Saturday, May 11, 2013

More government idiocy on containing the spread of information

US citizens prohibited from even handling scientific manuscripts originating in Iran.

Sort of a governmental form of Sha'ria law: 

Major scientific journal publisher Reed Elsevier and others are vowing to obey thelatest US sanctions against Iran in their day-to-day operations, implementing bizarre policies aimed at following the letter of the law.
The sanctions ban Americans from having any contact with anything written in whole or part by Iranian government employees. Though Elsevier is a Dutch company, it has plenty of American employees, particularly as relates to its English language publications.
So the company has had to introduce a series of zero tolerance policies that its American-born employees cannot have any interaction with the physical manuscripts of Iranians, and also advises managers to “reject outright” any manuscripts from Iran if they can’t find a non-American employee to handle it. The company is concerned that journal editors could be held personally liable by the US government for acquiring the taint of handling Iranian manuscripts.
An over-reaction from Elsevier?  Possibly.  But since the US Government has asserted the power to issue national security letters to anyone violating its policies, letters that the recipient cannot challenge or even tell anyone else about (that's a crime, remember), this policy may not have sprung directly from the minds of the publisher.

Should the US Government be able to make the flow of information on an international basis illegal?

Funny, we didn't even do that with Soviet papers of nuclear physics during the height of the Cold War.

We didn't do that when India was developing nuclear weapons.

We didn't do that when Israel was (illegally, according to international law) developing nuclear weapons.

I am, apparently, an unreasonable Libertarian dogmatist for pointing out that this policy (a) makes no sense when European and Asian nations are not doing anything similar; (b) actually inhibits our own passive intelligence gathering about the Iranians; and (c) is another example of why the current administration is by far not just the worst administration on civil liberties in the history of the nation, but is also the most dangerous in terms wanting to stop the free flow of information to and between its citizens.

I will say it again:  the Obama administration routinely (almost daily) pursues policies that would make Richard Nixon cringe, and gets a pass on them.

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