April 24, 2012
On Monday, a group of prominent engineers, professionals and academics posted an open letter to Congress stating their opposition to CISPA, the Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act that trashes the Fourth Amendment and privacy of internet users.
Later this week, CISPA will go to the House floor for a vote. On Monday, Rep. Ron Paul said CISPA represents the “latest assault on Internet freedom” and “is Big Brother writ large.”
Rep. Rogers’ Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act of 2011 (H.R. 3523) and Sen. McCain’s SECURE IT Act (S. 2151) “nullify current legal protections against wiretapping and similar civil liberties violations for that kind of broad data sharing,” the letter states. “By encouraging the transfer of users’ private communications to US Federal agencies, and lacking good public accountability or transparency, these ‘cybersecurity’ bills unnecessarily trade our civil liberties for the promise of improved network security.”
The experts explicitly reject “this false trade-off” and urge Congress to oppose the “cybersecurity initiative that does not explicitly include appropriate methods to ensure the protection of users’ civil liberties.”
In particular, the letter points out that the legislation exempts “cybersecurity” activities from existing laws that protect individuals’ privacy and devices, such as the Wiretap Act, the Stored Communications Act, and the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act. It gives sweeping immunity from liability to companies even if they violate individuals’ privacy, and without evidence of wrongdoing and also permits data originally collected through “cybersecurity” programs to be used to prosecute unrelated crimes.
“We appreciate your interest in making our networks more secure, but passing legislation that suffers from the problems above would be a grave mistake for privacy and civil liberties, and will not be a step forward in making us safer,” the signatories conclude.
CISPA, however, is not designed to guard against real or imagined cyber security threats. It is an all-out effort to provide a legal facade for an ongoing effort to convert the internet into a surveillance platform of previously unimagined proportion.
As National Security Agency whistleblower William Binney recently explained, the government has collected email and other internet-based information for some time. The effort is so pervasive, Binney notes, that it includes some 20 trillion “transactions” — phone calls, emails and other forms of data — and likely includes copies of almost all of the emails sent and received from most people living in the United States.
In the mid-1970s, the Church Committee warned that the NSA and the CIA would eventually create a massive surveillance apparatus. “I know the capacity that is there to make tyranny total in America, and we must see to it that this agency and all agencies that possess this technology operate within the law and under proper supervision, so that we never cross over that abyss. That is the abyss from which there is no return,” Senator Frank Church said at the time.
CISPA represents the bridge over the abyss from which there is no return. It must be defeated. It is imperative that you call your “representative” this week and tell them to vote against CISPA before tyranny becomes total in America.