Congress Drops All Pretense: Quietly Turns CISA Into A Full On Surveillance Bill

from the even-worse-than-before dept

Remember CISA? The “Cybersecurity Information Sharing Act”? It’s getting much, much worse, with Congress and the administration looking to ram it through — in the process, dropping any pretense that it’s not a surveillance bill.

As you may recall, Congress and the White House have been pushing for a “cybersecurity” bill, for a few years now, that has never actually been a cybersecurity bill. Senator Ron Wyden was one of the only people in Congress willing to stand up and directly say what it was: “it’s a surveillance bill by another name.” And, by now, you should know that when Senator Wyden says that there’s a secret interpretation of a bill that will increase surveillance and is at odds with the public’s understanding of a bill, you should to listen. He’s said so in the past and has been right… multiple times.

Either way, a version of CISA passed the House a while back, with at least some elements of privacy protection included. Then, a few months ago it passed the Senate in a much weaker state. The two different versions need to be reconciled, and it’s been worked on. However, as we noted recently, the intelligence community has basically taken over the process and more or less stripped out what few privacy protections there were.

And the latest is that it’s getting worse. Not only is Congress looking to include it in the end of year omnibus bill — basically a “must pass” bill — to make sure it gets passed, but it’s clearly dropping all pretense that CISA isn’t about surveillance. Here’s what we’re hearing from people involved in the latest negotiations. The latest version of CISA that they’re looking to put into the omnibus:

  1. Removes the prohibition on information being shared with the NSA, allowing it to be shared directly with NSA (and DOD), rather than first having to go through DHS. While DHS isn’t necessarily wonderful, it’s a lot better than NSA. And, of course, if this were truly about cybersecurity, not surveillance, DHS makes a lot more sense than NSA.
  2. Directly removes the restrictions on using this information for “surveillance” activities. You can’t get much more direct than that, right?
  3. Removes limitations that government can only use this information for cybersecurity purposes and allows it to be used to go after any other criminal activity as well. Obviously, this then creates tremendous incentives to push for greater and greater information collection, which clearly will be abused. We’ve just seen how the DEA has regularly abused its powers to collect info. You think agencies like the DEA and others won’t make use of CISA too?
  4. Removes the requirement to “scrub” personal information unrelated to a cybersecurity threat before sharing that information. This was the key point that everyone kept making about why the information should go to DHS first — where DHS would be in charge of this “scrub”. The “scrub” process was a bit exaggerated in the first place, but it was at least something of a privacy protection. However, it appears that the final version being pushed removes the scrub requirement (along with the requirement to go to DHS) and instead leaves the question of scrubbing to the “discretion” of whichever agency gets the information. Guess how that’s going to go?

In short: while before Congress could at least pretend that CISA was about cybersecurity, rather than surveillance, in this mad dash to get it shoved through, they’ve dropped all pretense and have stripped every last privacy protection, expanded the scope of the bill, and made it quite clear that it’s a very broad surveillance bill that can be widely used and abused by all parts of the government.

There is still some hesitation by some as to whether or not this bill belongs in the omnibus bill, or if it should go through the regular process, with a debate and a full vote on this entirely new and different version of CISA. So, now would be a good time to speak out, letting your elected officials and the White House know that (1) CISA should not be in the omnibus and (2) that we don’t need another surveillance bill.

In the meantime, if Congress were actually serious about cybersecurity, they’d be ramping up the acceptance and use of encryption, rather than trying to undermine it.

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Comments on “Congress Drops All Pretense: Quietly Turns CISA Into A Full On Surveillance Bill”

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Johhny says:


seems kind of low to me, using terrorism as an excuse to “surveil” all your civilians. Since when did the law switch to guilty unless proven innocent?

This act only serves the paranoid state of mind the U.S. government has right now.

This comming from a nation where one of their greatest presidents said: “we have nothing to fear, but fear itseld”(Franklin D Roosevelt for those who had forgotten their history lessons, and i am from europe, for crying out loud)!

Isn’t it about time its government acted like the great nation they portray themselves to be?

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Be on your best behavior

Well you may thing you can sneak around
And get away with something but there ain’t no way
‘Cause Santa’s no fool, he’s really super cool
He’s the secret head of the CIA
Eesh, Iish, crime don’t pay
You can’t do nothin’ ’cause you’re never alone
He’s even got a wire tap on your phone

AN69 (profile) says:

Re: Time

I’m not aware the Thomas Jefferson ever took up arms to fight the original revolution. But I’m willing to bet that he would this time.

