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02/14/2004 Archived Entry: "Ask your legislator"
Questions to ask your legislator:
1. What is Network Address Translation, and how has it extended the life of the Internet?
2. When was encryption first used in the U.S.?
3. Which of the first ten Amendments to the U.S. Constitution use the word "citizen"?
Don't feel bad if you don't know the answers. Except for #3, there's no reason you should need to know them...unless you are trying to pass laws about them. Then you had damned well better know what you're talking -- and leglislating -- about.
1. Network Address Translation (NAT) is the process by which a computer changes the IP address of a packet while forwarding it. The IP address is like a "phone number" that identifies your computer. Firewalls frequently change this so that Internet attacks come to the firewall and not to your computer (the firewall knows how to route "legitimate" packets back to your computer). This technique also lets several computers share a single "visible" IP address on the Internet, which has helped slow the problem of the Internet running out of "phone numbers." Residents of Michigan, Delaware, Illinois, Maryland and Virginia are especially encouraged to ask their state legislators this question, since those states have banned the practice.
2. If he answered "World War II," he's getting too much of his history from the movies. We may not know when encryption was first used in the U.S., but we know it was used by Thomas Jefferson and other founding fathers as far back as 1785. Something to think about when the feds try (again) to ban or restrict it.
3. None of them. Nowhere in the first ten Amendments (the Bill of Rights) does the word "citizen" appear. And yet the word "citizen" and the concept of citizenship does appear elsewhere in the Constitution (e.g. Article 1 Section 2), so the Constitution clearly distinguishes between "citizens" and "the people," and the Bill of Rights mentions only "the people." If your federal legislator couldn't answer this question, ask him if he's ever read the document he swore to uphold.
All of these matters have come up in legislation in recent years. So if you get the chance, ask your federal and state congresscritters these questions. Because what you're really asking them is: Are you an informed, responsible, and competent representative? Or are you an ignorant, shiftless, influence-peddler?