April 23, 2012, 2:33 PM — It’s the oldest trick in the Congressional playbook. When you’ve got a piece of legislation you know people will object to because it violates their basic Constitutional rights, call it a “security” bill. Anyone who opposes that bill automatically becomes a friend of the terrorists, the communists, or any other boogieman-du-jour.
So it was with the Patriot Act, a Christmas gift for law enforcement that had been sitting around for years, waiting for an event so horrific Congress would happily gut the Fourth Amendment in the rush to remain ‘secure.’ Yes, the Patriot Act broke down bureaucratic barriers between different security agencies, enabling them to share information more efficiently in a post-9/11 world. It also expanded the government’s ability to spy on American citizens who were not suspected of wrongdoing and avoid judicial checks and balances in cases that had nothing to do with terrorism.
And so it is with the Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act (CISPA), another “security” bill that enables the free flow of information – in this case from private companies to the Federal government, and vice versa.
As I wrote last week, one of CISPA’s biggest problems is that its definition of “cyber threat” includes “theft or misappropriation of private or government information, intellectual property, or personally identifiable information.”
Upload the latest Gotye MP3 to a torrents hub? That’s a cyber threat. Publish proprietary training manuals for a skeezy religious cult on the Web? That’s a cyber threat. Leak the Pentagon Papers to the New York Times and Washington Post? That too would be a cyber threat.
One might be willing to write off a bill whose definition of security threats includes the Pirate Bay, WikiLeaks, and our nation’s paper of record as just sloppy legislating. But this is no accident. CISPA is directly targeting people who leak government and nongovernment secrets to journalists or anyone else – and they want to deputize Facebook, Google, Twitter, and Microsoft to help do their dirty work.
Stephen Aftergood, author of the Secrecy News blog for the Federation of American Scientists, found the smoking gun in the transcripts to a May 2011 hearing of the US Senate’s Select Committee on Intelligence [PDF], which were made public last week.