April 27, 2012: Yesterday, the House passed the CISPA bill, H.R. 3523, by 248-168 with 42 Democrats joining 206 Republicans in backing the measure. Click here to see how your Rep voted. The Senate is expected to proceed on its own cyber security bill over the next few weeks, so will not be voting on the House's CISPA bill any time soon.
Attempts to gain control of the Internet, or to implement government censorship of the Internet, continue at an amazing frequency and intensity. An example of this is the Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act (CISPA), H.R. 3523, with 106 cosponsors, which has been moved out of committee and is ready to be taken up on the floor of the House later this week.
CISPA is being framed as essential to national security. Tech giants like Facebook, AT&T, IBM, Microsoft, and Verizon favor the bill, unlike SOPA and PIPA which they opoosed and which had tech companies enforcing government policy. This measure includes an exemption of liability for those companies who take part in CISPA’s government information exchange; tech companies would be protected from any responsibility associated with regulating users.
The nuts and bolts of CISPA would have the Director of National Intelligence appoint members of the “intelligence community” as monitors of communications. First, government security clearances for employees of private firms would be granted. Then exchanges of information between government and private companies would be considered “proprietary information” as the search for “cyber threat intelligence” would be on.
Cyber threat intelligence is defined as “information in the possession of an element of the intelligence community directly pertaining to a vulnerability of, or threat to, a system or network of a government or private entity, including information pertaining to the protection of a system or network from: (1) efforts to degrade, disrupt, or destroy such system or network; or (2) theft or misappropriation of private or government information, intellectual property, or personally identifiable information.”
The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), dedicated to defending constitutional rights in the digital world has analyzed CISPA’s vague terms:
“An ISP could use it to monitor communications of subscribers for potential infringement of intellectual property. An ISP could even interpret this bill as allowing them to block accounts believed to be infringing, block access to websites like The Pirate Bay believed to carry infringing content, or take other measures provided they claimed it was motivated by cybersecurity concerns.
"The language of ‘theft or misappropriation of private or government information’ is equally concerning. Regardless of the intent of this language, the end result is that the government and Internet companies could use this language to block sites like WikiLeaks and NewYorkTimes.com, both of which have published classified information.”
Your ISP could intercept every email or text message you send and notify the government of the content of your personal communications under the umbrella of “cybersecurity” concerns. Also, under CISPA, a warrantless cyber wiretapping program totally disregarding the Fourth Amendment protections could become routine.
Another troubling provision in the bill is the one that “supersedes any statute of a State or political subdivision of a State that restricts or otherwise expressly regulates” the new government/private sector information exchange spy program. No state nullification for government cyber spying would be allowed!
Ex-White House "Cyber Czar" Richard Clarke has even recommended that the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) be empowered to monitor everything that goes in and out of America’s online infrastructure. But even worse, Clarke says if Congress won’t acquiesce in the matter, this all-encompassing monitoring authority for the DHS could be established by circumvention: “If Congress will not act to protect America’s companies from Chinese cyberthreats, President Obama must.”
Internet freedom lovers and civil rights patriots need to unite to educate others and especially Congressmen on the censorship and privacy rights dangers of CISPA immediately. Many supposed “conservatives” in Congress are in favor of this bill, such as Michelle Bachmann (Minn.), Darrell Issa (Calif.), Dave Camp (Mich.), Patrick Henry (N.C.), Mike Rogers (Mich.), Fred Upton (Mich.), Joe Wilson (S.C.) and Joe Pitts (Pa.).