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Wednesday, December 08, 2010

Wikileaks and Kiddie Porn Barbie -- If Something is Possible, You Should Be Afraid of It

Beware this Christmas! Your children could be at risk! If kindly old Grampa Jimmy gives little Suzie a certain Barbie doll, then kindly old Grampa Jimmy could possibly be a child molester! So sayeth the imaginative, paranoid minds at the FBI.

Associated Press:

Video-producing BarbieThe FBI has issued a "cybercrime alert" on a new Barbie doll that comes with a hidden video camera.

[...]

The FBI's Sacramento office issued a report last month with the warning on Mattel's Barbie Video Girl. The doll has a video camera lens built into its necklace that can record up to 30 minutes of footage to be downloaded on a computer.

FBI spokesman Steve Dupre says the alert was inadvertently sent to the media but only was meant to be given to law enforcement agencies advising them not to overlook the doll during any searches.


"Officials warn that it could possibly be used to produce child pornography," the report tells us, "but say they don't have any reported crimes." It could be used to create child pornography, but it hasn't been. That's probably a better record of kiddie porn non-production than any other camera in the world.



But if "Porn Producer Barbie" hasn't actually produced any porn, it demonstrates a disturbing trend in policing and security -- an obsession with what could conceivably happen. We see it in TSA pat downs and in having to take off our shoes in airports. At least, in these cases, the reason is reactionary, rather than invented -- terrorists have tried to sneak bombs onto planes in their clothing. But rarely and, in neither of those cases was the TSA instrumental in stopping them from happening. In fact, the TSA has not uncovered a terrorist plot to date.

We also see it in the hype about Wikileaks. Wikileaks is putting America at risk -- at least, that's the argument -- but no one can actually point to an example of this. The Washington Post reported yesterday that, if the leaked diplomatic cables hurt anyone, it's Vladimir Putin and Silvio Berlusconi. And even then, not as risks to their nations' security, but as political embarrassments. Russia is described by diplomats as a "mafia state," while Berlusconi "is depicted as muddled, erratic and exhausted from too much late-night debauchery."

But, if Wikileaks hasn't published documents that were anything more than embarrassing yet, they could. The thing is, I've got a couple of blogs, so I could too. And you could in the comments or on you own blogs or on online forums you join in on or on your Facebook or Myspace pages. It's conceivable, so by the current trend in what we'll call "reasoning" should consider us all a possible security threat.

As I wrote yesterday, Diana Feinstein has taken to the op-ed page of the Wall Street Journal to call for the arrest and conviction of Wikileaks founder Julian Assange on espionage charges. Irony of ironies, WSJ -- while refusing to publish the cables themselves because of "a set of preconditions related to disclosure of WikiLeaks documents" -- they had no qualms about reporting details from the cables once they were out. In short, Sen. Feinstein took to the pages of a newspaper which had published classified information to complain about someone else publishing classified information.

Worse was Joe Lieberman. The sole member of the Connecticut for Lieberman Party has not only called for the prosecution of Assange as a spy, but has suggested that the Justice Department investigate newspapers that have published the information. "I certainly believe WikiLeaks has violated The Espionage Act. The New York Times has committed at least an act of bad citizenship," Lieberman told Fox News. "Whether they've committed a crime, I think that bears very intensive inquiry by the Justice Department. Why do you prosecute crimes? Because if you don't, others are going to do it soon and again. And I'm afraid that's what's going to happen here." We won't get into Lieberman's shock that Assange -- an Australian -- hasn't been charged with treason against the US.

But more rational heads say that prosecuting Wikileaks -- let alone newspapers -- is a dead end. Lieberman and Feinstein really have no legal leg to stand on.

"We're deeply skeptical that prosecuting WikiLeaks would be constitutional, or a good idea," Hina Shamsi, Director of the ACLU National Security Project said in a statement. "The courts have made clear that the First Amendment protects independent third parties who publish classified information. Prosecuting WikiLeaks would be no different from prosecuting the media outlets that also published classified documents. If newspapers could be held criminally liable for publishing leaked information about government practices, we might never have found out about the CIA's secret prisons or the government spying on innocent Americans. Prosecuting publishers of classified information threatens investigative journalism that is necessary to an informed public debate about government conduct, and that is an unthinkable outcome." One example of a court ruling that would protect both Wikileaks and the newspapers publishing the cables would be the Supreme Court's ruling on New York Times Co. v. United States.

Still, could Wikileaks publish information that would cause actual harm to the US? Yes, I suppose so. And could kindly old Grampa Jimmy produce kiddie porn with that Barbie doll? Again yes, he could.

But maybe we should wait until an actual crime is committed before we start prosecuting people for it, don't you think?

-Wisco


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