07 October 2006

Congress, ethics and accountability... can we start now?

Apparently we now have individuals coming out of the woodwork to talk about the activities of Mr. Foley as far back as 1997. The absolute and only positive way to get IMs from AOL at that point was to be ON AOL. The internal, private networks of AOL, CompuServe, and Prodigy all had that feature and it was a closed-community sort of deal... no internet chat and, in fact, getting onto the internet for email was a pretty large affair for all of those companies. Internet Relay Chat (IRC) had been widely available before then, but *not* supported via any of the private network companies like AOL. That was in a state of flux, way back when, so pinning down precise dates for precise actions may be difficult. Now, while I have had some question of why Mr. Foley would use MAF54, I always assumed it was a screen-name conflict with someone *else* on AOL. Using one's initials and then last two numbers of birth year was and *is* a common screen-name proviso for AOL.... and if Mr. Foley was *that* savvy to be signed up to AOL and then get that simple screen name, then, yes, I can see it....

AOL at that period in time was *quite* strict on complaints and a couple of those could get you TOS'd: having one's account terminated for violation of the Terms Of Service agreement. And some folks just loved doing that to others on AOL for various reasons. And one had *no* recourse with a private company doing this, so you were SOL if this happened. So, if this individual was on AOL and did not like what Mr. Foley was *doing* it was pretty simple to get that addressed by sending in TOS violation reports. A few of those and Mr. Foley would be out of luck.

Now as to how Mr. Foley learned of someone's email account: a look-up search within AOL was available, if memory serves. If one were insane enough to put their *real* name down, then you could easily be found by anyone looking you up. If you went under a nickname you enjoyed and someone looked *that* up, you could be found, which is a form of social privacy on the anonymity via closed social circle concept. Also note that this was susceptible to 'a friend of a friend' passing it along to other individuals if they *knew* you were on AOL.

Now, here is the fun part: Tyson Vivian at age 16 would have to supply a credit card or bank account to get INTO AOL or use it under a parent's account. Thus, the entire control of his activities was while as a minor under the supervision of his parents. That did happen in those days as well as folks lying about their age, gender, sexual inclinations and so on in BOTH directions. Getting sexually explicit IMs out of the blue was *not* uncommon unless one shut their IM *off*. Also note that one of the vagaries of the law was and *is* the Age of Consent for engaging in sexual activities: it varies greatly from State to State with North Carolina, I believe it was, only raising it from *12* to 16 in the modern era (done from memory only).

So, while such propositions is reprehensible and one would *still* need to get parental advice, the legality of such things was and remains unclear. Violations of one localized State Law may *not* be enforceable if such originates in a State that allows such things. DC, itself, is horrendously lax in this area and, as its laws are overseen by Congress, reflects on the whimsy of that body. And actual *point* of interaction for Law Enforcement remains totally muddy on the internet because the network runs on the shared-switch broadband system which can route a message through, literally, the shortest timed route available which has little to do with geography and much to do with network load and available routes between points. Thus, here again, *where* the network based transaction actually takes place is thoroughly in question. Is it on one of the individual's computers? Or both of them? And if it is illegal on one is it illegal on both? Is it where the messages are routed through via a server? What happens when those messages go out of the Nation and re-enter via a Foreign route and are thus anonymized?

These are not questions that have been answered easily as seen when the Yahoo! based auction of Nazi memorabilia was stopped because FRANCE did not like that. Google has caved to Red China's threats and wishes to be a presence there... even though the network had previously routed around all of the Red Chinese blocks on messages to Google. How do pictures from cell phones play into this when they, too, can be routed literally out of the atmosphere via a foreign satellite and then re-enter the geospace of the US? The Congress is trying to stop internet gambling, but it is perfectly allowable in many Nations to have such gambling and trying to *stop* such activities requires a huge amount of surveillance that goes quite beyond what the Founding Father's saw as necessary restrictions to free speech.

I do not like Mr. Foley's actions.

They are morally difficult to measure, however, due to all of the above problems. Pinning down exactly *what* is wrong, *when* it was wrong and *where* it was wrong are extreme difficulties TO THIS DAY. Which is why I do my best not to worry about morals but about ETHICS: personal behavior and activities.

