Government Representatives Using 'Cybersecurity,' 'Terrorism' As Excuses To Further Trample The Bill Of Rights

from the they're-not-'rights'-so-much-as-they-are-'privileges,'-appar dept

Well, Facebook no longer needs to be the scapegoat when it comes to harvesting your personal information and doing nefarious things with it. Now, thanks to the House of Representatives, you can look forward to “a broad swath of ISPs and other private entities” collecting your personal data and sharing it with “the government, other businesses, or “any other entity” so long as it’s for a vaguely-defined “cybersecurity purpose.”

This is yet another governmental attempt to harvest personal internet usage data in hopes of somehow preventing something bad from happening in the future, all under the pretense of being hip deep in a “cyberwar.” If you’re looking to see who’s spearheading this new attempt to rifle through your internet drawers, look no further than the bipartisan team of Committee Chairman Mike Rogers and ranking member Dutch Ruppersberger.

And they’re working with un-Representative-like speed. EFF posted this information on November 30th and they are already trying to move it out of committee today (December 1st). If someone is trying to push something through posthaste, generally speaking, it’s a terrible bit of legislation that would raise all sorts of objections if left out in the sunlight for any length of time.

As it’s written, this bill would “trump existing privacy statutes that strictly limit the interception and disclosure of your private communications data, as well as any other state or federal law that might get in the way,” even opening the door for spyware installation. (For your own protection, of course.)

The bad news gets worse:

This broad data-sharing between companies wouldn’t be subject to any oversight or transparency measures (users can’t restrict companies’ sharing), while the only oversight for sharing with the federal government, ironically, would be through the Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board-which hasn’t existed since January 2008.

Worse yet, the bill doesn’t limit what the federal government can do with the data or private communications that ISPs and others hand over, except to say that it can’t be used for “regulatory” purposes-apparently it can be used for law enforcement and intelligence targeting purposes.

Perhaps at the top of the list is concern over the fact that the bill allows information sharing with any federal agency-including the National Security Agency (NSA)-thereby threatening civilian control of domestic cybersecurity efforts.

This privacy-trampling rush job follows on the heels of another bill, rushed through the Senate on the Monday following the Thanksgiving weekend. This one concerns itself with terrorism, or at least uses it as an excuse. The National Defense Authorization Act seeks to bring the war on terror back to the homefront:

The Senate is going to vote on whether Congress will give this president-and every future president – the power to order the military to pick up and imprison without charge or trial civilians anywhere in the world. Even Rep. Ron Paul raised his concerns about the NDAA detention provisions during last night’s Republican debate. The power is so broad that even U.S. citizens could be swept up by the military and the military could be used far from any battlefield, even within the United States itself.

Redefining the battlefield in order to use the military as a police force is generally the sort of thing totalitarian nations do, not nations that continue to tout a never-ending “War on Terrorism” as an essential part of securing our “freedom.” This bill will now allow American citizens to join in on the “fun” that was previously only available to foreign arrestees:

The worldwide indefinite detention without charge or trial provision is in S. 1867, the National Defense Authorization Act bill, which will be on the Senate floor on Monday.

Now, whatever rights Americans might have had (like say, a speedy trial or the right to confront their accusers) are being removed and replaced with the “right” to sit in a detention center for the rest of whatever without ever being charged with a crime. Once again, a bipartisan team (Sens. Carl Levin and John McCain) put aside their political differences to draft the bill in secret and pass it in a closed committee without a single hearing.

Sen. Mark Udall tried to pass an amendment which would remove “the harmful provisions and replace them with a requirement for an orderly Congressional review of detention power” but was shot down 61-37. Rand Paul went toe-to-toe with McCain, pointing out the audacious sweep of this bill:

“Should we err today and remove some of the most important checks on state power in the name of fighting terrorism, well then the terrorists have won,” Paul argued, “[D]etaining American citizens without a court trial is not American.”

McCain responded by fashioning a pair of blinders out of the American flag and (as Reason puts it so well) “puking up a rainbow of pro-America, pro-democracy, anti-terrorist drivel in response to Paul’s very direct question”:

“Facts are stubborn things,” McCain repeated from the floor several times. “If the senator from Kentucky wants to have a situation prevail where people who are released go back in to the fight to kill Americans, he is entitled to his opinion.”

