing Osama Bin Laden by October? What will the terror alert level be in June 2003? At Tradesports you can now bet on international politics, with nothing at stake but fake money and bragging rights.

If you need a brief respite from the grim news, take a breather at Iraq Humor Central. Be sure not to miss the parody slide show. Also, check out the Saddam games section, where you can do everything from playing the role of a crazed U.N. weapons inspector to creating a goofy press conference.

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Senate Remarks by Robert C. Byrd

Senate Remarks by Robert C. Byrd

March 19, 2003

"The Arrogance of Power"

I believe in this beautiful country. I have studied its roots and gloried in the wisdom of its magnificent Constitution. I have marveled at the wisdom of its founders and framers. Generation after generation of Americans has understood the lofty ideals that underlie our great Republic. I have been inspired by the story of their sacrifice and their strength.

But, today I weep for my country. I have watched the events of recent months with a heavy, heavy heart. No more is the image of America one of strong, yet benevolent peacekeeper. The image of America has changed. Around the globe, our friends mistrust us, our word is disputed, our intentions are questioned.

Instead of reasoning with those with whom we disagree, we demand obedience or threaten recrimination. Instead of isolating Saddam Hussein, we seem to have isolated ourselves. We proclaim a new doctrine of preemption which is understood by few and feared by many. We say that the United States has the right to turn its firepower on any corner of the globe which might be suspect in the war on terrorism. We assert that right without the sanction of any international body. As a result, the world has become a much more dangerous place.

We flaunt our superpower status with arrogance. We treat UN Security Council members like ingrates who offend our princely dignity by lifting their heads from the carpet. Valuable alliances are split. After war has ended, the United States will have to rebuild much more than the country of Iraq. We will have to rebuild America's image around the globe.

The case this Administration tries to make to justify its fixation with war is tainted by charges of falsified documents and circumstantial evidence. We cannot convince the world of the necessity of this war for one simple reason. This is a war of choice.

There is no credible information to connect Saddam Hussein to 9/11. The twin towers fell because a world-wide terrorist group, Al Qaeda, with cells in over 60 nations, struck at our wealth and our influence by turning our own planes into missiles, one of which would likely have slammed into the dome of this beautiful Capitol except for the brave sacrifice of the passengers on board.

The brutality seen on September 11th and in other terrorist attacks we have witnessed around the globe are the violent and desperate efforts by extremists to stop the daily encroachment of western values upon their cultures. That is what we fight. It is a force not confined to borders. It is a shadowy entity with many faces, many names, and many addresses.

But, this Administration has directed all of the anger, fear, and grief which emerged from the ashes of the twin towers and the twisted metal of the Pentagon towards a tangible villain, one we can see and hate and attack. And villain he is. But, he is the wrong villain. And this is the wrong war. If we attack Saddam Hussein, we will probably drive him from power. But, the zeal of our friends to assist our global war on terrorism may have already taken flight.

The general unease surrounding this war is not just due to "orange alert." There is a pervasive sense of rush and risk and too many questions unanswered. How long will we be in Iraq? What will be the cost? What is the ultimate mission? How great is the danger at home? A pall has fallen over the Senate Chamber. We avoid our solemn duty to debate the one topic on the minds of all Americans, even while scores of thousands of our sons and daughters faithfully do their duty in Iraq.

What is happening to this country? When did we become a nation which ignores and berates our friends? When did we decide to risk undermining international order by adopting a radical and doctrinaire approach to using our awesome military might? How can we abandon diplomatic efforts when the turmoil in the world cries out for diplomacy?

Why can this President not seem to see that America's true power lies not in its will to intimidate, but in its ability to inspire?

War appears inevitable. But, I continue to hope that the cloud will lift. Perhaps Saddam will yet turn tail and run. Perhaps reason will somehow still prevail. I along with millions of Americans will pray for the safety of our troops, for the innocent civilians in Iraq, and for the security of our homeland. May God continue to bless the United States of America in the troubled days ahead, and may we somehow recapture the vision which for the present eludes us.


Monday, March 03, 2003

Police powers move into your browser

Police powers move into your browser
By Declan McCullagh
March 3, 2003, 5:24 AM PT

COMMENTARY--The U.S. Justice Department is experimenting with an Internet crime-fighting technique that raises novel legal, technical and privacy concerns.

The tactic: domain name forfeiture. In two separate cases last week, the Justice Department seized domains for Web sites that it claimed were engaging in illegal activity.

The first set of domains were allegedly used to sell drug paraphernalia such as bongs and marijuana cigarette holders. Now visitors to,, and are greeted by this hair-raising alert: "By application of the United States Drug Enforcement Administration, the Web site you are attempting to visit has been restrained by the United States District Court for the Western District of Pennsylvania."

