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ICANN responds to angry letter from three U.S. Congressmen

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April 11, 2016

ICANN says it has responded to an angry letter from three U.S. Congressmen accusing it of failing to answer questions by sending a letter that asks even more questions.

The three senators, including Republican presidential hopeful Ted Cruz, complained to ICANN chairman Steve Crocker that the organization had not responded to questions it had sent in two previous letters.

Most of the questions concerned the decision by ICANN's former CEO Fadi Chehade to front an internet governance effort led by the Chinese government, including what ICANN's board knew about his decision.

This comes amid ICANN's so-called 'maneuvering' to take full control of IANA, which oversees three crucial pillars of the internet-- the top-level of the domain-name system, IP address allocation, and communication protocol management: basically 100 percent of the whole internet communications infrastructure.

The Congressmen's letters also dug into the relationship that ICANN has with the Chinese government, particularly around its "engagement center" in Beijing.

The senators appended copies and asked ICANN again to respond to their questions by Thursday April 7.

ICANN's Crocker responded, but for a third time in a row, seemingly to a different letter than the one sent, and without responding to the numbered questions provided by Cruz and his team.

The question of ICANN's unusual arrangement with the Chinese government – in particular its so-called 'engagement center' that is inside the offices of the government-run organization that operates China's .cn top-level domain, CNNIC – was addressed only by reference to the fact that ICANN has meetings all over the world.

"ICANN's engagement with China as a global Internet stakeholder does not suggest any level of support for the nation's government or its policies," he argues, noting that many American companies do a lot of business in China.

Crocker also failed to address the fact that the Chinese engagement center was the only one of nine that did not have its address listed on ICANN's website, or even the fact that ICANN reportedly pays CNNIC for the space.

When grilled about the Beijing office, former CEO Fadi Chehade gave several incorrect responses, claiming that its location within CNNIC's offices was included in a press release announcing the new center. It was not.

He also said that it was common practice for ICANN to share facilities with existing registries abroad, when in fact the Beijing office is the only one.

As to Chehade's controversial decision to front the World Internet Forum – which is the Chinese government's effort to influence global internet governance – Crocker again ignored all the questions sent by the senators, saying only that Chehade's decision to take on the position "is not the same with his position at ICANN."

It notes that Chehade left his post on March 15 and will not take up the role until later in 2016.

"The Board is not aware of any conflicts of interest relating to his activities during his tenure," Crocker wrote, while ignoring a whole list of questions over whether the board knew of Chehade's decision ahead of time, whether it approved it, and whether it decided not to censure him in order to avoid upsetting the Chinese government.

As much as Cruz is disliked in the Senate and outside for his zero-sum-game approach to issues, it is notable that ICANN continues to refuse to answer direct and important questions about its relationship with the Chinese government and that the systems it has in place to avoid being unduly influenced in the future.

And as things usually are with ICANN these days, its attitude appears to be-- 'we know best and we're under no obligation to explain our thinking to you or anyone else.'

The organization is saying that Cruz does not have sufficient political bias in the Senate to delay or derail the shift of the IANA contract from the U.S. government to ICANN later this year.

For what it's worth, ICANN also added that Cruz will not become president despite being one of the five likely candidates.

It's a big gamble that ICANN would not take were it not so obsessed with maintaining absolute secrecy over its board's deliberations. And this has been going on for several years and clearly Congressmen are fed up of it and what changes enacted soon.

Source: The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers.

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