And that is how you rationalize “indefinite detention”: without it, Americans will die.

In case anyone out there is getting ready to argue that this bill doesn’t target Americans, the ACLU has an answer for you:

There is an exemption for American citizens from the mandatory detention requirement (section 1032 of the bill), but no exemption for American citizens from the authorization to use the military to indefinitely detain people without charge or trial (section 1031 of the bill). So, the result is that, under the bill, the military has the power to indefinitely imprison American citizens, but it does not have to use its power unless ordered to do so.

All it takes is the order, and that’s the whole point of the bill: to grant the President that specific power. And if you don’t believe the ACLU’s take, just read what one of the bill’s sponsors, Sen. Lindsey Graham said about it on the Senate floor:

“1031, the statement of authority to detain, does apply to American citizens and it designates the world as the battlefield, including the homeland.”

Ah, the “homeland.” You’d think that the people drafting bills like this would avoid using a term that conjures up images of dictators turning on their own citizens in order to maintain their power. But, if we’ve learned nothing else from the past decade, it’s that our representatives in Washington clearly don’t care what the public thinks. After all, we’re just a bunch of suspects.

Filed Under: , , , ,

Rate this comment as insightful
Rate this comment as funny
You have rated this comment as insightful
You have rated this comment as funny
Flag this comment as abusive/trolling/spam
You have flagged this comment
The first word has already been claimed
The last word has already been claimed
Insightful Lightbulb icon Funny Laughing icon Abusive/trolling/spam Flag icon Insightful badge Lightbulb icon Funny badge Laughing icon Comments icon

Comments on “Government Representatives Using 'Cybersecurity,' 'Terrorism' As Excuses To Further Trample The Bill Of Rights”

Subscribe: RSS Leave a comment
crchase says:

Re: Re:

no this ‘one guy’ has declared that cyber terrorism ignores man made and natural boards and must be confronted where and when it occurs. I agree with that principle, but I disagree with the method laid out in this bill. Between this and SOPA we might as well just shut the internet down completely.

nasch (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

Between this and SOPA we might as well just shut the internet down completely.

The NDAA isn’t really internet related, it’s about allowing the military to come to your house, arrest you, and throw you in a military prison forever without charging you with a crime. It’s hard to even believe such a law is being considered in the US. I hope Obama breaks form and vetoes it.

out_of_the_blue says:

Facebook is not a "scapegoat", that means WRONGLY blamed.

Facebook is PLENTY guilty of data mining and selling that data, without disclosing it, independently of all else. Don’t let ’em off the hook as if yet worse excuses its crimes.

Similarly, I’ve been thinking for some time that SOPA is just a distraction for these much worse bills. Welcome to reality.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Facebook is not a "scapegoat", that means WRONGLY blamed.

I do not agree that the other bills are a sleight of hand to draw away attention from bills like this, but I must note that much of this bill troubles me greatly, both from a privacy perspective, but also because I have trouble envisioning how it could possibly work without monitoring in real time private communications.

Anonymous Coward says:

I have found that when people use the prefix “cyber” it’s shorthand for “I don’t know anything about computers.”

For example:


For more examples, please consult your local TV news. I can’t think of a single instance where somebody who was even slightly knowledgeable about computers used any of these phrases (with the possible example of “cyberspace,” but only in the mid-nineties).

It’s actually kind of convenient.

LyleD says:

Seriously, WTF!

will give this president-and every future president – the power to order the military to pick up and imprison without charge or trial civilians anywhere in the world.

You know, I’m from a supposedly friendly allied western country.. But your government is seriously overstepping the mark when you think you can just walk in kidnap anyone anywhere in the world!

It’s no wonder some people around the world hate Americans, you wave a fucking flag saying ‘Hate Us’ !

weneedhelp (profile) says:

When I told people 6-7 years ago that this is where we were headed I got told; you are paranoid, a conspiracy theorist, a tin foil hat wearer, and every other derogatory name in the book. Well guess what… I sometimes hate to be right.