“Single acts of tyranny may be ascribed to the accidental opinion of a day; but a series of oppressions, begun at a distinguished period and pursued unalterably through every change of ministers, too plainly prove a deliberate, systematic plan of reducing [a people] to slavery.” –Thomas Jefferson: Rights of British America, 1774. (*) ME 1:193, Papers 1:125

Tom, we miss you

Wendy Cockcroft says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Time

Soviet-level repression, comrade. If the revolutionaries manage to organise sufficiently well to pull off a revolution, they will quickly find they are but cannon fodder and that certain authoritarians are waiting in the wings to take over when it’s over. After that, any actions seen as counter-revolutionary will be stamped on very hard.

Look up the history of the French Revolution to get a flavour of what that would be like. In these days of conspiracy theories and rank paranoia what could be done to prevent such an outcome?

GEMont (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:3 Time

Revolution is a ride upon a circle. One always ends up in exactly the same place where one began the ride.

There is absolutely no better excuse for legal tyranny, than to pretend to defend the nation against internal insurrection.

In fact, it is extremely likely that the current spate of obviously anti-constitutional laws and fascist actions by government and Corporate America, is specifically designed to foment dissent and pave the way for an easily controlled “popular” insurrection.

Once established in the minds of the general population, the government can easily play dress-up and become the “rebels”, putting some apparently real teeth on the War against Terrorism, and thereby, legally wage war upon the US population, while airing a continuous stream of false flag “terrorist” acts on CIA-TV to prove the need for even more freedom killing laws.

Methinks we are being played.

Better than a revolution, is a nation-wide walk out.

Store up a month’s supplies and just stop going to work.

Fascism is simply business-as-usual without restrictions.

Cut off the only thing that the wealthy care about – money – and it dies of starvation.

GEMont (profile) says:

Re: Time

I think we will eventually find that the only government that represents the people, is the one that is composed of the people being governed.

As long as the government is composed of citizens whose wealth places them outside and above the laws that govern the rest of the population, you will always end up where we are today – with the rich eating the poor and the middle class, because they can.

Catreece says:

Re: Time

Good luck with that, you don’t have a single presidential candidate who’s remotely interested in restoring the constitution, and the two most likely to get voted in, Clinton and Trump, both have every intention of putting it through a paper shredder.

With the bulk of the populace still honestly believing that their vote matters, and that their labels of democrat or republican have any value at all (seriously, both sides are for this crap), it’s kind of clear you’re not going to be voting one in, so good luck with that.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Actively Working to Subvert the US Constitution is Treason

Do the know-nothing nitwits infesting Capitol Hill realize they are actively subverting the US Constitution the very document they have sworn to defend?


Lots of people try to bring up Hanlon’s razor when it comes to this stuff, which is foolish. This is malice, plain and simple.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

The origin of the word terrorism is terrorisme (the French Terror) – which was (in modern parlance) state terrorism of its own people. Since then it’s been out-sourced so much it’s completely changed meaning. Much less embarrassing. But I still prefer the good old days when we called them terrorisme-ists

Anonymous Coward says:

“And, by now, you should know that when Senator Wyden says that there’s a secret interpretation of a bill that will increase surveillance and is at odds with the public’s understanding of a bill, you should know to listen. He’s said so in the past and has been right… multiple times.”

He’s also promised to reveal specifics on the floor if no one else comes forward with them (where he can do so). To date, he has NOT done so. He’s a bigger liar than Feinstein, and that’s pretty damn big. In fact, it seems his only purpose is to rub it into the nose of the populace.

AN69 (profile) says:

Re: Re:

Anonymous Coward, Dec 15th, 2015 @ 6:29pm
Can we kill these people?

Not legally. There is legal protection (EPA) for Snail Darters, various bats, foxes,a type of Florida Lichen ., and whorpacens. Whorpacens are evolved Lichens that is/are a composite organism that arises from symbiotic relationship betwee Whores and PACs.

See for better understanding of their cousin.

Anonymous Coward says:

Russ Give was the original NSA whistleblower who leaked the spy program to the NYT and they sat on it till after the ’04 election. He said the NSA spied on Supreme Court judges, senators, and even presidential candidates for the explicit purpose of blackmail. Judging from this bill it looks we’ve had a silent coup in this country.

GEMont (profile) says:

Another day, another lie, another dollar and another fool born.

Can’t say as I’m at all surprised by this.

After all, a fascist government listens only to its board of directors and their concerns as relates to their stockholders, and the American Public is neither a stockholder, nor a voting board member of AmeriCo Inc.

The American Public is indeed, the national resource; the very feedstock, upon which the profits of AmeriCo depend.

