indu's View: Congress stands no taller than Yahoo 'pygmies'
Lawmaker scolds Yahoo: 'Morally you are pygmies'
Congress has a lot of nerve ripping into Yahoo for turning over identifying information about two Chinese dissidents to the Chinese government.
"Morally, you are pygmies," Rep. Tom Lantos, the San Mateo Democrat who chairs the House Foreign Affairs Committee, thundered at a hearing Tuesday.
Rep. Chris Smith, R-N.J., compared Yahoo to the Nazi collaborators in World War II.
Don't get me wrong: I'm not defending Yahoo. Unlike competitors Google and Microsoft, the Sunnyvale Web giant put key servers for its Web-based e-mail system within China's borders, opening the door to the Chinese government demands that resulted in 10-year prison terms for the two dissidents.
Yahoo then compounded the mistake by telling Congress last year that company officials didn't know what China was investigating when the information was turned over - a claim that was misleading at best.
But Congress should think hard about how it's undermining civil rights here at home before getting all holier-than-thou on U.S. companies trying to figure out how to do business in China, a place where the government's power can be both murky and threatening.
"I wish Congress would put the practices domestically under the same magnifying glass," said Danny O'Brien, international outreach coordinator at Electronic Frontier Foundation, a San Francisco group that has advocated for privacy rights around the globe. "This is an inconsistent position."
After all, U.S. lawmakers overwhelmingly passed the USA Patriot Act, which essentially gives our government a blank check to snoop on our e-mail, seize our phone records and monitor our Web surfing without even bothering to get a warrant. Investigators simply have to invoke the magic words "national security."