When Mickey Mouse and Barney Fife Join Forces

TechDirt has latest regarding the Mickey Mouse/Barney Fife operation that is behind the DHS seizure of domains.

I reviewed the “technical aspects” of the affidavit, at least the original partial one that can be found here ,and it pretty much confirms what I originally reported in this post, The Background Dope on DHS Recent Seizure of Domains. At the time of my original post on this subject, it was not verifiable whether these “seizures” were a part of an “official operation” or not, or if the instigators behind this were the usual suspects, MPAA,RIAA. When DHS announced this was part of an official operation, Operation In Our Sites 2, I wrote an update post here; and based on a subsequent LA Times article, I posted posted a comment here that reflected the fact that MPAA,RIAA were the ones who were reporting the “violating sites.”

Some notes on the affidavit:

It clearly specifies that the domain seizure was to be executed by going through VeriSign. I detailed the mechanics of how that was done in my original post. However, the affidavit also clearly specifies that the domains were to be transferred in ownership over to DHS/ICE vis a vis their respective registrars. That has not happened yet. That was supposed to be done, but Whois queries against the registrar databases for the domains in question indicate that it has not been done.

The affidavit gets the registrar, the IP Address and the hosting provider for torrent-finder.com wrong. It lists Blue Razor as the registrar, and even though Blue Razor appears to be owned by the same entity that own GoDaddy, it is GoDaddy who is the registrar. The hosting provider for torrent-finder.com is SoftLayer Technologies, located in Dallas, TX, and not Secure Hosting LTD, located in the Bahamas.

Reading the affidavit,particularly as it pertained to torrent-finder.com, I now know why ICE subcontracts out to “private companies” like immixGroup IT Solutions. We are literally dealing Agent Barney Fife, here. Writes Agent Fife:

“Based on my training and experience, queries of public movie listings and my discussion with MPAA representatives, I know that “Secretariat” is a first run movie that was released to the general public for homeviewing.”

Whoa, all that tax-payer funded training gave Agent Fife the requisite specialized knowledge to figure that all out by himself. I’m sure all that experience has trained him to first check with government computers to make sure that information wasn’t classified.

Agent Fife outlines how his specially trained snooping abilities led him to conclude that torrent-finder.com was actually hosting “pirated content.” The problem for Agent Fife, however, is that the “download link” that he clicked on that allowed him to directly download a torrent for “The Town” was actually being hosted by torecache.com in Estonia. We dread the day when agent Fife’s superior training and experience leads him to discover The Google can be used to pull up direct links to torrent files the MPAA disapproves of.

This exhibit A of Hayek’s “how the worst get to the top”….

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Update on DHS/ICE Domain Seizures

My post,The Background Dope on DHS Recent Seizure of Domains, that I published last Saturday evening generated a significant traffic spike to my blog. I had a ton of referrers coming from facebook,twitter, tech forums and a quite a few originating from tech publications. A Techdirt.com article,Homeland Security’s Domain Name Seizure May Stretch The Law Past The Breaking Point, used my post as the technical analysis of the mechanics of the “domain seizures” and then referenced this article, Domain Name Seizures and the Limits of Civil Forfeiture, by Larry Downes to examine the legality of these domain name seizures or forfeitures.

Since my original post, we have learned that these seizures were part of the “Operation In Our Sites” initiative. Indeed, this was dubbed by the DOJ as “Operation In Our Sites 2.” It should be recalled, the first phase involved the raiding of and shutting down of 9 “pirate movie sites.” These were site shutdowns, raids, executed search warrants, bank account seizures; the domain registrant information was transferred over to ownership by DHS. In phase two, none of this is going on; nothing is being seized, no one is being raided. No one is being notified of anything or presented with any warrant. You simply have a private company acting as contractual agent of the DHS modifying the .com TLD Zone Files in cooperation with VeriSign, which is the agency that has the ICANN contractual delegated authority to manage the .com TLD.

Larry Downes is discussing the issue of “pre-trial” confiscation. I’m not lawyer but I would posit here, in “Phase II,” the issue is “pre-legal” confiscation. There is no principle of law being followed here. It’s just simple manipulation of the domain name system. Everyone knows that ICANN is subject to the laws of the US. But now, perhaps it might now be dawning on people that this means today that it is more and more becoming subject to the Authority of DHS. And simply re-constituting ICANN outside of US jurisdiction is pointless. If you are paying attention to the latest rounds of disclosures from Wikileaks, it should be obvious that the informal US jurisdictional reach is is pretty ubiquitous.

To those techno-optimists out there who think p2p is the automatic answer to counter this type of thing, I question their understanding of network theory. Any scale-free network is characterized by hubs, those nodes that are highly connected. Any p2p solution that would have a hope of bypassing or supplanting the current DNS would have to evolve a type of synchronized connection hierarchy that would be vulnerable to Statist reprisal. The issue is not a technical one. It is a political one.