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U.S. Internet Cybersecurity Bills Threaten Freedom

Posted: 2012-08-09
From: Mathaba
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Various cybersecurity acts threaten constitutional freedoms.


by Stephen Lendman

On March 27, HR 4263: SECURE IT Act of 2012 was introduced. Now in committee, no further action was taken.

On April 26, the House passed HR 3523: Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act (CISPA) of 2011.

On June 27, S. 3342: SECURE IT Act was introduced. Now in committee, no further action was taken.

On July 19, S. 3414: Cybersecurity Act of 2012 was introduced in the Senate. On August 2, a Senate cloture vote failed. Voting 52 - 46, the bill fell eight votes short.

Prior and current cybersecurity bills represent draconian threats to Internet and constitutional freedoms. Unless stopped, they'll be lost en route to destroying other legal protections.

Pending legislation lets government bypass existing laws. Alleged cyber threats smooth the process. New bills emerged after earlier ones were defeated. Washington won't quit until all legal restraints are removed.

Senators were flooded with emails, calls, letters, and tweets against S 3414. Civil liberty groups petitioned them. For now, the measure is defeated. Score one for privacy advocates. Declaring victory remains premature. More battles remain.

Congress and Obama officials prioritize cybersecurity. Doing so compromises civil liberties. Privacy is threatened.

Following the vote, a White House statement expressed "profound disappointment." Obstructionist politics were blamed "driven by special interest groups seeking to avoid accountability...."

Since taking office, Obama and those around him waged relentless war on constitutional freedoms. Police state laws passed. Domestic spying exceeds the worst Bush administration practices.

Destroying Net Neutrality and other freedoms is planned. Full-blown tyranny approaches unless ordinary people and supportive organizations stop it. Cybersecurity battles continue.

The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) says other pending legislation is "dangerously vague." If enacted, they'll add a "cybersecurity exemption to virtually all existing privacy laws."

An earlier SECURE ACT version drew harsh criticism. Dozens of organizations opposed it. They included EFF, The Center for Media and Democracy, Center for Democracy & Technology, the ACLU, Defending Dissent Foundation, and the American Library Association.

In a May Senate letter, they said it lacked "sufficient privacy safeguards, oversight or accountability." They called it a "threat to privacy and civil liberties." They enumerated over a dozen serious flaws.

Amended legislation followed. Modest improvements only were made. Definitions were tightened. Government contractor obligations to share information were clarified. Required Inspector General reports were added.

According to the Center for Democracy & Technology (CDT), "changes made merely nibble around the edges of more substantial flaws." SECURE It remains "a back-door wiretap bill."

It requires private companies to share information with government agencies. They include NSA, DOD's Cyber Command, DHS, and the Justice Department. Passage will grievously harm civil liberties.

The measure circumvents existing privacy law protections. "All cyber threat information shared with any cybersecurity center would be shared immediately with the NSA" and other above named centers.

They operate secretly. Companies sharing information won't know how it's used. These agencies have a deplorable record of operating extrajudicially.

NSA recently admitted it couldn't estimate how many Americans were included in intelligence surveillance activities. The 2008 FISA Amendments Act (FISAAA) authorized targeting only non-US citizens abroad.

SECURE It lets NSA use alleged cyber threat information for national security purposes unrelated to cybersecurity. CDT calls doing so inappropriate and dangerous.

Numerous flaws remain. They include using information unrelated to law enforcement. Provisions are broad and vague. Warrants aren't required. Fourth Amendment and other rights are jeopardized.

EFF "remain(s) unpersuaded that any....cybersecurity measures are necessary...." All proposed bills contain constitutionally lawless provisions. Warrantless wiretaps are especially egregious. EFF challenged their legitimacy for years.

Since at least 2001, major telecom companies agreed to participate in massive domestic spying. Ordinary Americans are targeted.

NSA routinely intercepts phone calls and Internet communications. Doing so violates Fourth Amendment and other constitutional freedoms. EFF sued to stop it.

In Hepting v. AT&T (January 2006), EFF charged the company with lawlessly monitoring private customer communications. Without their knowledge or approval, it supplies NSA with information they contain.

Whistleblower help provided documented proof. Nonetheless, right-wing courts are incorrigible. In June 2009, a federal judge dismissed Hepting and dozens other suits against telecoms.

The ruling claimed these companies have immunity from liability under FISAAA. Enacted in 2008, it lets the Attorney General order dismissal of lawsuits if Washington claims surveillance didn't occur, was lawful, or had presidential approval.

EFF plans to appeal. It calls FISAAA unconstitutional. It grants presidents extrajudicial discretion. It blocks courts from administering the law fairly. In Hepting and pending cybersecurity legislation, privacy issues are at stake.

EFF has help fighting lawlessness. The Center for Constitutional Rights, ACLU, other groups, and individuals are involved.

Pending cybersecurity bills provide sham cover for destroying personal freedoms. Obama serves as lead attack dog. Institutionalized tyranny is planned. It's dangerously close to full-blown.

Cybersecurity legislation is one of many worrisome threats. Thomas Jefferson called eternal vigilance the price of freedom. It's needed more than ever now.

A Final Comment

The National Security Agency (NSA) threatens personal freedom. Since 1952, it conducted secret foreign communications and intelligence gathering. For decades it operated extrajudicially. Its dark history is disturbing.

In the 1960s, Senator Frank Church warned:

NSA's "capability at any time could be turned around on the American people, and no American would have any privacy left, such is the capability to monitor everything: telephone conversations, telegrams, it doesn't matter."

"There would be no place to hide." Presidents could "impose total tyranny, and there would be no way to fight back."

Church died in 1984. If alive, he'd say he warned us, but we didn't listen.

Church learned that the NSA engaged in lawless domestic spying. It was widespread against US citizens. In 1978, the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) included privacy protections for American communications.

The USA Patriot Act and other police state laws destroyed them. More than ever, NSA operates extrajudicially. It menaces freedom. It's Big Brother writ large.

Post-9/11, it established a massive warrantless wiretapping program. It violates constitutional and statute laws with impunity. Congressional investigations and lawsuits haven't stopped it.

The FISA Amendments Act (FISAAA) granted telecom companies retroactive immunity. They spy freely on US citizens. NSA intercepts millions of online, phone, and other communications. Everyone is vulnerable globally.

Everything NSA does is classified and secret. It menaces freedom. It's unaccountable. It's shielded from prosecution.

Given today's technological capabilities, it's more dangerous than Church imagined. Big Brother expanded exponentially.

Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago and can be reached at:
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