The Federal Fascist Government of the USA has clearly and plainly stated with this legislation, that you, the American Public, are the enemy and that they are going to watch your every move and listen to your every word and they are going to hang your ass out to dry and destroy your life and your family, if you dare step out of line.

Oh yeah, and that you, the American Public, are going to pay for the entire process and for the salaries of the assholes that are building the Fourth Reich upon the land of the ‘thought they were free’.

You have no voice under a fascist government.

Do cattle vote on what the rancher might choose to do?

For those of you who remain willfully blind to reality because its not the pretty picture you desire, and who continue to support your federal government because maybe some day the billionaires that make up its roster might become honest and start doing the job you thought you hired them to do, know that you have nobody to blame for the downfall and dissolution of your nation, other than yourselves.

Fascism thrives where apathy and fear rule the people and fascism is a death sentence for every nation it infects.

Perhaps it is true.
Perhaps you really do get the government you deserve.

Brennen says:


Yeah dude, leave it up to our politicians to completely ignore what our country originally stood for and place a surveillance bill inside a MUST PASS budget bill in order to avoid a shut down. The worst part about it is that they know they can continue to pass whatever they want. The only thing that will stop them at this point is a revolt and we’re years away from enough people waking up to start one. They’re going to tell you that they were looking for a terrorist when they show up to arrest you for pirating “Dallas Buyer’s Club”.

deez nuts ha got 'em says:

dis is bullshit

This is bullshit,this really need to stop,but still..history repeats itself and that is what might be happening soon,let’s just take all of the idiots and put them on a island to govern themselves and leave us alone,forget this bill man,what’s next? Cameras in our house now? Or having policemen circle our house everyday and night?

GEMont (profile) says:

Re: dis is bullshit

Cameras in our house now? Or having policemen circle our house everyday and night?

Where you been mun?

Cameras in yer house… got a smart TV, cell phone?

Cops circling yer house… drones are flying, spying, prying into everyone’s daily routine.

And yer helping pay for it all through yer taxes.

What a hoot eh.

MorganaTwist says:

Omg... this is so sad D:

So terrible what our gov, president, senators, and congressmen who are so crooked are trying to do to us, the American people. Its high time we stop thinking of ourselves as Elephants and Donkeys but rather address the REAL Elephant in the room: voting does nothing. They are all on the same side and no matter who or what you vote for they are planning some serious terrible stuff for us and this country. And this force bill of surveillance just proves it even more.

How can people even call it crazy conspiracy theories or nutjob stuff anymore when the proof is right there in black and white what they are trying to do to us even straight from the source of the horses mouth???
These people are EVIL and this NEEDS TO STOP. I voted to veto this and I will be calling today addressing this and my concerns and anger over this demanding this nonsense stop! But sadly… nothing short of a revolution from the people who defend America and her rights and freedoms and Constitution will be able to stop this.

We are one step away from total tyranny from our own gov. This madness needs to end before we all end up in Orwellian cages and cuffs in an Orwellian nightmare society. Did any of you see the giant eye cameras they are setting up in the UK that watches shoppers out in public surveying them and NO ONE over there is complaining but is saying they think its “neat” and “cool” and “they dont mind it.”????

People are being brainwashed to ACCEPT this total perversion of freedom and rights and complete violation of privacy and they think its “cool” and dont care. It is apathy and fear and being brain dead dumbed down and flat out stupefied that will enable all of this to continue at a much worse rate.

I truly fear for my fellow Americans, all people around the globe and all of society, as well as for our mockery of a government that no longer works in the best interests of the people or the Constitution. They are wiping their ass with it daily and Obama needs to go. Screw his bragging of “being a good president and could possibly be elected for a THIRD term.” No… f*** that. Get him out and dont let Hillary or Trump even TOUCH the POTUS status. We need a THIRD OPTION one that serves the best interests of the American people, our rights and freedoms, and to restore and uphold out Constitution and rights and to reverse this tyrannical BS.

COME ON PEOPLE. LETS STOP THIS TOGETHER. Wake up as many people as you can and spread the word and SOMEONE please ANYONE who would make a better president or leader needs to step in and FORCE THESE MAD CRAZY PEOPLE DOWN and OUT of our government. Our own constitution says that when this crap happens WE HAVE EVERY RIGHT to dethrone those in power and START OVER AGAIN setting up a new Republic Constitution based government in its place with responsible honest leaders and a President that is FOR THE PEOPLE and enabled BY THE PEOPLE. WE are the PEOPLE and WE should be demanding our rights and freedoms back and elimination EVERY SINGLE CORRUPT BILL OR LAW PASSED and REVERTING IT kicking it OUT OF THE BALLPARK.

This countries future rests on its Patriotic freedom loving honest civilians who will stand up together and fight this and do the right thing. We have the power.

