Beware: CISPA Gets Closed-Door Hearing Tomorrow

Make a note, readers: Tomorrow, the House Intelligence Committee is having a closed-door hearing on the Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act (CISPA). Those of us still laboring under the delusion that a free and open society demands a free and open discussion of proposals that could adversely affect all of us should therefore pay close attention.

Best described as the evil twin of the thankfully vanquished SOPA and PIPA bills, CISPA would go farther than either of those laws ever dared dream. Presented as an amendment to the National Security Act of 1947 to address the threat of so-called cyberterrorism, the bill would so broadly define cyberterrorism as to render all but the most passive web users suspect.

According to CISPA, a threat to cyber security is described as “information in the possession of an element of the intelligence community directly pertaining to a vulnerability of, or threat to, a system or network of a government or private entity, including information pertaining to the protection of a system or network from either ‘efforts to degrade, disrupt, or destroy such system or network’; or ‘theft or misappropriation of private or government information, intellectual property, or personally identifiable information.”

The bill would require – yes – require the director of National Intelligence to create protocols by which the intelligence community can share information with private entities and encourage said entities to share that information right back. And yes, you read that right: CISPA also labels any infringement of copyright as a threat to national security. And as such it allows your private information to be shared with practically anyone, regardless of probable cause, without your consent.

Tomorrow’s hearing will cover several amendments to the proposed law, supposedly to provide oversight to the bill’s more… unstructured provisions. But the hearing is being conducted in secret, and longtime watchers of the bill’s progress know that Congress has never adequately explained why a bill like CISPA is necessary. More worrisome and a troubling sign of a stacked deck, the most strenuous criticism from any member of the House Intelligence committee comes from Adam Schiff, who is demanding – if you can call it that – an amendment requiring private entities to take ‘reasonable efforts’ to excise personal information from any data shared with the government. Pardon me, I think my heart stopped beating from overwhelming gratitude.

We will be watching closely for any new developments, but as is customary in these situations, we cannot assume things will work out in our favor. By all means, call your representative if you’d like to make certain your feelings about CISPA are known.

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6 Comments on Beware: CISPA Gets Closed-Door Hearing Tomorrow


On April 10, 2013 at 1:15 am

And so we run, head ducked and ears covered, from fiction to reality into the realm of 1984. . . .


On April 10, 2013 at 5:05 am

This will be thrown out. It must be thrown out. As out of touch as many politicians are I refuse to believe that this will make it to law.


On April 10, 2013 at 10:05 am

You know some days it feels like the constitution and bill of rights aren’t worth the paper they’re written on. This is one of those days.

I’m pretty sure (not a constitutional lawyer) that what this bill legalizes and demands qualifies as unlawful search and seizure.


On April 10, 2013 at 11:05 am

While I’m generally a proponent of copyright, a violation of copyright is pretty far from a threat to national security. A company might be mad that people take their games etc., but it’s a pretty unreasonable stretch to say that there is a threat to the nation anywhere in there.


On April 10, 2013 at 9:26 pm

So- which country do we move the internet’s fundamental infrastructure to now that the US is no longer a free or trustworthy place? As an Australian, I vote New Zealand. Because dammit, they’re good people.


On April 11, 2013 at 4:02 am

@quicktooth: As I understand the infrastructure of the internet, the infrastructure is relatively dispersed throughout the world at this point. There really is no way to maintain the stranglehold over it that they believe they can.