Police State Harshness
by Stephen Lendman
On April 26, the House passed HR 3523: Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act (CISPA) of 2011 248 – 168.
A companion S. 2105: Cybersecurity Act of 2012 awaits Senate consideration. Obama promised a veto if passes. He lied. He does it repeatedly.
The Senate will pass or defeat what he wants. More than likely, it’ll make cosmetic changes agreed to by House/Senate negotiators. Either that or they’ll draft a new bill, under a new name, little different from CISPA to matter.
Last year, Obama promised to veto the draconian FY 2012 National Defense Authorization Act. It authorizes detaining US citizens indefinitely without charge or trial based solely on suspicions, baseless allegations or none at all.
US military personnel are authorized to arrest and indefinitely detain anyone globally, including US citizens.
Due process, civil protections, and judicial fairness are null and void. Presidents may order anyone arrested and imprisoned for life without charge or trial. Abuse of power replaced rule of law protections.
After refusing support, Obama signed it into law. Doing so enacted tyranny. Cybersecurity harshness hardens it. If Congress sends him a bill, he’ll sign it. He’s gone along with everything he pledged opposition to as a candidate.
CISPA is more about destroying personal freedom than online security. Post-9/11, it eroded steadily en route to destroying it altogether. CISPA is another nail in its coffin. Its burial plot awaits.
The bill gives government and corporate supporters unlimited power to access personal/privileged information online. Civil liberty concerns are ignored. Before passage, security experts, academics, and other professionals published an open letter to Congress, saying:
We are writing you today as professionals, academics, and policy experts who have researched, analyzed, and defended against security threats to the Internet and its infrastructure.”
“We have devoted our careers to building security technologies, and to protecting networks, computers, and critical infrastructure against attacks of many stripes.”
“We take security very seriously, but we fervently believe that strong computer and network security does not require Internet users to sacrifice their privacy and civil liberties.”
“The bills currently under consideration, including Rep. Rogers’ Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act of 2011 (H.R. 3523) and Sen. McCain’s SECURE IT Act (S. 2151), are drafted to allow entities who participate in relaying or receiving Internet traffic to freely monitor and redistribute those network communications.”
“The bills nullify current legal protections against wiretapping and similar civil liberties violations for that kind of broad data sharing. By encouraging the transfer of users’ private communications to US Federal agencies, and lacking good public accountability or transparency, these “cybersecurity” bills unnecessarily trade our civil liberties for the promise of improved network security.”
“As experts in the field, we reject this false trade-off and urge you to oppose any cybersecurity initiative that does not explicitly include appropriate methods to ensure the protection of users’ civil liberties.”
“In summary, we urge you to reject legislation that:
Uses vague language to describe network security attacks, threat indicators, and countermeasures, allowing for the possibility that innocuous online activities could be construed as ‘cybersecurity’ threats.”
“Exempts ‘cybersecurity’ activities from existing laws that protect individuals’ privacy and devices, such as the Wiretap Act, the Stored Communications Act, and the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act.”
“Gives sweeping immunity from liability to companies even if they violate individuals’ privacy, and without evidence of wrongdoing.”
“Allows data originally collected through ‘cybersecurity’ programs to be used to prosecute unrelated crimes.”
“We appreciate your interest in making our networks more secure, but passing legislation that suffers from the problems above would be a grave mistake for privacy and civil liberties, and will not be a step forward in making us safer.”
The Free Market Coalition and Ron Paul called CISPA provisions “dangerously vague.” Already eroded privacy laws will be gutted. Online content may be freely accessed covertly, including personal emails and web sites visited.
Last minute amendments put lipstick on a pig. Bill sponsor Rep. Mike Rogers (R-MI) packaged five.
(1) Minimization Retention and Notification Amendment
It does little to “minimize” retaining sensitive information. Nothing with teeth prevents authorities from accessing whatever they wish for whatever alleged reasons. Privacy and civil liberty protections aren’t considered.
(2) Definitions Amendment
The amendment excludes intelligence pertaining to gaining unauthorized access that “solely involves violations of consumer terms of service or consumer licensing agreements and do not otherwise constitute unauthorized access.”
However, vague definitions remain. Authorities can use them to access whatever information they wish.
(3) Liability Amendment
It’s one of the bill’s biggest problems. It creates “expansive legal immunity.” It leaves government and corporations largely unaccountable. It provides “good faith” immunity.
It means government and business can’t be held liable for acting “in good faith.” Who’ll prove otherwise if they say so, no matter who’s harmed or how badly.
(4) Limitation Amendment
It leaves civil liberty concerns unaddressed. Its language changed nothing.
(5) Use Amendment
It deals with usage of data collected. CISPA’s original language let business share it for “cybersecurity” purposes. Government can use it for “national security” reasons.
New language modestly narrows usage but not enough. It still allows data sharing for cybersecurity purposes, to investigate alleged online crimes, to supposedly protect users from death or harm, to prevent minors from accessing pornography, be sexually exploited online, or otherwise threatened, and for national security.
The latter’s a catch-all excuse to authorize unlimited spying. Parents, not government, should handle their children’s online usage. Alleged online crimes aren’t defined, and no one ever died or experienced bodily harm through cyberspace.