They are putting the squeeze on us, backing us up against a wall, legally and financially. Either by bankrupting the country, or putting place such draconian laws as to really piss ppl off to the point where we take to the streets, or a combination of both, and that will be the end. Those who choose to fight will be swept up in FEMA camps never to be seen again. Those who try to help them will be labeled domestic terrorists, and will meet the same fate. They will have the excuse they need. Continuity of government.

Anonymous Coward says:

One should read the definitions very carefully and take note of the type of information subsumed in such definitions.

While I can conceive of some situations where IP and other technical disclosures might have serious national security implications (i.e., information controlled under our export control laws under the Export Administration Act and the Arms Export Control Act), absent export controlled information there is a very broad overreach here.

Frankly, read this bill and both SOPA and Protect-IP may look tame by comparison.

Anonymous Coward says:

About this cyber nonsense I saw just this week the cyber-scare with some outlets pushing the hacking of water pumps in the US which turned out to be a hoax and now I’m reading the mother of all ironies a TSA agent is suing the government for sexual harrassament on the job after being grouped by a co-worker LoL

Maybe she should just shut up and put up with it since what she does to others for a living is exactly what prompted her to complain.

A Guy (profile) says:

Habeas Corpus

“The Privilege of the Writ of Habeas Corpus shall not be suspended, unless when in Cases of Rebellion or Invasion the public Safety may require it.”

As soon as any immediate danger passes, the “Rebellion” is over and those detained should get a hearing. I hope it doesn’t pass, but if it does the bill needs judicial over site.

At a minimum, the government should be forced to file the name of every individual detained with the court, and to periodically show that the detention is Constitutional.

That Anonymous Coward (profile) says:

Let them pass it, as long as it applies to the congress critter as well.
Then we can have them arrested for using terrorist techniques to force the country to bend to their will.
We can rip the bankers from their homes for detonating the economy, causing terror and panic.

Anyone else feel like we fell into the world of V for Vendetta?
That those tinfoil hat wearing people we made fun of for conspiracy theories of the Government putting plots into motion to keep us afraid and bending to their will, might just have been right?
People believe what the talking heads tell them and never turn a critical eye to the claims, they think those who speak out are just rocking the boat… all the while refusing to see the boat is sinking and we are all screwed.

Richard (profile) says:


On the news last night I saw an item on how the technology used for this surveillance is being sold to the Syrian government – the result is that anyone who posts stuff on the internet relating to the anti-government protests is actually in more danger than the protestors on the street.

The stupid assumption made by the people who push these things is that they will only be used by benign governments – unfortunately once the technology is out there the nasty governments can use it too – and it turns out our governments aren’t that benign anyway.

Hephaestus (profile) says:

Re: Syria

“is that they will only be used by benign governments “

You made a critical mistake, there are no benign governments. Governments always seek to expand themselves and their control over the population. Its a mental defect of having power. When you have power over others, you always believe all your actions are the right one. And rationalize any things that is objected to as “its for the good of XXXXXXX”.

Joe (profile) says:


Given how accurate they are with the do not fly list and implementation how can this possibly go wrong?

How long until terrorists start using ID theft or just take common names to get the government to arrest obviously innocent civilians without trail our due process? Also how much of those errors will people accept before they revolt?

How long until reporters are arrested for writing about the truth?

This is just a scary bill.

Joe (profile) says:


Given how accurate they are with the do not fly list and implementation how can this possibly go wrong?

How long until terrorists start using ID theft or just take common names to get the government to arrest obviously innocent civilians without trail our due process? Also how much of those errors will people accept before they revolt?

How long until reporters are arrested for writing about the truth?

This is just a scary bill.

Add Your Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Have a Techdirt Account? Sign in now. Want one? Register here

Comment Options:

Make this the or (get credits or sign in to see balance) what's this?

What's this?

Techdirt community members with Techdirt Credits can spotlight a comment as either the "First Word" or "Last Word" on a particular comment thread. Credits can be purchased at the Techdirt Insider Shop »

Follow Techdirt

Techdirt Daily Newsletter

Techdirt Deals
Techdirt Insider Discord
The latest chatter on the Techdirt Insider Discord channel...