Or: why can‘t we learn from the past?
by Mark Linnhoefer
It seems like just yesterday that Snowden blew the whistle on the NSA, and yet it also seems like it never happened at all. At least that is the feeling I got when I heard that the Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act was reintroduced in the House of Representatives in January 2015, and is currently – since the second of February to be precise – being pondered by several subcommittees that will decide whether or not it will be voted on again by the House. And then, as I started digging into the issue, I discovered an atrocity that happened while most of the world was busy stupidly grinning at each other through the rose-tainted glasses dead-bolted onto their eyes by Valentine’s Day: a little something that goes by the long name of “Executive Order — Promoting Private Sector Cybersecurity Information Sharing”.
But let‘s first start with a little background on the proposed law for those of you not in the whole internet privacy scene, and get to the Executive Order just a bit late. CISPA is aimed at allowing and facilitating the exchange of information between the government and large corporations in order to collect data to discover threats to cybersecurity, to combat cyberterrorism, and “for other purposes.” It would allow large pools of data to be collected by agencies specifically created for that purpose, and would also allow for that data to be stored indefinitely for an unidentified – or at best very vaguely defined – end. Those supporting it employ a similar language as those in favor of ACTA and SOPA use; filled with euphemisms and vague promises of a safer world and lacking in actual substance.
Much like the Executive Order I mentioned earlier, actually. Or at least like Section 5 – “Privacy and Civil Liberties Protection” – of said Order. But I’m getting ahead of myself here. I will first impress on you the madness that is this fucked up Order that President Obama announced at the Stanford Summit last Friday. CISPA – the proposed law – has been around since November 2011, and, due to a huge public outcry has been appealed, amended, and reintroduced so often that everyone has heard of it by now, spawning a steadily growing opposition, and the adverse public reaction initially caused the White House to say that it would veto the act if it ever got past the Senate. So instead of waiting to somehow push the act through in spite of all opposition, the President decided to implement an Executive Order whose content is tantamount to the contents of CISPA. The Order specifically asks for the creation of so-called “Information Sharing And Analysis Organizations,” either for- or non-profit, and whose primary objective is the gathering of as much data as possible by all means available and sharing it with the government (see Sec 3, points b and d). Furthermore, it explicitly states that large corporations with access to ample information should share that information with the government and the ISAOs (Sec 2c), which a lot of corporations actually support. Such a clause is also included in CISPA, and many a corporate representative – Microsoft, Yahoo, Google, et al. – has spoken out in favor of that. So, the companies that only exist because millions of people bought their products now want to turn around and stab those very people in the back? Not that this comes as a surprise to me, but it still sucks to see it being confirmed over and over again.
I mean, for crying out loud, have these people been living under a fucking rock for the past five years? We saw the confirmation of what was called an insane conspiracy theory just a few months prior to Snowden: the US government is actually spying, not only on its own citizens, but on citizens all over the globe. Under these circumstances, I cannot understand how anyone in their right mind could still be in favor of a law that has the ability to annul many privacy regulations. I can however understand that the President did not want to face the huge adverse public reaction that would have followed an implementation of CISPA – especially in light of his promise to veto – and so decided to quietly create an Executive Order that has the same Orwellian effect on any internet-based communication. All the information, or at least most of it will be sent to huge organizations dedicated to gathering, analyzing, and storing that data, for an essentially unknown end, only vaguely defined as “to combat cyber threats”. Just think about it. Facebook and such are now already quite liberal with their users’ data, but imagine how fucking out of hand things would get if they were actually bound by law to share information that they believe might have something to do with “cyber-terrorism” . Well, I don’t know why I’m still using the conditional form… The Executive Order is through… I think I just don’t want to accept that very grim fate quite yet.
Ha. My melodramatic inclination is shining through once again here. But I’m really worried. If we’ve gotten to a point where the President uses an Executive Order to bypass the people’s anguished outcry against a proposed law, then we’ve reached a truly angst-inducing Orwellian point in the development of our world’s politics. And I fear that this Executive Order will later be used a foundation for CISPA legislation to be built upon. I can already hear the usual idiots saying, “Well, we’ve already got a law that makes corporations share everything with ISAOs and the government anyway, so why not pass CISPA? And if we’re already at it, let’s get SOPA and ACTA through as well, we ain’t got nothing to lose anymore anyhow…” I hate this apathetic, well-now-it’s-too-late-anyway kind of thinking used by brainless degenerates of the worst kind to justify their mindless perpetuation of the status quo.
This is once again proof that, although we have seen many developments towards an emancipation of the people, there are still ample movements dedicated to the emaciation of society. It is also proof that we need to push on, that we’re still very far from being free, still very far from finally escaping the constant Big Brotheresque surveillance that the government is practicing lately. In the eyes of the government there are only vague definitions separating your average sap from a highly dangerous cyber-criminal needing to be monitored, and that’s why it is so easy to use these anti-cyber-terrorism laws to find out who doesn’t think the way he or she ought to and then lock him or her up on some bogus charges. And please don’t be so naïve as to think that’s entirely crazy. They’re trying to nail Snowden as a result of him trying to protect the very foundation of America’s original ideology after all.
Even if the ultimate goal of such legislation is not to spy on and eventually do away with dissidents, ask yourself this simple question: Do you want all the corporations you have ever had anything to do with pass all your information to some huge data gathering and analysis organization that in turn passes that data onto the government?
I didn’t think so…