Nel's New Day

April 26, 2012

House Votes Yes on CISPA, Erases Rights

Filed under: Uncategorized — trp2011 @ 7:24 PM
Tags: , , , ,

Such a benign reason for passing a bill, protecting online companies from cyber attack. Everyone thinks that protection is good. But the Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act (CISPA) allows these online companies to further erode everyone’s civil rights. And the House of Representatives passed CISPA today.

According to Anjali Dalal, a resident fellow with the Information Society Project at Yale Law School, “CISPA seems to place constitutionally suspect behavior outside of judicial review. The bill immunizes all participating entities ‘acting in good faith.’ So what happens when an ISP hands over mountains of data under the encouragement and appreciation of the federal government? We can’t sue the government, because they didn’t do anything. And we can’t sue the ISP because the bill forbids it.”

If CISPA passes the Senate, the government will no longer need to go through courts to fight “enemies” on U.S. soil in the Internet arena, and we know that the government considers everyone in this country a potential “enemy.” The United States is in a perpetual war.

Currently the courts distinguish between public and private aspects of online activity. For example, e-mail addresses, subject lines, and traffic patterns are public in the same way as addresses on the outside of a paper envelope are. Just as the contents of a letter are private, however, so are the contents of electronic communication, requiring a search warrant for courts to examine these details. Yet private companies doing government work don’t have the same restrictions.

CISPA deputizes tech companies to share everything–online activities, history, searches, transactions, mail—with the government. In addition, Internet firms would not be required to tell clients when the companies give this information to the government. The result is no legal recourse for these companies’ actions and no limits on the government’s use and retention of any information gained from them. In CISPA Congress will free private firms from liability.

CISPA guarantees than any private action involved with the Internet will be potentially public. As the San Jose Mercury News, the daily newspaper of Silicon Valley, pointed out, “Personal privacy protection is all but nonexistent.” To the people who claim that they don’t have anything to hide, I say, that’s not the point. The point is that people in a free world should have the right to privacy.

“I think our First and Fourth Amendment rights aren’t being adequately considered,” said Yale Law School’s Dalal. “We have a right to be free from government intrusion into our private thoughts, actions, and effects without a warrant. We also have a right to speak freely without government interference. Authorizing private surveillance of everything we do on the Internet with the understanding that government can be a recipient of that surveillance information threatens our right to speak freely, and to be free from unlawful search and seizure.”

As they did with the immunity granted to the telecom industry three years ago for warrantless wiretapping of all our phones, Congress explains to the nation’s citizens that passing this law will make us safer, that we have to make compromises for our safety. They don’t explain that passing CISPA makes the Constitution smaller.

The House passed CISPA with a 248-168 vote, 42 Democrats supporting it and 28 Republicans opposing it. The bill had a stronger bipartisan support before President Obama promised to veto it. “Legislation should address core critical infrastructure vulnerabilities without sacrificing the fundamental values of privacy and civil liberties for our citizens, especially at a time our Nation is facing challenges to our economic well-being and national security,” the White House said.

Passing CISPA may be a moot point: National Security Agency (NSA) whistleblower William Binney estimates the NSA has assembled 20 trillion “transactions”–phone calls, emails and other forms of data—from people in this country. The information likely includes copies of almost all of the emails sent and received from most people living in the United States although NSA Director Keith Alexander asserts that the NSA is not intercepting information about U.S. citizens.

Big Business strongly supports CISPA. Their letters of support praise the information sharing for “successful public-private cybersecurity collaboration.” The ACLU differs from their perspective, giving this example of how CISPA works.

“Imagine you are emailing your doctor from your Gmail account about a medical condition. Your doctor pulls up your medical records from his cloud storage server and sends them your way. Somewhere in that communication, a virus crops up. Under CISPA, Google could send your emails, including the electronic copy of your medical records, to the NSA, so they can gather information on the virus. But, Google would be under no obligation whatsoever to scrub out your private details–which have nothing to do with the virus. And now your medical records are in government hands indefinitely–and the government can use them for all sorts of unrelated purposes like the undefined ‘national security.’”

CISPA will destroy all privacy on the Internet, it will make all whistleblowers and journalists public, it will provide unaccountable spying freedom for the government. Even worse, CISPA will give the government the ability to close down free and open access to the Internet. Dictators delight in this control; that’s what they did in Iran during the recent revolution.

This bill is what happens when the people who make the laws don’t understand the way that technology works. Some of the people voting for this will want the total control, but the discussion about the Stop Online Piracy Act late last year showed lawmakers’ ignorance. They need to have a test before they are allowed to vote on any subject.

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