Det danske Fredsakademi
Kronologi over fredssagen og international politik 31. december
2005 / Time Line December 31, 2005
30. December 2005, Januar 2006
2005: The year the US government undermined the internet
By Kieren McCarthy, The Register
2005 in review 2005 will be forever seen as the year in which the
US government managed to keep unilateral control of the internet,
despite widespread opposition by the rest of the world.
However, while this very public spat went on, everyone failed to
notice a related change that will have far greater implications for
everyday internet users and for the internet itself. That change
will see greater state-controlled censorship on the internet,
reduce people's ability to use the internet to communicate freely,
and leave expansion of the internet in the hands of the people
least capable of doing the job.
It is also another example of where the US government's control has
- in real, verifiable terms - had a direct, unchecked impact on the
internet, despite constant assurances that it takes only a
benevolent and passive role. And it has come as a result of the US
administration's hugely controversial decision to invade Iraq.
We are talking about the ever-troublesome redelegation process for
country code top-level domains (ccTLDs) - like .uk for the United
Kingdom, .fr for France and .de for Germany.
There are currently 246 ccTLDs in existence (although there should
really only be 240), and every year, there are arguments over who
should be entitled to run them. Mostly ownership of the domains is
stable but in recent years African governments have been keen to
take more of a role in running their country's Internet, causing a
This year, 2005, there have been seven redelegations: The Falkland
Islands (.fk); Hong Kong (.hk); Iraq (.iq); Kazakhstan (.kz); South
Georgia and South Sandwich Islands (.gs); Timor-Leste (.tl); and
Of these, three were agreed to before July and are of little
consequence, being no more than agreed changes in owner or country
However, on 28 July 2005 at a special board meeting of internet
overseeing organisation ICANN, ownership of both Iraq (.iq) and
Kazakhstan (.kz) was changed in a way that soon after saw a change
in ownership for South Georgia and South Sandwich Islands (.gs) and
At that meeting, consciously and for the first time, ICANN used a
US government-provided reason to turn over Kazakhstan's internet
ownership to a government owned and run association without
requiring consent from the existing owners. The previous owners,
KazNIC, had been created from the country's Internet community.
ICANN then immediately used that "precedent" to hand ownership of
Iraq's internet over to another government-run body, without
accounting for any objections that the existing owners might
Previously it had always been the case that ICANN would take no
action (and only ICANN, through IANA, can actually change ownership
of a ccTLD) unless both sides were in complete agreement. Now,
ICANN had set itself up as the de facto world authority on who
should run different parts of the Internet.
The Iraq situation is more complicated than briefly outlined above
(of which more later), but in a little under two hours, the ICANN
Board set aside a process that had held since the very earliest
days of the Internet. Not only that but it provided governments
with instant, unassailable control over what happens under their
designated area of the internet.
If a company running a country code top-level domain refuses to
agree to hand over any information or data held by it to the
government, either legally, illegally or extra-legally, secretly or
not, the government can simply replace the company with a
government-run agency. If it refuses to shut down a website, or to
redirect it elsewhere, the government can simply replace it with a
It is a nuclear option, but neverthless a nuclear option that
didn't exist prior to July. It will also never have to be used -
the threat of its use will see any company wanting to keep hold of
its livelihood agree to government demands.
Of course this would never happen. Except it has already. Within
months of the government-run "Association of Kazakh IT Companies"
getting control of Kazakhstan's internet domain, it shut down the
website of British comic Sacha Baron Cohen (best known as Ali G).
The site at www.borat.kz featured another of Cohen's comic
creations, Borat Sagdiyev, a Kazakh journalist. It was removed from
Why? The president of the organisation said it was so the comic
"can't bad-mouth Kazakhstan under the .kz domain name". If you want
an example of government-owned and run censorship on the internet,
you'll be hard pushed to find a clearer example.
Sleight of hand and powergrabs
What was the method by which the US government managed to undermine
its very justification for continuing to run the Internet and
instead open the way for state censorship of the Internet?
It came in the controversial "declaration of principles
(http://www.theregister.co.uk/2005/07/01/bush_net_policy/)" at the
end of June. The aim of the principles was to fire a warning shot
at the rest of the world's governments just prior to publication of
a United Nations report that recommended control of the internet be
taken away from the US government.
