CISPA: A Red Hot Poker Ups the Ante for Civil Liberties

If the odds-on favorite cybersecurity bill gets passed as is, it’ll be like shoving a red hot poker into the collective angst of US citizens‘ civil liberties. The bill, the […]

If the odds-on favorite cybersecurity bill gets passed as is, it’ll be like shoving a red hot poker into the collective angst of US citizens‘ civil liberties.

The bill, the Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act (H.R. 624) or “CISPA” for short, is flawed to its core; hell, last year even the White House said basically the same thing.  While trying to do the right thing–allow private businesses to share information with the federal government in order to better thwart cyber attacks–what the bill REALLY allows is for ISPs to run a muck in that digital playground known as your most sensitive online communications, and all in the name of cyber security.  And it does all this by authorizing and immunizing conduct while in pursuit of cybersecurity threat information that the bill would otherwise deem a cyber crime.  Go figure.

CISPA - The solution is the problem

CISPA – The solution is the problem (Photo credit: DonkeyHotey)

While the sponsors of this cybersecurity bill had a great opportunity to learn from their mistakes last year, they balked and apparently just rewrote the bill on paper they wiped their ass with while they took a break during the last election cycle.  Although the White House threatened to veto last year’s bill, the current sponsors have seen fit to say “fuck you” to the White House; this “new” version is a veritable clone of last year’s bill.

The Center for Democracy & Technology has published a document identifying the most critical problems with CISPA.  However, CDT, as usual, doesn’t just spew the “this is wrong, now fix the damn thing” line, they have added their thoughtful analysis and provided suggested fixes to the bill, too.

Here’s a handy bullet point list of the CDT fixes to CISPA as provided by the organization’s website:

  • Promote civilian, not NSA, control of the federal government’s cybersecurity program for the private sector;
  • More carefully describe the cyber threat information that can be shared;
  • Specify which laws would be preempted for cybersecurity information sharing, instead of preempting all laws;
  • Ensure that information shared for cybersecurity purposes is used for cybersecurity, with limited law enforcement exceptions;
  • Clarify that the bill does not authorize and immunize computer hacking to get cyber threat information from another;
  • Add some of the civil liberties protections in last year’s Senate bill.

CDT and others are hoping some kind of verbal surgery will take place on the bill; “major surgery in public,” as CDT calls it.  Good wordsmithing by my former colleagues.

The House should hold an open mark up session–too many of these critical bills are amended during a “markup session” (read: changed at the last-minute without debate, discussion or justification)–that allows all of us to get a front row seat to history.  At least we will be fighting with our eyes wide open…

Meeks out…


About brock

Brock is currently the Executive Editor at Atlantic Media Strategies and former Chief Washington Correspondent for MSNBC; he is the founder/creator/editor of CyberWire Dispatch, the Net's pioneering online journalistic news service. Previously he was the Director of Communications for the Center for Democracy & Technology, a non-profit, Washington, D.C.-based public interest group working to keep the Internet open, innovative and free. The views expressed here are his alone and do not reflect the opinions, attitudes or policy positions of his employer(s) past or present.