Roosevelt in 1941:
Asia Times Online
By Peter Lee
Feb 19, 2011
Many of the causes, consequences and implications of the popular unrest sweeping the Arab world and Iran are topics of heated debate. However, one outcome is without dispute: the "freedom to connect" has become the newest, high-profile irritant in United States-China relations.
On February 15, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton gave a speech at George Washington University reiterating the US declaration that "freedom to connect" is the new fifth freedom, added to the four freedoms (freedom of speech and religion, freedom from want and fear) stated by president Franklin Delano
Together, the freedoms of expression, assembly, and association online comprise what I have called the freedom to connect. The United States supports this freedom for people everywhere, and we have called on other nations to do the same ... ".
Actually, in 1948 the United Nations Declaration of Human Rights - which incorporated FDR's freedoms, as well as many others honored in the breach by the United States and China - already contained the necessary stipulation in Article 19.
Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers. 
In her remarks, Clinton painstakingly (and painfully) tried to navigate between the politically mandatory demands for Internet freedom and the diplomatically necessary quest to reassure authoritarian allies that the United States had not gone into the business of regime change through Internet subversion full time:
Liberty and security. Transparency and confidentiality. Freedom of expression and tolerance. There are times when these principles will raise tensions and pose challenges, but we do not have to choose among them. And we shouldn't.
On the hypocrisy front, it was widely noted that at the same time Clinton was taunting the Iranian regime for its hostility to the Internet, the Barack Obama administration was going to court to demand Twitter traffic as part of its vendetta against Julian Assange and WikiLeaks.
Clinton's speech represented an urgent effort to make lemonade from Middle Eastern lemons. If the information-freedom agenda is to be taken seriously, its initial exercise has yielded two classic cases of blowback: bringing down pro-American regimes in Tunisia and Egypt instead of the anti-US authoritarian governments of Iran and the People's Republic of China it was intended to target.
The events in Tunisia and Egypt raise an important issue, one that is exhaustively chewed over in a timely new book, The Net Delusion, by Evgeny Morozov, a morose cyber-skeptic hailing from Belarus. Morozov's point is that the Internet is neither universally beneficial nor neutral, censorship circumvention is not a panacea, and authoritarian regimes can often effectively exploit the Internet as a tool against dissent, rather than simply blocking it. 
In an interesting and instructive illustration of the myopia that can afflict even the most conscientious pundit, pre-Tunisia and Cairo both Morozov and the State Department largely ignored the issue of blowback and concentrated on the role of and responses to Internet freedom advocacy in sticking it to America's adversaries in Iran and the People's Republic of China.
In a challenge to Morozov's conclusions, with shoutouts to Facebook from triumphant dissidents in Egypt and Tunisian, the State Department can claim a victory for the Internet freedom agenda in the toppling of two authoritarian regimes in the Middle East.
CNN's Wolf Blitzer asked Wael Ghonim, the "Google Gandhi" of the Egyptian revolution: "First Tunisia, now Egypt, what's next? "
Ghonim replied: "Ask Facebook." 
On the other hand, the fall of Hosni Mubarak's regime, in particular, has elicited much concerned chin-stroking from foreign policy aparatchiks both inside and outside the State Department. It is considered to be bad for Israel, at least for the conservative government of Israel, which has traditionally relied on peace with Egypt to underpin its high-handed policies with its Palestinian subjects and its Arab neighbors.
And Facebook is non-existent inside China. It's banned. The local social media Goliath is renren, a government-friendly site that claims 170 million registered users. 
If it turns out that Facebook is only good for overthrowing America's allies, and is an ineffective weapon against America's dug-in enemies, score one for Morozov because the fundamental assumption that Internet freedom is good for all the good guys is open to serious challenge.
However, there are indications that "freedom to connect" is not taken particularly seriously - nor are its implications and consequences being taken seriously. As Morozov worries, invocations of "freedom to connect" seem more like a feel-good slogan than a careful strategy.
Judging from recent events in Washington, what is taken particularly seriously is the danger of lost funding and clout when public diplomacy is in political and fiscal retreat. "Freedom to connect" offers the chance for a political and public relations counter-attack.
Republicans in the congress mistrust the State Department for its elevation of pragmatism over red-meat liberation theology. Richard Lugar, the Republican senator from Indiana, has proposed partially stripping the State Department of its management of Internet censorship circumvention operations, and handing them to the Broadcast Board of Governors.
The BBG, as it is known, is the oversight committee that handles Radio Free Europe, Radio Free Asia, and a host of other initiatives to deliver America's message to citizens in authoritarian regimes across the airwaves and over the Internet.
Ironically, its own funding is on the chopping block as part of the Republican jihad against big government.
This occasioned a classic piece of Washington farce.
As Clinton was burnishing the State Department's credentials as the flagbearer in the crusade to give the world "freedom to connect", on February 15 the BBG convened a dog-and-pony show in Washington to lobby for more money and increased responsibility for rolling out circumvention technology.
The presentation, as much infomercial as informational briefing, was hosted by the BBG's chairman - and media bigwig via top management stints at Time and CNN - Walter Isaacson. 
While touting the accomplishments of the BBG's media and circumvention technology, Isaacson made the case for his organization as laser-focused on an Internet censorship-circumvention mission as part of its content-delivery effort (while trying to deflect criticism in the right-wing mouthpiece the Washington Times for the BBG's discontinuation of shortwave Voice of America Mandarin broadcasts to the Chinese countryside in favor of engaging the hundreds of millions of urban Chinese Internet users). 
