In his editor's letter "The End of The American Network" (Nov. 2013), Moshe Y. Vardi made this startling statement: "Thus, in spite of its being a globally distributed system, the Internet is ultimately controlled by the U.S. government. This enables the U.S. government to conduct Internet surveillance operations that would have been impossible without this degree of control." This is untrue on several levels: First, so-called U.S. control of the Internet is limited to approval of root-zone changes of the Domain Name System, though the U.S. has never exercised that authority against any top-level delegation or re-delegation proposed by the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (http://www.icann.org), the not-for-profit organization that oversees the Internet's naming and numbering system. In addition, root-zone servers exist outside the U.S., and any heavy-handed attempt by the U.S. government to exercise unwarranted control over the contents of the zone would be international political suicide and likely cause a near immediate takeover by operators in other countries. Second, this administrative function has nothing to do with the routing of information on the Internet and does not provide any agency of the U.S. government any advantage for surveillance of Internet traffic.
Although the topology of the early Internet was such that much of the world's traffic flowed through the U.S., it was a historical artifact of the Internet's early development. More recently, the pattern changed radically, with Internet topology evolving into a more comprehensive global mesh structure.
Moshe Vardi's response to George Sadowsky is disappointing. If you are not an Internet expert, why write an opinion about the Internet in a technical journal? The shock and surprise at Snowden's revelations seems overdone to me. I suggest reading, say, the Communications of the ACM for some background.
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