Statement from the Civil Rights Congress
The “Restricting the Emergence of Security Threats that Risk Information and Communications Technology Act” or “RESTRICT Act,” is a bill that has been proposed by Democrat Senator Mark Warner, which seeks to give the Department of Commerce the ability to review information and communications technology (ICT) that is owned or partially owned by a “foreign adversary”, and enforces penalties for the use of such technology.
A “foreign adversary” is any country arbitrarily designated as such by the Department of Commerce. Countries already designated in the bill as foreign adversaries include the People’s Republic of China (including the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region and Macao Special Administrative Region), the Republic of Cuba, the Islamic Republic of Iran, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, the Russian Federation, and the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela.
This bill leaves unspecified both who these foreign adversaries will be and who will be targeted for penalties. It is a blank check to restrict any technology-based forms of communication with “foreign adversaries.” If any entity within any foreign adversarial state possesses a controlling holding within such a technology, then it could be targeted.
It outlines “entities” as a firm, government, government agency, government department, government commission, labor union, fraternal or social organization, partnership, trust, joint venture, corporation, group, subgroup, or other association or organization whether or not organized for profit. It also outlines “holdings” as an equity interest, stock, security, share, partnership interest, interest in a limited liability company, membership interest, any participation, right, or other equivalent, however designated and of any character and includes, without limitation, any security convertible into an ownership interest and right, warrant, or option to acquire ownership interests.
Civil and criminal penalties for violation of this act include a fine of not more than $250,000 or an amount that is twice the value of the transaction that is the basis of the violation with respect to which the penalty is imposed, whichever is greater, or a fine of not more than $1,000,000, imprisonment for not more than 20 years, or both.
This Act is an incredibly repressive piece of legislation that violates the First Amendment of the United States Constitution, and seeks to silence and punish any dissenting voices against the US State Department and US Imperialism, and comes at a time when the United States is trying to manufacture consent for aggression on two fronts: against the Russian Federation and the People’s Republic of China. This is just another example of information warfare from the US State Department, trying to exert power in cyberspace and prevent the American population from accessing information from these “foreign adversaries” and prevent any communication with those “foreign adversaries”, and could limit the use of Virtual Private Networks (VPNs) by the American people.
The severity of this act can not be understated. This Act is reminiscent of the McCarthyist era, and can potentially be used to shut down any anti-imperialist parties or organizations if they challenge US imperialism. This act is corporate lawfare that can be used against American people for the benefit of the corporate class. Even in a bourgeois democracy such as our own, the bourgeoisie will not defend our civil liberties and civil rights and will revoke them at will to further their imperialist agenda. It falls on anti-imperialists to defend these civil liberties and civil rights. The Civil Rights Congress stands resolutely opposed to the RESTRICT Act. We call on all the other anti-imperialist, progressive, and pro-constitutional organizations to voice opposition to this act and protect the rights enshrined to all Americans in the Bill of Rights of our US Constitution.