Waiting for Smith and Leahy to investigate JotForm debacle

When the federal government erroneously confiscated 84,000 Web sites, defaming them as child pornographers, Rep. Zoe Lofgren of California lambasted IP Czar Victoria Espinel:

ICE took down 84,000 websites of small business people that have nothing to do with child pornography at all. And put up a little banner saying “this was taken down for child pornography.” Really smearing them. If I were them, I’d sue the Department. These were just small businesses. They had nothing to do with anything, and yet a judge signed that. So, if that’s the protection, it’s no protection. … Yes, there’s piracy, and all of us are united that we gotta do something about piracy — but there’s also a First Amendment that you should be considering when you go and destroy a small business. Are you thinking about that?

When music blog dajaz1.com was kidnapped for a year by the U. S. Department of “Justice” with no explanation, Sen. Ron Wyden of Oregon demanded answers:

“I expect the administration will be receiving a series of FOIA [Freedom of Information Act] requests from our office and that the senator will have very pointed questions with regard to how the administration chooses to target the sites that it does,” said Jennifer Hoelzer, a Wyden spokeswoman. She said the senator was “particularly interested in learning how many secret dockets exist for copyright cases. There doesn’t seem to be an obvious precedent or explanation for that.”

And now we have JotForm.com, hosting site for millions of user-submitted forms, taken offline by the U. S. Secret Service for unknown reasons and resurrected under equally mysterious circumstances. The company’s requests for an explanation were met by bureaucratic hubris:

When I contacted the Secret Service, the agent told me she is busy and she asked for my phone number, and told me they will get back to me within this week. I told them we are a web service with hundreds of thousands of users, so this is a matter of urgency, and we are ready to cooperate fully. I was ready to shutdown any form they request and provide any information we have about the user. Unfortunately, she told me she needs to look at the case which she can do in a few days. I called her many times again to check about the case, but she seems to be getting irritated with me. At this point, we are waiting for them to look into our case.

Who in Congress will follow in the footsteps of Lofgren and Wyden, asking questions and demanding answers about this latest abuse of power? The obvious candidates are Lamar Smith and Pat Leahy. Rep. Smith is the principal sponsor of SOPA, and Sen. Leahy is the author of PIPA, two bills that would have made it even easier for the U. S. government to take unchecked and unjustified action against Web sites, extending the lack of oversight and due process to an international scale. After an outpouring of Internet outrage, both bills were shelved, but Smith and Leahy each issued statements indicating an ongoing intent to enact similar legislation in the future. If they expect anyone to take seriously any such future proposals, they will act now to investigate the JotForm.com shutdown.


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