“People should never fear their governments. The governments should fear their people.” – V for Vendetta

GEMont (profile) says:

Re: Omg... this is so sad D:

The call to action is all well and good, but in order to actually begin a process of unified reaction to the current threat of internal take-over by corporate interests, you will have to lay out a plan of action that is both clear and doable, by the vast majority of Americans.

The problem is not so much that few see the writing on the wall, as it is that none can see a clear path to freedom from this looming tyranny, instigated by your very own wealthiest citizens.

Armed insurrection will accomplish nothing more than, at best, replacing the current leaders with new leaders who will quickly don the trappings and attitudes of those they deposed, and, at worst, lead to an escalation of martial law and the installing of even more fascist friendly laws that restrict the movements of Americans even further, while offering the rulers a perfect excuse to begin purging the population of dissidents, trouble-makers, competitors and others, in the name of national security, with full public acceptance.

– side note

I think the current “gang” of Presidential Hopefuls are a ruse.

The real corporate selected POTUS has yet to be introduced to the American Public, so that the public can despair over the horror story that is unfolding before them in the form of a dozen insane clowns running for the office of president, who nobody in their right mind would ever vote for.

When the “ringer” – the real preselected POTUS – is finally displayed before the public, she will be pristine and perfect – like Obama was – and everyone in the USA will assume that everyone else in the USA will vote for that “candidate”, because she will be the only sane choice, compared to the crowd of clowns currently dancing in the flood lights.

In this way, the final “landslide” vote for the “ringer”, will be fully acceptable to all Americans, because it is exactly what all American will expect, and none will suspect that the whole thing was rigged from day one, until years later, when – like Obama – all of the silver-tongued promises of transparency and co-operation and justice and truth, turn out to be 100% pure BS, again.

Anonymous Coward says:

USA: No longer "Land of the Free"

I really hope this bill does NOT pass. Because, judging by the way it’s described, those in power have an agenda behind it—to take down freedom of speech & association, not to mention invasion of privacy.

The first thing I see wrong with this bill is this will not stop cybersecurity attacks. I’m a IT guy with over 10 years of experience, & let me tell you, no system is perfect.

The second thing I see wrong with this bill this the fact its an invasion of privacy. How can we be so sure we can trust our government? Remember the IRS scandels back in 2012? Government did those attacks!

Seems to me slowly & slowly America is turning into a socialist welfare oligarchy. Where tyrant judges don’t allow The People to vote on issues, where broken families need the welfare system to pay their bills, & where our government does not respect the Constitutional rights.

America turned has turned its back on G-d. Now watch G-d bring her down!

Aexeiz says:

so.. call it an idea out of plain irritation

so reading through 90% of the comments on here, I have heard some people cry out for revolution, and another saying that revolution would just create more problems due to bringing up even worse situations (due to human nature).

and I guess you could call me arrogant, but maybe I should run the country.
try to get the more constitutional shit back in. enforce free speech, enforce gun regulation rather then flat out bans, and get the mother fucker corp dicks out of our political system. sadly though, I am a 22 year old white boy with a severe lack of charisma.

but if I were to be able to make a party and do this, I would call it the grey party, as all the other sides are fucking insane.

anonymous says:

"Removes the requirement to "scrub" personal information unrelated to a cybersecurity threat before sharing that information."

The enrolled bill still has that restriction

Actual enrolled bill:

(2) Removal of certain personal information.–A non-Federal
entity sharing a cyber threat indicator pursuant to this title
shall, prior to such sharing–
(A) review such cyber threat indicator to assess whether
such cyber threat indicator contains any information not
directly related to a cybersecurity threat that the non-Federal
entity knows at the time of sharing to be personal information
of a specific individual or information that identifies a
specific individual and remove such information; or
(B) implement and utilize a technical capability configured
to remove any information not directly related to a
cybersecurity threat that the non-Federal entity knows at the
time of sharing to be personal information of a specific
individual or information that identifies a specific

Anonymous Coward says:

“If you’ve done nothing wrong you have nothing to worry about.”

To which I reply, are you 100% positive you’ve never done anything that might be considered against the law or raise suspicion – Even if you’re not aware of such a law against whatever you did existing? Have you paid ALL your taxes in FULL for the past few decades and can prove this with extensive documentation, any outstanding debts you’re avoiding in this or other States, ever mention drinking around your kids to a friend in a text and now Child Protection is calling you asking for an inspection based on an anonymous report, etc?

The feds couldn’t pin a case on Al Capone for his criminal mafia activities and all the murders he was involved in, but they still managed to start investigations off by checking his tax records.

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