House passes cyber-security bill

In a role reversal, Democrats opposed the bill while Republicans supported it. Photo: by ITpro

COLORADO SPRINGS,  April 23, 2013 — With the country’s attention focused on the hunt for the Boston Marathon bombers, last Friday the U.S. House of Representatives passed the Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act (CISPA). 

In what seems like a role reversal, the liberal collectivist Democrats from Colorado voted against the bill while Republicans—supposedly the party of limited government—voted for it.

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The bill has had issues from the beginning, chief among them being the widespread sharing of almost any information found online “notwithstanding any other provision of law.”

This would include any laws covering privacy policies and wiretap laws. Companies may share cybersecurity-related information “with any other entity, including the federal government.”

It would not, however, require them to.

Today, companies can be required to share virtually any information they have—but it takes a court order and probable cause.

SEE RELATED: Massacre at the Boston Marathon

Some 34 civil liberties groups, including the ACLU and the Electronic Frontier Foundation, penned a letter in March expressing their opposition to the bill.

Representatives as politically diverse as Alan Grayson (D-FL) and Justin Amash (R-MI) offered amendments that would have moderated the impact of the bill and protected 4th Amendment privacy rights. Both were defeated in committee, as were others.

Grayson’s one-sentence amendment would have required the National Security Agency, the FBI, Homeland Security and other agencies to secure a “warrant obtained in accordance with the Fourth Amendment” before searching a database for evidence of criminal wrongdoing.

Amash sought to ban collecting library, tax, gun, and other records. Initially in the draft, it was reversed so that now these records can be collected.

According to Rep. Jared Polis (D-CO), “The government could use this information to investigate gun shows” and even football games or other events where “serious bodily harm” might take place.

Because of the ambiguous language in CISPA it would allow federal agencies to “go on fishing expeditions for electronic devices,” Polis said. He voted against the bill.

While the Boston Marathon bombing and CISPA may seem unrelated, they are not. Making it easier to collect information about individuals and their activities online is all about fighting terrorism and cyber-terrorism, which is simply malicious activity targeting government computer networks.

Unfortunately, laws like CISPA are both overly broad and unnecessary. This is because government already has legal methods of discovery. CISPA allows it to go further and engage in fishing expeditions; to monitor otherwise legal activity.

It gives rise to a Future Crimes Agency within the Department of Homeland Security.

The law is clearly unconstitutional in its broadness and circumvention of the 4th Amendment. It is dangerous to liberty also because once passed it will be hard to repeal. The “war on terror” is an undeclared one—the current administration even denies that it exists. Who is to say when it is over?

The fact that the Republican-led House passed it is disturbing, but not surprising. They also re-authorized the Orwellian-named Patriot Act that allows the indefinite holding of U.S. citizens without warrant. As usual, House leadership is more concerned about national security and less about civil liberties. It seems that any right is worth sacrificing in the name of safety.

They forget Benjamin Franklin’s admonition that he who would trade liberty for a temporary measure of security deserves neither. And then, by abandoning the nature of our free society, the terrorists win.

READ MORE from Al Maurer at Red Pill, Blue Pill

At The Voice of Liberty, we seek to advance the principles of liberty, because tyranny never sleeps.

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Al Maurer

Al Maurer is a political scientist and founder of The Voice of Liberty. He writes on topics of limited government and individual rights.

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