Insanity: CISPA Just Got Way Worse, And Then Passed On Rushed Vote

from the this-is-crazy dept

Update: Several people have asserted that Quayle's amendment actually made CISPA better, not worse. I've now posted my thoughts on that.

Up until this afternoon, the final vote on CISPA was supposed to be tomorrow. Then, abruptly, it was moved up today—and the House voted in favor of its passage with a vote of 248-168. But that's not even the worst part.

The vote followed the debate on amendments, several of which were passed. Among them was an absolutely terrible change (pdf and embedded below—scroll to amendment #6) to the definition of what the government can do with shared information, put forth by Rep. Quayle. Astonishingly, it was described as limiting the government's power, even though it in fact expands it by adding more items to the list of acceptable purposes for which shared information can be used. Even more astonishingly, it passed with a near-unanimous vote. The CISPA that was just approved by the House is much worse than the CISPA being discussed as recently as this morning.

Previously, CISPA allowed the government to use information for "cybersecurity" or "national security" purposes. Those purposes have not been limited or removed. Instead, three more valid uses have been added: investigation and prosecution of cybersecurity crime, protection of individuals, and protection of children. Cybersecurity crime is defined as any crime involving network disruption or hacking, plus any violation of the CFAA.

Basically this means CISPA can no longer be called a cybersecurity bill at all. The government would be able to search information it collects under CISPA for the purposes of investigating American citizens with complete immunity from all privacy protections as long as they can claim someone committed a "cybersecurity crime". Basically it says the 4th Amendment does not apply online, at all. Moreover, the government could do whatever it wants with the data as long as it can claim that someone was in danger of bodily harm, or that children were somehow threatened—again, notwithstanding absolutely any other law that would normally limit the government's power.

Somehow, incredibly, this was described as limiting CISPA, but it accomplishes the exact opposite. This is very, very bad.

There were some good amendments adopted too—clarifying some definitions, including the fact that merely violating a TOS does not constitute unauthorized network access—but frankly none of them matter in the light of this change. CISPA is now a completely unsupportable bill that rewrites (and effectively eliminates) all privacy laws for any situation that involves a computer. Far from the defense against malevolent foreign entities that the bill was described as by its authors, it is now an explicit attack on the freedoms of every American.

Filed Under: cispa, congress, cybersecurity

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  1. identicon
    CNYLiberty, 26 Apr 2012 @ 5:31pm

    Feeding the new NSA Utah Datacenter

    Here's how this turns into a free pass for NSA wiretapping of all American internet communication:

    NSA Boss: We need to feed the new Utah datacenter. I want you to install a wiretap for all internet traffic through ISP X.

    NSA Lackey: National Security Letter?

    NSA Boss: No, there's political heat on us because some loose-lipped Senators mentioned the secret interpretation of the Patriot Act. Use CISPA instead. It's easier anyway.

    NSA Lackey: Okay. Will do. Heil USA!


    NSA Lackey: Hey, you blueshirt! I need a word with you...

    Homeland Security Guy: You again?! What do you want this time?

    NSA Lackey: We have info about a cyberthreat involving ISP X. Contact them and let them know we need a wiretap installed on all their internet traffic.

    Homeland Security Guy: And what are you gonna do with all that traffic?

    NSA Lackey: None of your business! Just git r done like a good little cable guy, would ya'?


    Homeland Security Guy: Hi.

    ISP X CEO: Hello. How can I help you today?

    Homeland Security Guy: We need to have some of our friends in black come and install a wiretap on all your internet traffic.

    ISP X CEO: Huh? What about all the trouble AT&T got into with their San Fran datacenter? What about wiretap law? I think I'll have to call my attorney first...

    Homeland Security Guy: No, you don't need to do that. It's because of a "cyberthreat". Did you hear that magic word I uttered. Let me say it again: "CYBERTHREAT". You are immune from any civil or criminal liability for cooperating.

    ISP X CEO: Oh. I see. But this will take some labor on our end. It's going to be expensive.

    Homeland Security Guy: We'll reimburse you at a very healthy rate.

    ISP X CEO: Oh, so we can make some money off of this too?

    Homeland Security Guy: You betcha! Do you agree to voluntarily cooperate then?

    ISP X CEO: Do we have a choice?

    Homeland Security Guy: Work with us, you get money and no liability. Refuse and you not only lose the money, but you might get the liability, and your company just might become a "cyberthreat" itself.

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