There were four principles
the most controversial being the first, which stated the US
government would "maintain its historic role in authorising changes
or modifications to the authoritative root zone file". The second
was largely seen as a way of preventing the world's governments
from going ballistic since it recognised that "governments have
legitimate interest in the management of their country code top
ICANN and IANA had already decided to adjust vital wording in any
ccTLD redelegation process to "address concerns". Agreement between
a ccTLD operator and ICANN was now "desirable but not necessary to
finalise a redelegation", they had agreed.
Combining this loosening of existing operators' powers with the US
principle that strengthened government oversight, ICANN switched
control of the internet in one fell swoop to governments. And, of
course, it puts itself in the role of judge. This is the phrase
that has since appeared in every redelegation following the July
meeting: "ICANN has reviewed the request, and has determined that
the proposed redelegation would be in the best interests of the
local and global Internet communities."
It is with this loose and ambiguous justification - arrived at, you
should note, without any publicly available information or debate
whatsoever - that ICANN has set itself up as the internet's Supreme
Court. And given governments effective control of the internet.
ICANN's efforts to turn itself into the Internet's government in
this area stretch the phrase "redelegation" itself. Despite
repeated requests by ccTLD owners themselves, it is ICANN that
insists on calling the process of changing the name of the
administrative or technical owners of a particular ccTLD
The operators themselves prefer the terms "change of manager",
"change of technical contact" and, in the case of more technical
changes "change of name servers".
The advantage of the term "delegation" is that it has legal
connotations. If you are delegating something, it automatically
implies that the delegator has some form of legal authority over
the delegee. This is something that most country code managers
would strongly disagree with in the case of ICANN.
The case of Iraq
Why did the US government allow this sleight-of-hand from an
organisation that it has overall control over? Simple: Iraq.
When the US government took over Afghanistan in 2001, it was
fortunate in that the current ccTLD owner was killed during bombing
of Kabul. It simple forged the man's signature on a piece of paper
handing over control to the US-created authority and the job was
Control of Iraq's domain was far more complicated however. The .iq
domain was registered instead to two brothers living in the US. The
Elashi brothers and other members of their family at the time were
also in US jail awaiting trial for funding terrorists - which in
the end amounted to shipping computer parts to Libya and Syria and
for which they all received hefty sentences
The US was keen to turn over Iraq's internet over the US-run
administration but the whole process was political dynamite. Head
of the temporary government, Paul Bremer, wrote to ICANN head Paul
Twomey requesting ownership of .iq, but Twomey had to say it wasn't
possible because the rules dictated that the Elashi brothers agree
- something that was pretty unlikely. We only found out about that
letter a year later however, and the letter does not appear on
The situation infuriated the US administration which immediately
sought to change how things were done. At the same time however,
the US government could not be seen to be demanding that the .iq
domain be handed over to whoever it said, because it would
undermine its very position at the head of the Internet. It was
also inevitable that any such move would attract media attention
And so a method was devised by Washington and ICANN to ensure that
the rules could be bent. And so they have been. As a result no one
single soul is better off, and governments have been given control
over the internet by the backdoor. Now you know. ®
Iraq domain owner convicted
All hail the new TLD - .ax
Niue is dead! Long live .nu!
Bush administration annexes internet
IANA report on .iq
IANA report on .kz
US internet "principles"
© Copyright 2006
Defense Department submits to Congress a final space posture review
of national security space policy and strategy (Public Law 108-375,
Congress Cuts Joint Strike Fighter Money
InsideDefense.com NewsStand | John T. Bennett | December 31, 2005
Defense appropriations conferees last week agreed to a final version of a fiscal year 2006 defense spending bill that reduces the Pentagonís Joint Strike Fighter funding request by $200 million.
The Air Forceís FY-06 spending plan, sent to lawmakers in February, sought a total of $2.6 billion for the multiservice JSF program. That amount included $200 million to fund long-lead items for the purchase of five aircraft in FY-07, according to Pentagon budget documents. The Navy also sought more than $2 billion for its portion of the fighter program.
The conferees ultimately sided, in large part, with a Senate-approved plan to reduce the Pentagonís overall JSF request by $270 million
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