The Weight of Thought

The Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act (CISPA) has twice died in Congress, following objections from privacy advocates. Like a resilient zombie, it has risen once again and a new version of the bill — which passed the House in the summer — is getting support from some Senators, bolstered by NSA officials.
The bill, ostensibly aimed at protecting U.S. commerce from cyberattacks, enables companies and goverment agencies giving to share more cyber information, including the content and personal information attached to emails.

As a pro-marijuana activist, it’s a joy to watch the Berlin Weed Wall come tumbling down. I even found some pleasure this week in Attorney General Eric Holder’s announcement for reduced sentencing for non-violent drug offenders.

It’s not everyday some liberty is yielded back to the people, however small.  Yet my joy is tempered by cynicism.

The private prison-industrial complex could not have been happy with Holder’s recent announcement, but there’s a strange silence. There’s not a single bought-and-paid-for politician coming to the defense of longer prison terms for non-violent drug offenders. So what gives?

Surely there must be intense lobbying efforts underway to stop this.  I mean, any industry evil enough to bribe judges to throw innocent children in cages would clearly scratch and claw for every dollar of potential profit, right?

But what if they can replace drug offenders with other warm bodies — like copyright offenders (file sharers)? The NSA likely has a whole list of offenders ready to go. They’re an easy target as they don’t typically travel in armed cartels. Who cares that they, too, are non-violent offenders? Make file sharing a felony, says the Obama Administration.

The Washington Post reports:
You probably remember the online outrage over the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) copyright enforcement proposal. Last week, the Department of Commerce’s Internet Policy Task Force released a report on digital copyright policy that endorsed one piece of the controversial proposal: making the streaming of copyrighted works a felony.

The Digital Rights Struggle wont be Televized because dinosaurs would never help the mammals claim the land of thier dominion

On Tuesday, the Texas House added three amendments to the CISPA-like bill flying through the Legislature. Clearly, all the attention now directed at this terrible bill is spurring action by state lawmakers. But the amendments completely fail to address the bill’s serious privacy violations and some make the bill even worse.

Amendment 2

This amendment changes the target of government seizures from “an electronic communications service” to a “remote computing service”. All this does is make it more clear that websites not based in Texas are going to be forced to comply with this bill.

The amendment also appears to remove the limit on how far back the state could seize personal records. The bill previously only applied to electronic communication that was less than 180 days old (so it prevented really old fishing expeditions). Under this version of the bill, it appears the government could seize years - or even the totality - of a person’s online communication. This is a terrible change.

The amendment also made an important change by removing the ability of a “Designated law enforcement office or agency” to collect the data, leaving it to authorized peace officers. But this doesn’t improve the bill very much - authorized peace officers are state agents who also should not be empowered with these broad abilities to seize private communications. It removes the ability for some political hack in a specific office or agency to file a request for electronic information - which is a good thing - but doesn’t address the glaring privacy violations in this bill.

The Texas CISPA bill, approved unanimously by the House last week, may be passed by the Legislature within 24 hours. It has been scheduled for a vote on Monday.

The bill, now slightly altered SB 1052 in the Senate, does the following:

  • Requires any Internet provider that serves Texans to hand over private communication and files.
  • Sets no standard for warrants for such seizures, enabling arbitrary violations of Texans’ privacy.
  • Forces Internet providers to respond within 15-30 days (and sometimes 4-30), giving them almost no time to protect information not targeted.
  • Makes it a crime for an officer, director or owner of a company to not comply with the request within the 15-30 day window.
  • Opens the door to politically-motivated seizures of online communication.

Senior Obama administration officials have secretly authorized the interception of communications carried on portions of networks operated by AT&T and other Internet service providers, a practice that might otherwise be illegal under federal wiretapping laws.

The secret legal authorization from the Justice Department originally applied to a cybersecurity pilot project in which the military monitored defense contractors’ Internet links. Since then, however, the program has been expanded by President Obama to cover all critical infrastructure sectors including energy, healthcare, and finance starting June 12.

"The Justice Department is helping private companies evade federal wiretap laws," said Marc Rotenberg, executive director of the Electronic Privacy Information Center, which obtained over 1,000 pages of internal government documents and provided them to CNET this week. “Alarm bells should be going off.”

Those documents show the National Security Agency and the Defense Department were deeply involved in pressing for the secret legal authorization, with NSA director Keith Alexander participating in some of the discussions personally. Despite initial reservations, including from industry participants, Justice Department attorneys eventually signed off on the project.

CISPA And The Control of Information

CISPA has already passed the House of Representatives!!!!

CISPA has already passed the House of Representatives!!!!