Legislating morals is damn difficult to do, and I will only cite pornography on that. It is actually something you want to do where there is hard and fast harm done to an individual. That is about it. Trying to enforce the Blue Laws of a previous era was unconstitutional as it forced a religious viewpoint on commerce which was contrary to Amendment I. In the case of sexual predators on the internet you can only get a *case* if they try to arrange a meeting to *act out* their speech: the speech, itself, is PROTECTED no matter how much you dislike it.

The Republic of the United States judges people by their ACTIONS, not their SPEECH.

That is why I hate, most deservedly, those wanting to water-down the language with PC-ness and blandness and *giving no offense to anyone* and 'hate speech' laws. That last is unconstitutional in the EXTREME. Hateful speech is perfectly ALLOWABLE by the Constitution and PROTECTED by it. And, believe it or not, so is sexual chatter via IMs and emails. The responsibility to get those addressed when someone is talking with a minor is to complain to the network service provider, then to block said account from IM and talk to the child about these things. In other words: to have a responsible adult, even if it is a mere court-appointed guardian, STOP IT, until the child is 18.

The attempt of the Left to use this for its own purposes for hateful reasons is running them afoul of their own 'hate speech' codes. They are using hateful speech to harm an individual and doing so wantonly and knowingly with harmful intentions and doing actual harm by ACTING OUT upon those intentions. That should be despicable to them as the speech that they are impugning... but just somehow isn't. But then that is what we have come to expect from the Left: laws for THEE but not for ME.

So, my stance is this: I deplore Mr. Foley's activities as they would demonstrate a lack of adult thinking and prudence on his part. I doubt, most heavily, that they are or were *illegal*. This is why a House Ethics Committee Hearing on this should have been convened whenever the FIRST CONGRESSMAN KNEW ABOUT IT! Democrat or Republican they have a Duty to their Office that supersedes ALL mere political positions. And if this was NOT brought to light by a Congressman contacted in 1997, then THAT individual should *also* be under investigation. In point of fact, any Congressman who *knew* about this sort of thing that did NOT report it as an Ethics violation should BE investigated for THAT Ethics violation.

I do not give a hot damn about their Party affiliation: any Congressman or staff that knew this was going on has a Duty, sworn Oath to the Republic DUTY, to report it. Anyone who has sworn an Oath while serving in Congress or serving Congress during that entire period who knows about such things MUST report it. Congress agrees to look after its own internal rules and regulations and *not* doing so is a violation of that agreement and worthy of investigation. Congress does not *prosecute* these things, but does have means and manner to strip individuals of prestige and even REFUSE TO SEAT THEM in the House.

So, to those who want this thing busted open: so do I.

For ALL of the House of Representatives and the Senate, their staff, their committees and anyone sworn in to serve them. For those individuals are NOT serving their Representatives by that Oath, they are serving We the People.

So, perhaps now the Ethics Committees in both Houses can start to call in every member, every staffer and every page and every functionary to learn just what they knew and when they knew it... and... by the by... report on ALL the 'dirty little secrets' of Ethical questionability that they have heard about going on or know about first-hand.

Democrats and Republicans and Independents.

All of them.

Sounds like the PERFECT time to start.


Bloviating Zeppelin said...

Turns out the recipient was 18 at the time. Age isn't necessarily an issue then.

However, am I paying for this person to do this, on the taxpayer dollar? I would submit that this is a complete abrogation of his duty. No one would pay him to pass time sending some messages of this nature, no matter their intent.

Foley's visage still isn't more than scumbag. He should be out and others like him.

But clarity should, on the other hand, reign.


A Jacksonian said...

Mr. Z - That is my point in a nutshell, that this activity may actually be *legal* but is ethically undefensible. And *anyone* holding back on it, Republican or Democrat, needs to come forward on this. And to eliminate all future *surprises* let each and every individual who has SERVED the Nation come forth and sign affadavits that they either: a) saw nothing worth investigating going on during their time, or b) list exactly what they saw or heard that they did not like, but did not rise to the level of an investigatory need in their opinion.

Thus, in future, *anyone* claiming past knowledge must ALSO tell why they abdicated their Duty and their Oath to the Nation in NOT bringing it up when they were *supposed* to. That, actually, IS criminal in the doing, to hold back for mere personal reasons and endanger the Nation in doing so.

I exempt NO member of Congress, NO aide, NO staff member, NO page and no one who has taken Oath to serve the US in this for Congress. So lets get this last 10 years out fully and finally, and anyone trying this idiocy in the future can then have a harsh penalty slapped on them *immediately* for breaking their Oath of service.

Enough is enough.