When CISPA was first introduced, many, including myself, asked if CISPA was simply the new SOPA.
It’s not, but those comparisons led many to assume that CISPA was yet another bill about copyright and file sharing. And as such, they’ve largely ignored it.
Let me set the record straight: CISPA is not about copyright issues.
CISPA, the Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act, is a pervasive and fundamental attack on our privacy, on our free speech, and on our personal freedom.
What Is CISPA?
In 2008, Congress passed the FISA Amendments Act, which granted telecoms that had been participating in illegal wireless activity and monitoring immunity from prosecution and lawsuits.
Similarly, CISPA exists to legally allow any business or corporation to share personal and private information with each other, and with the government.
What’s wrong with that? Consider…
Does the government really need the ability to build a national database of every site you visit? Record every tweet and SMS and email you send and receive, and to whom? Maintain copies of every credit card transaction?
Have complete and total access to your health records and financial information and insurance information?
CISPA Makes It Legal
In fact, CISPA actively encourages every company, business, and corporation to feed your personal information and transactions to the government and to the National Security Agency (NSA).
That “voluntary” cooperation is rewarded with legal immunities so broad a company would almost be negligent not to partake of them. You don’t need a stick to encourage cooperation when you can bribe the mule with a monster carrot.
CISPA isn’t just about giving the government and the NSA easy access to your data and records.
The NSA already has monitoring stations in server rooms across the land. The NSA is already spending two billion dollars on a data collection and processing facility in Utah.
The NSA is already recording everything they can get their hands on.
CISPA simply makes those intelligence gathring efforts legal. And easier, since they no longer have to worry about intercepting and decoding encrypted data.
But even that’s not enough, because CISPA is also about using that information.
The National Security Loophole
That’s why every version of the bill retains the national security loophole that would allow DHS, the NSA, and anyone else in government to run roughshod over your privacy.
It allows “cybersecurity information” to be gathered and passed and shared between companies and among government agencies.
All in the interests of national security, of course.
And CISPA leaves us with no recourse or relief, because any and all information shared, even the nature of the information shared, is exempt from the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA).
You’ll never know what they know.
This is about spying on you. This is about spying on journalists and whistleblowers, and it’s about spying on those with unpopular views and opinions. It’s about chilling free speech and public discourse.
And ultimately, it’s about coercion, and cooperation, and control.
Are we really so naive to think all of that information won’t be used, once it’s been gathered?
Remember Nixon and Watergate? Remember how the FBI amassed vast files on civil rights activists and leaders during the 60s? Remember the McCarthy witch-hunts? Remember WikiLeaks?
This isn’t about anything as prosaic as downloading a few songs or movies. (Though that information will be passed along as well.)
This is — quite literally — about big brother knowing everything about everyone…
And about those in power having free reign to use that information to their own advantage, and for their own agendas.
A Bad Novel?
If this reads like a bad thriller, I understand. I hardly believe I’m writing it.
But the NSA monitoring exists. The data centers are being built. CISPA exists.
From the EFF:
Even though CISPA is styled as a ‘cybersecurity’ bill, it explicitly allows the Department of Homeland Security and other government agencies like the National Security Agency (NSA) to use your information for ‘national security’ purposes.
From the ACLU:
This broad legislation would give the government, including military spy agencies, unprecedented powers to snoop through people’s personal information — medical records, private emails, financial information — all without a warrant, proper oversight or limits.
Reporters Without Borders published an article opposing the legislation of the CISPA bill, describing its provisions as “draconian measures to monitor, even censor, the Web.
The Free Market Coalition criticized the bill as “unduly expanding federal power, undermining freedom of contract, and harming U.S. competitiveness in the technology sector.”
The Obama Administration stated that “Without clear legal protections and independent oversight, information sharing legislation will undermine the public’s trust in the Government as well as in the Internet.”
Dr. Tim Berners-Lee, father of the internet, warned that if passed, the bill would “threaten the rights of American people and effectively the rest of the world.”