US Senators John McCain and Joe Lieberman are linking Internet censorship with atomic power in a way that should terrify us all.
McCain is the real power behind Lieberman-Warner global warming bill on which the Senate could vote as early as Tuesday, June 3. As a centerpiece of his presidential campaign, McCain is pushing hard for massive subsidies to build new atomic reactors. Despite his "free market" ideology, this bill may hand a half-trillion taxpayer dollars to an industry that cannot get private backing for a failed, terror-target technology.
Now its official co-sponsor, Connecticut's Lieberman, has taken the issue into the realm of Internet censorship. In a recent floor speech, he demanded that YouTube remove numerous postings that he claims promote terrorism. Yet the very bill he and McCain are pushing would force taxpayers to fund atomic reactors that are easily accessible to terrorists as machines of radioactive mass destruction.
Calling it a "ludicrous" attack on free speech, The New York Times scoffs at the claim that the Internet is "one of the primary drivers" of terrorism. The charge comes in Lieberman's report on "Violent Islamist Extremism, the Internet, and the Homegrown Terrorist Threat."
The Times found it "profoundly disturbing that an influential senator would even consider telling a media company to shut down constitutionally protected speech." The ACLU has warned that similar efforts "could be a precursor to proposals to censor and regulate speech on the Internet."
In a dangerous capitulation, YouTube then did pull down some 80 videos.
What makes this attack on free speech doubly disturbing is that it accompanies the promotion of the very the technology that gives potential terrorists the easiest route to creating a nuclear holocaust -- commercial atomic power plants.
It has long been clear that no atomic reactor could withstand the crash of a jet the size of the ones hijacked on 9/11/01. Even without penetrating the containment dome, the force of impact and ensuing fuel fires would be virtually certain to cause massive radioactive releases, render plant operations impossible, disrupt critical cooling systems, destroy off-site power and communications lifelines, threaten spent fuel pools -- most of which are seriously overloaded -- as well as highly vulnerable dry casks, and much more.
America's 104 licensed atomic reactors are every bit as vulnerable to such an attack today as they were on 9/10/2001. There is no guarantee a new generation of reactors, projected to come on line in a decade or two, would be any safer.
A long string of government and private studies over the past half-century have warned that by error or terror, a major reactor disaster would kill tens of thousands of people in the short-term, and many many more in the years to come. The property damage and ultimate impact on what's left of the American economy would be incalculable.
But while attacking our constitutional rights in the name of fighting terrorism, McCain and Lieberman advocate using public money to build still more of these pre-deployed weapons of radioactive mass destruction, giving terrorists access to the ultimate threat.
Despite the industry's well-financed hype, not a single major national environmental group supports this atomic expansion. A unified effort to strip the pro-nuke provisions out of the Lieberman-Warner bill is underway, with further information at websites such as www.nirs.org, www.beyondnuclear.org, www.NukeFree.org, and many more. All urge safe energy proponents to call their U.S. Senators to stop this pork-laden railroad to radioactive terror.
In fact, nuke power can do exactly as much to solve global warming as censoring the Internet can do to safeguard our democracy -- which is to say, nothing.
So it will take another massive grassroots effort to beat this latest travesty of an energy bill -- as well as to save what's left of our democracy from those who would use vague threats of terrorism as an excuse to destroy it.
After all, no terrorist can threaten our cities with an attack on its solar panels. And there's nothing about windpower that even hints at a need to shut down the Internet.