Free Press.net’s Action Fund Policy Director Matt Wood called CISPA “a dangerous piece of legislation and it’s worrisome that the House has passed such an overreaching bill.”
“The bill still lacks effective oversight and accountability for companies and government agencies collecting massive amounts of our personal data. It would curtail Internet openness and freedom by stripping away crucial privacy protections, and without providing any guarantee of protection for critical infrastructure.”
“If the Senate chooses to move forward with cybersecurity legislation, we urge senators to make the changes necessary to protect civil liberties and Internet freedom.”
CISPA’s little changed from its original form. It lets government and companies bypass existing laws, access whatever they wish, filter content, and potentially shut down online access for cybersecurity or national security reasons.
Enactment assures abuse. Telecommunication companies could monitor personal/privileged content. Vague language permits virtually anything. Privacy and First Amendment rights will be further eroded en route to destroying them altogether.
Freedoms now taken for granted will disappear. Any site, blog, or personal content could be called a cyber threat. The current Senate version differs little from the House bill. It states:
“(C)ybersecurity threat means any action that may result in unauthorized access to, exfiltration of, manipulation of, or impairment to the integrity, confidentiality, or availability of an information system or information that is stored on, processed by, or transiting an information system.”
A “cybersecurity threat indicator” is defined in hugely disjunctive vague scenarios. They include, for example, “a method of defeating a technical (or operational) control.” Merely using “a proxy or anonymization service” to access sites could be called a “cybersecurity threat indicator.”
So could using cryptography to protect personal communications or be able to access systems securely. Nearly anything could be called a threat. Everyone is vulnerable for any reason.
Government and business may monitor online traffic and communications without Wiretap Act or other legal restrictions.
Vague definitions immunize government and business abusers. Whatever ways House and Senate bills reconcile differences, existing ones are so minor, a final version for Obama to sign will change little from what already passed.
Online users will lose out. So will everyone. Police state harshness will be hardened. America’s already hugely repressive.
Police State America
Post-9/11 draconian legislation, executive orders, National and Homeland Security Presidential Directives, and other measures eroded personal freedoms gravely.
Little more remains to eliminating them altogether. Unprecedented presidential authority alone was freed from constitutional restraints. National emergencies and martial law can be declared without congressional approval.
Military commissions legislation scrapped habeas protections. FY 2007 NDAA annulled the 1807 Insurrection Act and 1878 Posse Comitatus Act. They prohibited federal or National Guard troops for law enforcement unless expressly authorized by Congress in times of a national emergency like an insurrection.
Continuity of Government (COG) authority effectively gives presidents and Department of Homeland Security (DHS) officials police state powers to rule extrajudicially without congressional authority. They need only declare a national emergency, whether or not justified.
Whistleblowers are an endangered species. So are First Amendment and other fundamental rights.
The USA Patriot Act enacted sweeping new powers. Bill of Rights Amendments were eroded or ended. First Amendment free expression and association rights were targeted. Belonging to an “undesirable group” was criminalized.
Fourth Amendment protections from unreasonable searches and seizures eroded. Personal privacy rights were lost.
First, Fourth and Sixth Amendment rights were violated. Dissent was targeted. Illegal searches and seizures were authorized. The right to counsel and due process were compromised.
Unchecked government surveillance powers to access personal records (including online), monitor financial transactions, student, medical and other information were authorized.
“Sneak and peak” searches permit “delayed notice” warrants, roving wiretaps, email tracking, and Internet and cell phone monitoring. Domestic spying became easier than ever.
For the first time, the crime of “domestic terrorism” was enacted. As a result, anti-war activists, global justice demonstrators, environmental and animal rights adherents, civil disobedience, and dissent of any kind may be included under its umbrella definition.
Under the Patriot Act’s Section 806, with no hearing or notice, Washington may confiscate or freeze all foreign and domestic assets of any individual, entity, or organization accused of engaging in, planning, supporting, concealing, or perpetrating any act called domestic or international terrorism against America. Nonviolent protesters are included.
Other provisions are just as harsh. Using vague language, authorities have wide latitude to twist the law perversely. Anyone can be targeted for any reason. Anything can be called terrorism, whether or not true.
Democracy was largely ripped up by the roots and destroyed. Constitutional protections were trashed. Centralized power was enhanced. Personal freedoms eroded or ended.
In March 2006, Congress renewed most Patriot Act powers. In May 2011, three key provisions were extended for another four years. Little debate assured swift passage. As a result:
(1) Unlimited roving wiretaps continue unchecked.
(2) Section 215 pertains to alleged suspects. It authorizes government access to “any tangible item.” They included financial records and transactions, student and medical records, phone conversations, emails, other Internet use, and whatever else Washington claims essential.
(3) Alleged suspect organizations and individuals can be surveilled, whether or not evidence links them to terrorism or complicity to commit it. In other words, police state powers to monitor anyone for any reason or none at all remain unchecked.
CISPA and whatever else becomes law further enhances unchecked police state powers. Democracy no longer exists.
How can it if constitutional, statute and international law protections no longer apply.
Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago and can be reached at email@example.com.
Also visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com and listen to cutting-edge discussions with distinguished guests on the Progressive Radio News Hour on the Progressive Radio Network Thursdays at 10AM US Central time and Saturdays and Sundays at noon. All programs are archived for easy listening.