CISPA passes the House with amendments which make it even worse than it was
By Madison Ruppert
Editor of End the LieThe final vote on CISPA, the Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act, sponsored by Representatives Mike Rogers, a Michigan Republican, and Dutch Ruppersberger, a Maryland Democrat, was held today despite it being originally slated for tomorrow.
Brent Daggett previously reported on how dangerous CISPA really is for End the Lie and I have pointed out how over 3,000,000 businesses across the United States – including companies like Google who opposed SOPA – expressed their support for the bill, which likely played a large role in its passage.
It passed with a 248-168 vote and quite unfortunately, the amended version which was voted on is even worse than it was originally, if you can believe that.
While I thought such a thing would never be possible, indeed the final version of CISPA is considerably more dangerous than the previous incarnations.
This is because the amendment, put forth by Representative Ben Quayle, an Arizona Republican, actually expanded the scope of CISPA and allows even more reasons for private information to be shared with the government.
The most insane part about this amendment is that, according to Tech Dirt, it was actually billed as an amendment which would limit the government’s power to obtain personal, private information belonging to Americans.
While previously the government was only able to use information for “cybersecurity” or “national security” purposes (which is already incredibly broad), the amendment actually added three more reasons: investigation and prosecution of alleged cybersecurity crimes, protection of individuals, and protection of children.
As I previously pointed out, the definition of cybersecurity leaves a significant amount of wiggle room for corporations and the government, while “national security” is one of the most ambiguous terms in modern government parlance.
“[T]he amorphous phrase ‘national security’ has invaded many arenas of government action, and has been used to justify much activity that did not involve legitimate terrorist threats. The most obvious (and odious) example is the unfortunately named USA-PATRIOT Act, a law that was sold to the American public as essential to combating terrorism, but which has overwhelmingly been applied to ordinary American citizens never even suspected of terrorism,” notes the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF).
Essentially, our Fourth Amendment rights – which have already been whittled away considerably by legislation passed under the guise of fighting terrorism – have been completely eradicated on the internet.
Indeed, the government and their corporate cronies are completely protected from any and all violations of privacy protections, thanks to CISPA, and they are now able to do whatever they please with the information they collect so long as they claim it involves cybersecurity, national security or harm to an individual or a child.
So long as they can claim that it falls under one of those headings, they can circumvent each and every law that would otherwise limit the government’s power.
To make matters even worse, CISPA completely protects the corporations who hand over the information, so long as they think they’re doing the right thing.
Indeed, the EFF has pointed out that CISPA “provides ‘good faith’ immunity for using ‘cybersecurity systems’ to obtain information, for not acting on information that a company learns, and for making any decisions based on the information they learn. If a company learns about a security flaw, fails to fix it, and users’ information is misused or stolen, companies cannot be held liable as long as the company acted ‘in good faith’ according to CISPA. Companies “acting in good faith” are also excused from all liability for engaging in potential countermeasures, even if they hurt innocent parties.”
It should hardly be surprising that corporations would grab such an opportunity to have near absolute immunity from legal actions against them.
The simple fact is, this legislation is not necessary and is clearly not designed to protect the United States from vicious, destructive cyber attacks but instead to conduct dragnet surveillance on all Americans without probable cause or any judicial oversight.
“Cybersecurity does not have to mean abdication of Americans’ online privacy. As we’ve seen repeatedly, once the government gets expansive national security authorities, there’s no going back. We encourage the Senate to let this horrible bill fade into obscurity,” said Michelle Richardson, ACLU legislative counsel, according to Wired’s Threat Level.
To make matters even worse, on top of the legal protections already mentioned, CISPA gives companies anti-trust protection in order to make them immune to allegations of collusion on cybersecurity issues.
Furthermore, Internet Service Providers (ISPs) are allowed to bypass all privacy laws and share information with each other under the guise of thwarting a cyber attack.
The ISPs are not required to hide any personal data, including information which could identify the individual, when it believes a cybersecurity threat has been detected (the key word here is “believes”).
Keep in mind, CISPA is playing a part in fleshing out the already extensive Big Brother surveillance grid in the United States.
Indeed, combined with the National Security Agency’s (NSA’s) new behemoth data center in Utah, the soon-to-be-implemented ISP digital surveillance scheme, and the National Counterterrorism Center’s new powers over data relating to Americans with no links to terrorism, there is likely going to be absolutely zero privacy on the web in the very near future.
The Obama administration has put out a statement in an attempt to make it appear that President Obama will side with civil liberties campaigners and veto the bill, although they made similar promises about the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2012 which eradicated due process, and as I warned, he signed it anyway.
“Without clear legal protections and independent oversight, information sharing legislation will undermine the public’s trust in the Government as well as in the Internet,” the White House stated.
Really? If they really cared about undermining the public’s trust in “the Government” they might be a little more concerned about their claim that they have the power to assassinate any American based on meetings behind closed doors and evidence which is never made public.
Let us not forget, they are not even willing to explain why they think this is legal in a court of law. If anyone still has trust in our government, I seriously doubt that CISPA will undermine that as they would have to be either unbelievably ignorant or equally delusional, or perhaps both.
The statement claimed that if CISPA is delivered to the President in its current form “his senior advisers would recommend that he veto the bill,” although this is about as believable as me claiming that I can make myself invisible on command.
Sure, it would be pretty cool if that were true, but it is completely ludicrous to believe that such a thing is even remotely realistic.
We are in very troubling times indeed. All I can recommend at this point is to continue to contact your Senators as much as humanly possible in an attempt to prevent the legislation from passing the Senate as well.
I would also encourage you to take steps to hinder tracking of your online activities by following my foolproof guide (be sure to check out this easy guide as well), although once these surveillance methods are fully in place, it will be much more difficult, if not impossible, to maintain any significant degree of privacy online.
I will continue to attempt to find ways to protect the privacy of those who are concerned and would like to keep their activities out of the hands of the government and their private sector allies, but unfortunately I suspect that soon it will be quite a feat to do this in the United States.
If you have any information you think can help me create a guide like this, or if you would like to create one yourself, please do not hesitate to email me at [email protected] or if you would like to give me feedback, provide story tips, or original writing on any subject, contact me right away.