Forum Post: CISPA Critics Warn Cybersecurity Bill Will Increase Domestic Surveillance and Violate Privacy Rights
Posted 2 years ago on April 26, 2012, 3:47 p.m. EST by LeoYo
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CISPA Critics Warn Cybersecurity Bill Will Increase Domestic Surveillance and Violate Privacy Rights
Thursday, 26 April 2012 11:26 By Juan Gonzalez and Amy Goodman, Democracy Now! | Video
As it heads toward a House vote, critics say the Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act (CISPA) would allow private internet companies like Google, Facebook and Microsoft to hand over troves of confidential customer records and communications to the National Security Agency, FBI and Department of Homeland Security, effectively legalizing a secret domestic surveillance program already run by the NSA. Backers say the measure is needed to help private firms crackdown on foreign entities — including the Chinese and Russian governments — committing online economic espionage. The bill has faced widespread opposition from online privacy advocates and even the Obama administration, which has threatened a veto. "CISPA … will create an exception to all existing privacy laws so that companies can share very sensitive and personal information directly with the government, including military agencies like the National Security Agency," says Michelle Richardson, legislative counsel for the American Civil Liberties Union. "Once the government has it, they can repurpose it and use it for a number of things, including an undefined national security use."
Juan Gonzalez: A legislative battle has erupted on Capitol Hill over a controversial House bill that critics say would allow private internet companies to hand over troves of confidential customer records and communications to the National Security Agency and other agencies. In a letter on Monday, 18 Democratic House members warned that unless specific limitations were put in place, the bill, quote, "would, for the first time, grant non-civilian federal agencies, such as the National Security Agency, unfettered access to information about Americans' internet activities and allow those agencies to use that information for virtually any purpose." The bill is titled the Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act, or simply CISPA.
Backers of the legislation say it is needed to help private companies crack down on foreign entities—including the Chinese and Russian governments—committing online economic espionage that is stealing trade secrets from U.S. corporations and the government. But the bill has faced widespread criticism from online privacy advocates and even the Obama administration.
Amy Goodman: On Thursday, the White House threatened to veto the legislation, saying, quote, "The sharing of information must be conducted in a manner that preserves Americans' privacy, data confidentiality and civil liberties and recognizes the civilian nature of cyberspace. Cybersecurity and privacy are not mutually exclusive," they said. Critics also say the bill would essentially legalize a secret domestic surveillance program already being run by the National Security Agency.
Last week, a former top NSA official appeared on Democracy Now! to give his first TV interview. William Binney said domestic surveillance is already expanding under the Obama administration.
William Binney: Actually, I think the surveillance has increased. In fact, I would suggest that they've assembled on the order of 20 trillion transactions about U.S. citizens with other U.S. citizens.
Amy Goodman: How many?
William Binney: Twenty trillion.
Amy Goodman: Where do you get the number 20 trillion?
William Binney: Just by the numbers of telecoms, it appears to me, from the questions that CNET posed to them in 2006, and they published the names and how—what the responses were. I looked at that and said that anybody that equivocated was participating, and then estimated from that the numbers of transactions. That, by the way, estimate only was involving phone calls and emails. It didn't involve any queries on the net or any assembles—other—any financial transactions or credit card stuff, if they're assembling that. I do not know that.
Amy Goodman: National Security Agency whistleblower William Binney. To see the full interview with him, you can go to our website at democracynow.org.
We're joined now by two guests. Michelle Richardson is with us in Washington, D.C., legislative counsel for the American Civil Liberties Union. Jacob Appelbaum is back with us again here in Democracy Now!'s studios in New York, computer security researcher, developer and advocate for the Tor Project, a system that enables its users to communicate anonymously on the internet.
Michelle, let's begin with you. Talk about this legislation, this bill that is expected to be voted on this week, debates beginning today.
Michelle Richardson: CISPA, the bill that will come up later today and probably be voted on tomorrow, will create an exception to all existing privacy laws so that companies can share very sensitive and personal information directly with the government, including military agencies like the National Security Agency. And then, once the government has it, they can repurpose it and use it for a number of things, including an undefined national security use. The violations of privacy are just amazing under this bill, and it's even invoked a veto threat from the Obama administration.
Juan Gonzalez: And specifically in terms of the new powers that this grant, what does this do to existing laws that protect the privacy of American citizens and requires the government to get even FISA warrants when it wants to actually do surveillance in particular situations?