Yes, the title is sarcastic.
Representative Spencer Bachus, who, to be fair, is probably in good company with other congresscritters in trying to grasp the “finer” points of internet technology (Ted “series of tubes” Stevens anyone?), is either playing dumb or remarkably clueless in this exchange with Radley Balko after Radley’s testimony at a recent hearing on internet gambling. I suspect the latter, mostly due to an exchange I saw at another House hearing several years ago when the Carnivore e-mail wiretapping system was being debated. Here is the transcript, but I think the transcriber cleaned up Rep. Bachus’ sentence structure, grammar and choice of words a bit (the part I’m referring to is on p. 85 of the transcript). I remember it going something like this:
Rep. Bachus: Now, now , wait a minute, from what I understand, you can just get up there on the internet and just collect and read whatever you want. You can just capture all the e-mails and read them.
Exasperated FBI guy: No sir, we can’t, it’s not legal or technically feasible.
Don’t get me wrong, I agreed with Bachus that Carnivore did not have sufficient safeguards. It violated the 4th Amendment and its successors are likely no better. It’s just that, despite his good intentions, the man didn’t seem to have a clue about the technology involved. His repeated references to searching for incriminating emails from lovers or girlfriends, like J. Edgar Hoover did with phone calls, probably also didn’t help his credibility.