Privacy and civil liberty advocates are organizing to block a dubious piece of cybersecurity legislation that was slipped into a massive, “must-pass” federal spending bill in Congress. The tactic is a way to make the additions virtually unstoppable. Speaker Paul Ryan announced the $1.1 trillion omnibus spending bill on Wednesday. The bill would encourage corporations to share more data about hackers with the government. It additionally includes tax breaks that unfairly benefit corporations Also, the deal would lift the 40-year-old ban on crude oil exports from the U.S. and delay portions of President Obama’s signature healthcare law. The House is expected to
vote on the tax and spending portions of the bill by the end of the week.
Critics state the bill will quietly expand mass surveillance by allowing corporations to share sensitive user data with law enforcement. It will also protect companies that voluntarily share data with the government through the Department of Homeland Security. The data reveals IP addresses and routing information that could be used to target online activists as well. There have been attempts by Republicans to enact this type of belligerent legislation before but efforts always failed in Congress amid privacy advocates’ concerns about broadening the surveillance powers of the National Security Agency. The NSA is the same government agency that came under fire after Edward Snowden revealed its vast domestic spying program.
The White House and many private industry groups allege the bill is a necessary first step in their fight against hackers. The executive branch is quick to claim privacy provisions in the measure will ensure personal data is not shared throughout the government. “In divided government, you don’t get everything you want,” Speaker Ryan told reporters. “Republicans didn’t get all that we wanted. Democrats didn’t get all that [they] wanted. This is a bipartisan compromise.”
A civil liberties advocacy group called Fight for the Future is among the strongest voices fighting the controversial cybersecurity bill known as the Cyber Information Sharing Act (CISA).
Earlier this year, Fight for the Future led a series of online campaigns that effectively got companies like Apple, Google, Twitter, Dropbox, Yahoo, Wikipedia, Yelp, and Salesforce to come out against the CISA proposal. “Now is when we’ll find out whether President Obama really cares about the Internet and freedom of speech, or whether he’s happy to roll over and allow technologically illiterate members of Congress to break the Internet in the name of cybersecurity,” said Evan Greer, campaign director for Fight for the Future.
Warlord presidents use “national security” to acquire power. Despite Obama’s silver tongue when he was running for president, his administration is one of the most secretive and hawkish in recent U.S. history. Right after 9/11, another warlord president, George W. Bush, along with his Republican friends, exploited the tragedy to push the repressive Patriot Act through Congress. The Patriot Act includes a clause that states any organization that “harms the economy” can be labeled a terrorist group. It is by this dangerous step in logic that progressive, activist organizations have been labeled as such.
This sneaky addition to the federal spending bill would allow corporations to share private identifying information of U.S. citizens with government intelligence agencies. I’m concerned about the combination of state and corporate power, which is often exercised in secret using little-known information technology. Hacktivists, journalists, and researchers utilize encryption apps to avoid overreaching government intrusion. The more money the government throws at surveillance programs, the more important encryption becomes to activists attempting to subvert the current status quo. Concerned hackers like Weev have shown the world that hacking is an effective tool for fighting corporatism. Our current political status quo is tumbling recklessly toward heightened war. The government is now biting at the bit to make those very apps illegal. Despite any evidence the Paris attackers and the San Bernardino couple utilized encryption apps for their crimes, Homeland Security Chair Ron Johnson recently went on CNN to vilify them.
One founding father, James Madison, said, “No nation could preserve its freedom in the midst of continual warfare.” As a nation we’ve been in perpetual war since the months following 9/11. There is virtually zero evidence that Daesh poses any meaningful threat to the continental United States. Yet, the so-called “ISIS Threat” is on virtually every news channel this week. Barack Obama held a press conference today surrounded by his generals. He looked almost like Vladimir Putin in both his tone and optics. It seems Obama is determined to place ground troops in Syria and Iraq in the same operational area that Putin is launching a full-scale war. It’s simply a recipe for disaster. Thomas Jefferson said, “Experience hath shewn, that even under the best forms (of government) those entrusted with power have, in time, and by slow operations, perverted it into tyranny.”