The second case involved David Rocci's, which he handed to the Feds as part of a plea bargain in which he admitted to selling illegal "mod" chips for Xbox and PlayStation game consoles. Rocci will be sentenced under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA ) on March 7 before a federal judge in Alexandria, Va. now says: "The domain and Web site were surrendered to U.S. law enforcement pursuant to a federal prosecution and felony plea agreement for conspiracy to violate criminal copyright laws."

Because domain names can't be squeezed into traditional legal categories, a novel problem arises: They're not ordinary property like cars or boats, which can be seized and resold without worries. It's true that domains can be an instrumentality of a crime, but Web sites and mailing lists are also spots where people meet, chat and search for information--without expecting that ownership may switch hands silently and abruptly.

The Justice Department's privacy policy allows it to hand over information it collects from people visiting seized Web sites to "appropriate law enforcement officials" for criminal prosecution.
That's why we should think twice before applauding this trend in police power. One reason is that the Justice Department's privacy policy allows it to hand over information it collects from people visiting seized Web sites to "appropriate law enforcement officials" for criminal prosecution.

It's possible to imagine a scenario where an innocent Web visitor becomes unfairly targeted by the Feds. It's legal to browse the Web for information about illegal drugs and even legal to read about bypassing copy-protection technology (though under the DMCA, researchers writing such papers may have cause for concern). But in a newly security-conscious climate, the Justice Department may not be terribly sensitive to Americans' First Amendment rights and may assume the worst about visitors to its collection of seized domains.

What's more, the Justice Department is able to review the search terms that people type in before connecting to the seized site from search engines such as Google or AltaVista. That's because Web protocols pass the search terms to the destination site in the Referer: header.

A third problem with the Justice Department's tactic is that criminal defendants are innocent until proven guilty. While Rocci pleaded guilty to DMCA crimes, the people raided last week for selling "drug paraphernalia" online did not. But even if they're eventually acquitted by a jury, what value will their domain name have if it's been tarred by Justice Department ownership for the past few years?

A better solution: Simply yank the domain name. Do what frequently happens in civil lawsuits, which is to take the Web site offline temporarily and place the domain name in the custody of the court system.

This domain-forfeiture technique is not unique to the Justice Department. In December, according to a report by Nathan Cochrane in Australia's The Age newspaper, the Australian government seized a Web site that was selling bogus "purple plates" that purported to strengthen the human immune system., the domain name in question, now sports a note saying: "This notice has been placed pursuant to an order of the Federal Court of Australia as a result of action taken by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission pursuant to s.52 of the Trade Practices Act."

A federal sting operation?
What appears to be the first case of this sort arose in 1996, when the Cult Awareness Network--which warned of the dangers of unconventional religions--was sued into oblivion by the Church of Scientology. A bankruptcy court judge placed the group's assets including up for auction--and the winning bidder was--you guessed it--Scientology.

The disturbing thing is that it would be legal for the Justice Department to seize control of a purportedly illegal site and set up a sting operation tomorrow.
Mark Rasch, a former federal prosecutor who's a vice president at Solutionary in McLean, Va., represented Cult Awareness Network during its demise. After Scientology gained control of and promptly began reading e-mail sent to the old addresses, Rasch told me on Friday, "people thought they were communicating confidentially with an anti-cult group when they were talking with their enemies."

Now, let me be clear. That's not what the Justice Department is doing today. There are clear notices on the sites that the government seized last week. (Although e-mail sent to the postmasters and Webmasters is now read by the Justice Department.)

The disturbing thing is that it would be legal for the Justice Department to seize control of a purportedly illegal site and set up a sting operation tomorrow. In a landmark 1992 Supreme Court case, Jacobson v. U.S., the justices ruled that police may set traps for people who are already "independently predisposed to commit the crime." (A dissent went even further, saying the government could initiate contact with people who had no predisposition to break laws--a rule that would permit the FBI to spam Americans with enticements to commit crimes.)

"That would not be entrapment any more than a woman who's an undercover cop standing on 14th and W streets dressed as a hooker would constitute entrapment," said Rasch, talking about the kind of sting Web site that would be legal today. "You still have to go over to her and negotiate prices and services...(The Justice Department) could take over an Islamic foundation, keep the content the same, transfer the domain name to itself and keep on communicating with people without telling them they're talking with the government. It would be able to monitor communications on the site because it now owns it."

If the Justice Department's actions augur a law enforcement trend, an unintended consequence might be to drive possible targets to shift operations overseas. A Web site selling bongs and chillums may be unlawful in the United States, but a domain registrar in the relatively permissive Netherlands may not be eager to hand it to the Justice Department. (And there are always alternative root servers, which supplement existing top-level domains with a slew of extra ones such as .food, .xxx, and .kids.)

At least for now, though, there's good news for habitual readers of the seized In the last few days, after losing its domain name to the Justice Department, the Web site popped up again in a new spot: The aptly named

Declan McCullagh is the Washington correspondent for CNET, chronicling the ever-busier intersection between technology and politics. Before that, he worked for several years as Washington bureau chief for Wired News. He has also worked as a reporter for The Netly News, Time magazine and HotWired.