Don’t these guys ever give it a break when it comes to stealing our freedoms under false pretenses? This latest outrage is a real eye opener.
Of course, whenever Congress or the President hastily push through a bill, it should sound off the alarm bells in your head. The House vote for the Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act (CISPA) was supposed to take place on a Friday, but according Campaign for Liberty Vice President Matt Hawes, “they had to ram it through at the last minute Thursday night…”
CISPA is being pitched as yet another harmless cybersecurity bill that “encourages” private corporations to “voluntarily” share information with government agencies.
Securing our Internet infrastructure is, of course, important. However, CISPA uses such vague language to expand the power of government that it opens the door wide to abuse of our freedom of speech and assembly.
More Crooked Dealings to Make Us a Less Free People
Interestingly, CISPA didn’t pass the House of Representatives until eleven last-minute amendments were tacked on. Hawes says, “If a bill needs to be changed that much, it’s pretty obvious it should go back to the drawing board instead of on to the Senate… With so many amendments being adopted just before the rushed vote on final passage, it was not possible for representatives to get a full picture of what the bill will do until after they passed it.”
Sounds like another case of the “we have to pass it to find out what’s in it,” as Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) famously said about Obamacare.
Having passed the House, CISPA is in the hands of the Senate, where “Senate Democrats are quietly revamping [the] legislation in an attempt to pick up Republican votes,” as reported in The Hill.
Here’s Why CISPA Is So Dangerous…
Even with the eleven amendments, privacy organizations such as the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) point out CISPA language appears ripe for abuse.
One clause the EFF highlights is:
“[Private information may be shared] notwithstanding any other provision of law.”
This carte blanche statement appears to allow CISPA to supersede current privacy laws, amounting to a warrantless search. It would remove oversight and accountability measures and give companies virtual immunity if they misuse your information or if you are mistakenly accused of wrongdoing.
Presidential candidate Ron Paul (R-TX) said CISPA “represents an alarming form of corporatism as it further intertwines governments with companies like Google and Facebook.”
“It permits them to hand over your private communications to government officials without a warrant, circumventing the well-known established federal laws like the Wiretap Act and the Electronic Communications Privacy Act… The First Amendment wasn’t written so that you can talk about the weather,” said Paul. “It was written so that you can talk about controversial things and even challenge our own government.”
Cato Institute research fellow Julian Sanchez noted CISPA would allow the government to “[extort] the cooperation of hackers, penetration testers, or other tech professionals” in order to serve a vague “cybersecurity” purpose. His concern arises from the case former Solicitor General Ted Olson made in 2002. Olson wanted to expand the “view of the ‘foreign intelligence purposes’ for which information obtained through national security wiretaps could be used, including using evidence of misconduct unrelated to terrorism or espionage to force people to become informants.”
It’s not good for a free society when the government goes around making deals you can’t refuse.
We May Be On Our Own in This Fight
In contrast to the tech industry’s opposition to the SOPA and PIPA Internet kill-switch legislation earlier this year (which were both defeated), most of the same tech companies support CISPA regulation.
Some of the big names are Facebook, IBM, and AT&T. In addition, the financial services industry, including Citibank and JPMorgan Chase, also back CISPA.
Meanwhile, more consumer-oriented firms like Mozilla strongly oppose it. Mozilla recently told Forbes that “CISPA has a broad and alarming reach that goes far beyond Internet security. The bill infringes on our privacy, includes vague definitions of cybersecurity, and grants immunities to companies and government that are too broad around information misuse.”
The mainstream press states the White House threatens to veto the bill if it passes the Senate. But don’t hold your breath. After threatening to veto the National Defense Authorization Act of 2012 (NDAA), which allows for the indefinite detention of Americans in the name of security, president Obama sneaked the law through on the last day of the year in 2011.
There is some hope. Opposition is mounting and getting louder. Slowly, some supporters are doing the right thing and changing sides.
Mozilla, the maker to the Firefox web browser, was the first technology company to publicly announce their opposition to CISPA. More recently, Microsoft has come aboard announcing its concern about the lack of privacy for its customers.
You Can Help Stop CISPA from Passing the Senate
Now that it’s in the hands of the Senate, you can go to EFF’s unique CISPA page and follow the simple steps to contact your own state’s U.S. senators and petition them to vote NO on this and related bills. (Reports say Big Government Republican John McCain (R-AZ) is at it again, developing a new bill that some call CISPA on steroids! We’ll keep you informed in future emails.)
Here’s EFF’s grassroots action portal: https://cyberspying.eff.org/
If this bill (or a similar one) passes the Senate and the president doesn’t veto it, it just makes encrypting your e-mails, using a VPN or proxy server to surf the Internet, and encrypting your files and electronic data even more important than they are today. We’ve gone into further details on how to implement these tools in past Executive Bulletins, and we’ll definitely be expanding our coverage of online privacy strategies in future issues.