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Aug. 1 2009 - 7:28 pm | 401 views | 2 recommendations | 16 comments

Glenn Beck and the Government’s Fictional Plot To Hijack Your Computer

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Earlier this week Fox News host Glenn Beckdid a segment on the Government’s “Cash for Clunkers” program in which he “exposed” the plans of wicked, crazy, frightening people to [seize] all of your personal and private information.

Warning his users do not try this at home, Beck attempted to sign into the website to show his users a warning box which Fox quoted as saying the following:

This application provides access to the DoT CARS system. When logged on to the CARS system, your computer is considered a Federal computer system and is the property of the U.S. government… Any or all uses of this system and all files on this system may be intercepted, monitored, recorded, copied, audited, inspected, and disclosed to authorized CARS, DoT, and law enforcement personnel, as well as authorized officials of other agencies, both domestic and foreign.

By all accounts this is a pretty serious looking disclaimer and it appears to give the federal government license to take all manner of liberties on the user’s computer. The only problem with Beck’s expose and allegation is that he’s lying about it.

Beck pitches the entire story as if regular consumers are going to log on to the cars.gov website and, in the course of their use, encounter this message and blithely click “ok,” thereby giving the government’s jackbooted thugs the right to check out their financial spreadsheets and boost a copy of their porn collection.

That’s not going to happen.

An astute viewer of Beck’s expose might notice that the website that Beck is browsing is blue whereas the cars.gov website is green. This is no trick of the studio lights; though he never mentions it, what Beck is demonstrating only occurs on the dealer side of the website. The consumer side – the side that anyone who is not an automotive dealer will access – is green. What Beck demonstrates is not even something that a casual user of the site could stumble upon; they would have to go looking for it.

Indeed, regular users of the system can not even find the text Fox flashes up on the screen by going to www.cars.gov and following links. Users must first point their browser at a section of the site intended only for car dealers – http://www.cars.gov/index.php/dealersupport – and proceed from there. Clicking “Submit Transaction” and then “I agree,” from within this semi-private section of the site takes the user to an entirely different website, though one still administered by the Department of Transportation. Here the user may read the frightening text that Fox quoted and contextualized as a waiver for seizing all of your personal and private information.

And those that do read it will likely find that it does not say what Beck says that it says. The disclaimer in its full form reads as follows: [emphasis added]

This application provides access to the DoT CARS system. When logged on to the CARS system, your computer is considered a Federal computer system and is the property of the United States Government. It is for authorized use only. Users (authorized or unauthorized) have no explicit or implicit expectation of privacy.

Any or all uses of this system and all files on this system may be intercepted, monitored, recorded, copied, audited, inspected, and disclosed to authorized CARS, DoT, and law enforcement personnel, as well as authorized officials of other agencies, both domestic and foreign. By using this system, the user consents to such interception, monitoring, recording, copying, auditing, inspection, and disclosure at the discretion CARS or the DoT personnel.

That paragraph break is important; because of it, the disclaimer does not give the government permission to look at the files on the user’s system but rather warns the user that the government will be looking at the files on the application’s system, specifically those files submitted by the user. Such text is boilerplate on many government web applications and a quick Google Search turns up more than 800 instances of the “Any or all uses of this system and all files on this system…” verbiage on a collection of public and private sites.

Far from the malicious and conniving scenario that Beck presents, the federal government is merely warning the dealers to whom it will be writing checks that their submissions are subject to scrutiny.

As usual, Beck’s hysterical rantings have no basis in reality or fact and as usual the same dedicated collection of wing-nuts and conspiracy theorists have picked up the story as gospel truth without even the slightest degree of skepticism or doubt. We should expect no less of Fox, which has fought for and won its right to lie to the American people, but if we trust in liars we have no one to blame but ourselves.


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  1. collapse expand

    Good, more clunker cash for the sane people!

  2. collapse expand

    Let’s face it, wouldn’t you just like to kick Glenn Beck’s ass? My wife and I vacationed last week in Santa Barbara and one night I put Fox News on during the Glenn Beck show. My wife is a 61 year old schoolteacher and she thought the show was some kind of joke – until I told her how 50% of the country believes every word he manipulates. I kept looking for him in restaurants but he probably only eats at the Reagan Library cafeteria. TJM – Redlands, CA

  3. collapse expand

    Where was Glenn Beck’s outrage when the Bush administration was conducting warrantless spying on Americans?

  4. collapse expand

    “if we trust in liars we have no one to blame but ourselves.” No truer words have been spoken.
    The teachable moment here is the message of critical thinking – how we distinguish truth from lies. Many of the people who use – “well, it’s on Fox” as their bellwether for truth are merely ignorant, not evil. If we have a better way to discover lies, we should be teaching that, not making enemies.

  5. collapse expand

    Those who believe Beck’s story (unfortunately many will) are the same ones who believe that “Hussein” O’Bama and the Democrats are going to be the ruination of America. This is his strong suit, throw up hysterical (tearful) angry hyperbole and then, repetitively drive his twisted, self-righteous view into the public consciousness. Did he make a single complaint when the really and truly deprivation of our constitutional right to privacy was called into question by the Bush Adm? Has he raised an indignant eyebrow when Bush and Cheney, perhaps to press our country toward a war, put out a false story about Iraq? Was he outraged when our then Vice President apparently sought, through his underlings, to have a US covert operative outed? If CBS fired Dan Rather over one mistake, why can’t the powers that be push Fox to rid itself of Beck, O’Reilly and Limbaugh, the Triumvirate of right-wing-false-rhetoric? They are respected, believed and faithfully followed. How scarey is that?

  6. collapse expand

    The good news is that people are onto the scam behind this type of news media. Thanks to people like you who call them out.

  7. collapse expand

    How scary is that? Not nearly as scary as Americans turning this country over to a community organizer. Turns out the government changed that disclaimer today. As usual Beck was right on point!! Maybe you should obtain your information from someone who gives you honesty & facts to support his arguments.

  8. collapse expand

    I’m so sick of hearing community organizer thrown out like a bad thing. Also, he wasn’t just a community organizer. He also was a consitutional law professor, and a national senator. Sounds good enough to me.

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    About Me

    I got started in journalism as a contributor to MSNBC.com's social news site Newsvine. While writing there I scooped the AP on the April 16 2007 shooting at Virginia Tech, covered the Democratic National Convention in 2008, and was named one of the Wall Street Journal's "Wizards of Buzz."

    I live in South Western Virginia and, when I'm not tackling the political issues of the day, I develop websites to pay the bills.

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