I guess after being paid craploads of taxpayer money ($174,000 annually), Senators need to show something for it, given they have one of the laxest schedules imaginable. Some of the bills that have gone through the house in the last week or two have included rolling back insider trading rules, making Congress immune to prosecution, voting down expanded enforcement of background checks on gun buyers, and the lower House voting through the Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act (CISPA).
Even with the threat of a veto from the White House, and having over 30 civil liberty organisations oppose it, the House of Representatives passed a bill that would allow private companies to sift through your internet useage. Not that cable companies and internet providers like Warner, Comcast, AT&T, and Verizon don’t already sift through your data and sell it anyway.
Doesn’t this activity go against the very wording of the Fourth Amendment?
The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.
Upon inspection, it certainly looks that way.
So, what happened?
Prior to Monday, April 22, CISPA was potentially dead in the water, with just two cosponsors. Then, IBM happened. A group of 200 executives flew in to glad hand and chat up a few representatives. The very next day, the bill had 36 cosponsors. These new cosponsors collectively and suddenly found themselves$7,626,081 richer than they were when they woke up on Monday.
In total, some $67 million has been spent to ensure CISPA has traction, which is 16 times as much money as that spent against. Telephone utilities generously chipped in about $5 million. Investment companies and banks threw down some $17 million between them, and big pharma and real estate developers went in with $11 million. This isn’t chump change found down the back of a sofa cushion.
House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) has received some $2.7 million to ensure this bill passes in the Senate. Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) is a cheaper fish to fry at $1.4 million. This is how government works, it seems.
Tuesday, in light of this foolery, the White House issued a veto threat against the bill, in which it said:
(It) remains concerned that the bill does not require private entities to take reasonable steps to remove irrelevant personal information when sending cybersecurity data to the government or other private sector entities. Citizens have a right to know that corporations will be held accountable – and not granted immunity – for failing to safeguard personal information adequately.
Also worth noting is that the White House had drafted its own set of guidelines back in February, passed by executive order. President Obama directly called this out in his last State of the Union address.
I signed a new executive order that will strengthen our cyber defenses by increasing information sharing, and developing standards to protect our national security, our jobs and our privacy. Now, Congress must act as well, by passing legislation to give our government a greater capacity to secure our networks and deter attacks.
Reporters Without Borders wrote to Congress and pointed out, “CISPA’s information-sharing regime allows the transfer of vast amounts of data, including sensitive information like Internet records or the content of e-mails, to any agency in the government.”
The Electronic Frontier Foundation made a statement on its website, calling out what it sees as the dangers of CISPA.
As it stands, CISPA is dangerously vague, and should not allow for any expansion of government powers through a series of poorly worded definitions. If the drafters intend to give new powers to the government’s already extensive capacity to examine your private information, they should propose clear and specific language so we can have a real debate.
Currently, private companies and the government can’t look at your personal data, such as bank accounts, tax returns, or medical records. CISPA doesn’t require any due care that this information gets edited out. In theory, a pharmaceutical company could imply you’re part of a threat and request all of your medical information as part of a warrantless search and data dump from the NSA. And then sell it without being held legally liable for sharing that information, a practice that seemingly conflicts with privacy policies on existing websites.
Thursday afternoon, the bill passed 288 to 127.
Rep. Alan Grayson (D – FL) tried to insert a one-sentence amendment and revealed via Twitter that there wasn’t even a debate on the bill. (Grayson voted no, by the way.)
During Thursday’s pre-vote discussion, Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D – CA) vowed to cast her ballot against CISPA.
“I’m disappointed that we did not address some of the concerns mentioned by the White House about personal information. Unfortunately, it offers no policies and did not allow any amendments or real solution that upholds Americans’ right to privacy.”
What are those arguments in favor of CISPA?
CISPA is the only true response to the bombings in Boston!
“Recent events in Boston demonstrate that we have to come together as Republicans and Democrats,” said Rep. Mike McCaul (R- TX) on Thursday morning in defense of the bill. “In the case of Boston, they were real bombs; in this case, they’re digital bombs. And these digital bombs are on their way.”
Yet cosponsors were jumping on the bill like cockroaches onto a dropped PB&J before the bombs went off in Boston. Also, how does a seriously flawed cyber security measure equal real-world threats?
CISPA is the only true response to Chinese hackers!
Except the money has been trickling in for years before the Chinese hackers were exposed. Handing over people’s personal information from warrantless searches doesn’t protect people from the Chinese. If anything, it exposes them further.
CISPA protects American users of the internet!
“CISPA is a poorly drafted bill that would provide a gaping exception to bedrock privacy law,” said EFF Senior Staff Attorney Kurt Opsahl. “While we all agree that our nation needs to address pressing Internet security issues, this bill sacrifices online privacy while failing to take common-sense steps to improve security.”
CISPA will protect $400 billion of American trade secrets lost each year!
Know what else accomplishes that goal?
Better corporate network security.
Not hiring the cheapest trained chimps to run your IT department.
Government funding in technical subjects in schools and colleges.
Not having 12345 as your password, and not consistently outsourcing all of your business in ever decreasing circles to lower and lower bidders.
Rep. Dutch Ruppersberger (D- MD), one of the bill’s creators, said, “If your house is being robbed, you call 911 and the police department comes. That’s the same scenario we are looking at here.”
No, the scenario here is that you make sure you don’t shuffle out of your house in the morning with your pants around your ankles, drooling coffee down your front, and eating toast, while leaving the front door wide open. Then, don’t become surprised when you find random strangers came and took your nice stuff.
Ruppersberger revealed his priorities in an interview with Rolling Stone where he said, “People ask me all the time, ‘What keeps you up at night?’ And I say, ‘Spicy Mexican food, weapons of mass destruction and cyber attacks. We have a serious problem. We’re trying to fix this problem.”
Frankly, I’d be more concerned about an insomniac Representative who eats badly and obsesses over discredited issues from the last century that dragged America into war if he didn’t introduce a bill that is basically unconstitutional.