He explicitly contrasted BBG's single-mindedness with the divided loyalties of the State Department (concerned over destabilization of authoritarian American allies) and America's corporations (unwilling to hurt their worldwide business dealings with authoritarian regimes by explicitly signing on to the US Internet freedom agenda).
Isaacson's positioning will probably appeal to conservatives, who believe that all that stands between Iran and China and regime change is the State Department's pusillanimous refusal to throw resources into bandwidth to serve existing circumvention tools and bring the evil empires to their knees.
Mark Landler provided the lay of the land in a backgrounder for the New York Times:
Critics say the administration has held back $30 million in Congressional financing that could have gone to circumvention technology, a proven method that allows Internet users to evade government firewalls by routing their traffic through proxy servers in other countries.
Some of these services have received modest financing from the government, but their backers say they need much more to install networks capable of handling millions of users in China, Iran and other countries.
A report by the Republican minority of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, which was to be released Tuesday, said the State Department's performance was so inadequate that the job of financing Internet freedom initiatives - at least those related to China - should be moved to another agency, the Broadcasting Board of Governors, 
Landler also describes US government support to the Falungong's Internet censorship circumvention vehicle, the Global Internet Freedom Foundation, through the BBG, to the tune of US$1.5 million.
The State Department is understandably loathe to complicate its China diplomacy through open affiliation with a group consecrated to the overthrow of the communist regime, providing another (if not the primary) reason for conservatives who lobby on Falungong's behalf to agitate for state to be stripped of the Internet circumvention brief.
Mazorov accuses Falungong and its supporters of a simplistic, overstated, and counterproductive insistence that all that's needed is more money and more servers:
Shiyu Zhou, the founder of a Falungong technology group ... says that "the entire battle over the Internet has boiled down to a battle over resources" and that for every dollar we [America] spend, China has to spend a hundred, maybe hundreds."
Mazorov disputes this approach, which is perhaps driven by politically-motivated nostalgia for the Cold War, when we spent the Soviet Union into the ground with missile defense. He posits that the circumvention genie is already out of the bottle, and authoritarian regimes are investing in defensive (surveillance) and offensive (propaganda) tactics beyond blocking and filtering that need to be understood and addressed.
Clinging to Internet-centrism - that pernicious tendency to place Internet policies before the environment in which they operate - gives policymakers a false sense of comfort, the false hope that by designing a one-size-fits-all technology that destroys whatever firewall it sees, they will solve the problem of Internet control.
Rebecca MacKinnon, the doyen of Internet freedom studies, appeared on the Isaacson panel. She started to make the case that a disproportionate emphasis on funding proxy servers (which apparently often serve as simple porn funnels) detracted from the more important objective of providing a safe environment for "the conversation" - the sense of belonging, empowerment, and coordinated action that can turn a scattering of dissidents into a popular movement.
Perhaps because this framing steered Internet policy close to the unwelcome waters of State Department "public diplomacy", Isaacson jumped in to redirect the "conversation" back to BBG's awesome firewall-busting potency.
The US military has also staked its claim to the Internet freedom pie, offering to provide connectivity in case of an Internet shutdown in a country of concern by showering dissidents with satellite phones and dispatching drones with cell phone transponders to lumber overhead - and more.
In Wired's The Danger Room, Spencer Ackerman wrote under the title "US Has Secret Tools to Force Internet on Dictators":
Consider the Commando Solo, the Air Force's airborne broadcasting center. A revamped cargo plane, the Commando Solo beams out psychological operations in AM and FM for radio, and UHF and VHF for TV. Arquilla doesn't want to go into detail how the classified plane could get a denied internet up and running again, but if it flies over a bandwidth-denied area, suddenly your Wi-Fi bars will go back up to full strength. 
How the Iranian government, let alone the Chinese government, would respond to this can be imagined.
If Morozov is right, Isaacson's advocacy of a single-minded effort to boost circumvention in China will be largely ineffectual, play into the hands of anti-US nationalists, and be continually undermined both by America's own equivocal stand on Internet freedom and by the unwillingness of US information technology corporations to sign on and compromise their business models in authoritarian markets.
As governments around the world nervously look at the implications of exploding Internet and social media participation, there is a real convergence of official opinion, not towards freedom but its opposite: control.
The US government and corporations are developing the same tools to catch terrorists that China and Iran use to track dissidents: user tracking, traffic analysis, and data mining, with the objective of correlating information in order to acquire the meatspace identities of persons of interest.
Thus, a key protection for dissidents - anonymity - is under attack by the policies of both the US security establishment and China ... and Facebook.
Facebook actually kicked Wael Ghonim - "the Google Gandhi" - off Facebook for administering his group page under a pseudonym.
There are other signs of de facto convergence of Internet policy in the US and China.
The antics of China's "50 cent gang" - drones hired at piece rate to invade and disrupt critical Internet forums with pro-government comments - are well known.
In the US, such black as well as white-hat cyber ops are becoming a fixture. It has been widely reported that an American cyber-security firm, HBGary, prepared a proposal for Bank of America to counter a feared revelation of embarrassing documents from WikiLeaks.
Glenn Greenwald of Salon, a WikiLeaks supporter targeted by the