(Washington, DC) Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) and House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-Virginia) raised concerns about Obama Administration efforts to relinquish stewardship of key internet functions in light of unanswered legal, constitutional and human rights questions. Other concerns include whether such a transition would jeopardize free expression on the Internet or weaken certain intellectual property protections.
In a letter sent on Monday to the National Telecommunications and Information Administration, the chairmen caution that the transition may violate the Constitution if it transfers government property to a private entity without congressional approval. The chairmen have sought clarification on whether the root zone file and similar components, which were created and financed by the U.S. government, constitute government property. They advise that transferring these components without congressional approval raises constitutional issues and the prospect of illegality.
“Despite NTIA’s intention of ending the United States government role, a number of important issues and concerns exist that indicate that this course is misguided or, at the very least, premature,” the chairmen said in the letter. “As we have stated previously, it is unfortunate that this proposal to eliminate the United States historical stewardship role over key internet management functions has been undertaken not because of technical considerations but for political ones.”
They raised concerns about a potential weakening of free expression and human rights protections by leaving terms such as “human rights” undefined and by increasing the authority of foreign governments, some of which have demonstrated a lack of commitment to human rights and an open internet. The chairmen also called into question the legality of the government’s continued work to pursue the transition, given provisions in recent government funding laws that prohibit taxpayer dollars from being used in furtherance of the transition, including proposal review and assessment.
The chairmen ask NTIA to respond to the questions raised in their letter and reiterate their commitment to ongoing oversight and examination of a potential transition of the internet authority.
“Sen. Grassley and Rep. Goodlatte’s leadership in protecting the Internet is one of the reasons that the transition has not already occurred, and now their letter to NTIA shows that powerful Senate and House leaders are lining up to defend the power of the purse from the Obama administration’s illegal Internet giveaway. NTIA is little more than a rogue agency, illegally preparing to violate a federal statute by proceeding with the transition in spite of a clear prohibition. Now is the time to hold NTIA accountable and renew the prohibition for at least another year, forcing the current contract with ICANN to be renewed,” Rick Manning, President of Americans for Limited Government, said in a released statement.
“Grassley and Goodlatte’s letter comes after Senate Commerce Committee Chairman John Thune has expressed skepticism of the transition, citing unanswered questions, and House Appropriations Commerce, Science and Justice Subcommittee Chairman Rep. John Culberson has warned the Commerce Department that is violating the defund. With so much uncertainty, renewing the contract is the only way to go,” Manning added.
You can read the full-text of the letter below: