Just like most draconian legislation that politicians try to pass, the government has already been using the illegal powers and hopes to justify its actions with the passage of a new law. See warrantless wiretapping. Other even worse actions, like torture and assassinations of Americans without due process, are simply kept secret because they know a law for it would never be possible.
It was recently announced that the Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act, or CISPA, will once again be coming for a vote in the United States Congress. Lawmakers cited increased threats from hackers and cyber espionage as the motivation for its reintroduction.
This version of CISPA is reportedly identical to last year’s version that easily passed in the House by a count of 248 to 168. Congressman Jared Polis (D-Colo), who voted against the measure, said the law “would waive every single privacy law ever enacted in the name of cybersecurity.”
Other critics have pointed out that CISPA gives Obama a “kill switch” over the Internet in a “national cyberemergency”.
CISPA has been roundly criticized by privacy advocates as enshrining the powers of the government to surveil and control the Internet in two overarching ways. First, government can lay claim to protecting “critical infrastructure” under which the Web has now been included. This opens the door for requesting that private companies like Google, Facebook and so far 800 others work openly on the initiative as well.
After its failure, the White House and CISPA co-sponsor Joe Lieberman warned the public that Obama would enact an executive order if lawmakers won’t pass the bill.
Although Obama has yet to issue a formal executive order, The Washington Post reported that Presidential Obama signed a secret cybersecurity presidential directive: Presidential Policy Directive 20 essentially giving himself all the power that CISPA seeks to legitimize:
Presidential Policy Directive 20 establishes a broad and strict set of standards to guide the operations of federal agencies in confronting threats in cyberspace, according to several U.S. officials who have seen the classified document and are not authorized to speak on the record. The president signed it in mid-October.
The new directive is the most extensive White House effort to date to wrestle with what constitutes an “offensive” and a “defensive” action in the rapidly evolving world of cyberwar and cyberterrorism, where an attack can be launched in milliseconds by unknown assailants utilizing a circuitous route. For the first time, the directive explicitly makes a distinction between network defense and cyber-operations to guide officials charged with making often-rapid decisions when confronted with threats.
The reality is that much of CISPA’s privacy-shattering policies already are taking place under the FISA Amendments Act which Obama reauthorized for an additional 5 years. As the Electronic Frontier Foundation reported back in March:
the FAA is the statute Congress passed giving immunity to telecom companies despite their participation in the NSA’s massive warrantless wiretapping program, which the New York Times first exposed in 2005. EFF and a host of other civil liberties groups have been involved in litigation challenging the constitutionality of warrantless wiretapping for years. (Source)
The extent of warrantless wiretapping and surveillance already being shared between the government and private companies has been exposed by The Washington Post, as well as former NSA whistleblowers William Binney and Thomas Drake, and former AT&T technician Mark Klein.
The Post’s investigation revealed such a massive overlap of government and corporate interests that it is already operating free of transparency and oversight. Their findings were appropriately titled, “A hidden world, growing beyond control.”
Some 1,271 government organizations and 1,931 private companies work on programs related to counterterrorism, homeland security and intelligence in about 10,000 locations across the United States. (Source)
Perhaps it is because of the exposure these whistleblowers have given that CISPA aims to go a step further and give corporations the power to prevent hard evidence leaks. As Stephen C. Webster of Rawstory states:
Imagine if Bank of America knew that WikiLeaks had obtained a cache of its internal documents the very instant that transmission was made, and a financial blockade were launched before WikiLeaks could even begin examining the files. Because CISPA words the definition of ‘cyber threat intelligence’ to include ‘theft or misappropriation of private or government information’ and ‘intellectual property’, that’s precisely what’s at stake here.
After all, who wouldn’t want a government minder as a personal bodyguard during travels abroad? By placing the NSA on guard for corporate network security, big tech firms like AT&T, Verizon, IBM, Facebook and Google won’t be as hard-pressed by market forces — like rival companies and, yes, even hackers — to innovate their security technologies, leaving the heaviest lifting, and spending, up to Big Brother instead. (Source)
There is no doubt that the apparatus of CISPA is already in effect and it’s merely going to be justified through legislation. The Supreme Court refuses to address privacy issues and has effectively shut down all lawsuits aimed at holding accountable those engaging in domestic warrantless wiretapping. And there are many private companies ready to offer their assistance to help track everyone’s digital movements and communications.
Increasing coverage of social media was brought to the U.S. government in 2010 by war criminal Raytheon’s RIOT search technology which has been called a “Google for spies.” Covert eavesdropping of VoIP services like Skype has been introduced by the private sector (including Microsoft) through patents filed as far back as 2007. And massive, largely unknown data mining companies like Axciom which began in 1969 now collects and analyzes 50 trillion data transactions per year.
So CISPA passing or Obama’s executive order in the name of cybersecurity is of little practical consequence other than legalizing past privacy violations and offensive state-sponsored cyber attacks by the U.S. government. It won’t even make the government’s cybersecurity actions transparent, but it certainly will make it transparent that a whole new level of the Internet Security Industrial Complex is taking shape.
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