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.

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  1. identicon
    Pixelation, 2 Dec 2011 @ 4:55am

    Goodbye Constitution

    At a glance it looks like this tramples on Amendments 4,5,6,and 8.

    It used to be the Bill of Rights, now it's the Bill of Maybe.

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