Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Add CISPA to the List of Reasons Why Washington Sucks

There was apparently an internet blackout two days ago to protest the Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act (CISPA), which sailed through the U.S. House of Representatives late last week while all eyes were on Boston and now moves to the U.S. Senate. I didn’t know about it until yesterday – and that was by reading a meme, not visiting a favorite website and finding it black.

According to

CISPA would allow federal agencies unlimited access to nearly all of your personal data and online communications without a warrant. It would provide legal immunity to companies that collect and share your information with the federal government, which might mean businesses can’t be sued or charged with crimes for collecting and sharing that information - even shielding that sharing from transparency mechanisms like the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA).

“What’s the Diehl?” participated in a similar blackout – this one relating to the “Stop Online Piracy Act” (SOPA) and “Preventing Real Online Threats to Economic Creativity and Theft of Intellectual Property Act of 2011” (PIPA) – back in January of last year (see “SOPA/PIPA Blackout,” January 17, 2012). It seems like the opposition was a lot more united that time, which might have something to do with the fact that none of our major cities had been shuttered like a cottage in winter as two teenage terrorists threatened the citizenry.

My own congressman, Mike Rogers, the Über-Republican who chairs the House Intelligence Committee and is CISPA’s co-sponsor, says his bill strikes "that right balance between our privacy, civil liberties and stopping bad guys in their tracks from ruining what is one-sixth of the U.S. economy."

It’ll stop the bad guys, huh Mike? I guess if I was a G-Man in my former life (Rogers was in the FBI from 1989 to 1994), I’d see things in black and white too. Judging by Rogers’ voting record, I’m not entirely convinced he has my best interests at heart.

It’s true that foreign hackers are a threat to banks and other businesses – some say hackers from Russia, China and Eastern Europe are especially aggressive and sophisticated – but I’m not crazy about granting businesses who are hacked complete legal immunity as long as they “acted in good faith” to secure our information and protect their networks.

This “in good faith” thing is so subjective.

Surprisingly, 92 House Democrats voted for CISPA, which is co-sponsored by Congressman Dutch Ruppersberger (D-MD). I wonder if this has anything to do with the fact that deep-pocketed corporations like Intel, IBM, Time Warner Cable, AT&T, Facebook, Google and Verizon support the bill.

It sure is good to know that when the going gets tough and the media fixate on Beantown, progressives can count on the Democrats in Congress to protect our privacy and personal information. Not.

The Senate isn’t pledging to take on CISPA anytime soon – see “CISPA bill in limbo after it passed House; Senate too busy” – and President Obama’s promised to veto it if it does reach his desk. If the Senate does act on it, we’ll see if he had his fingers crossed behind his back when he made this promise.

If you’re not comfortable putting all your eggs in the basket labeled POTUS, the U.S. Senate switchboard is 202-224-3121.

Sources: Mother Jones,, Associated Press, Project VoteSmart.

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