CISA Added to Omnibus Bill — "They Took a Bad Bill and Made It Worse."

Pretending is over - the 'Cybersecurity Information Sharing Act' is now a blatant surveillance bill.

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Anyone who is paying attention and cares about their civil rights couldn’t help but notice two things that have occurred recently. First, Congress just stopped pretending that the Cybersecurity Information Sharing Act (CISA) was a cyber-security bill, turning it into a blatant surveillance bill. Second, they jammed it into the Omnibus bill, a bill that must pass.

techdirt reports they have a source involved with the CISA negotiations and they claim there are four troubling things about it. First, it drops the prohibition on sharing information with the National Security Agency, It also removed the limits on using the data for “surveillance” reasons, along with removing the limits keeping government agencies from using it for anything other than cyber-security. Finally, it removes the mandate that personal information unrelated to a cyber security threat be “scrubbed.”

This was the key point that everyone kept making about why the information should go to DHS first — where DHS would be in charge of this “scrub”. The “scrub” process was a bit exaggerated in the first place, but it was at leastsomething of a privacy protection. However, it appears that the final version being pushed removes the scrub requirement (along with the requirement to go to DHS) and instead leaves the question of scrubbing to the “discretion” of whichever agency gets the information.

In another post, techdirt reports that there might be some pushback to the bill:

There is some opposition within Congress to this. We’ve seen a “Dear Colleague” letter sent around by a set of four members of Congress (two from each party) — Reps. Zoe Lofgren, Justin Amash, Jared Polis and Ted Poe — opposing this move, but chances are that most members of Congress actually have no idea that this is happening, which is why you should be calling today to let them know how problematic this is.

That’s bipartisan opposition. Rep. Justin Amash is a libertarian minded Republican, while Rep. Jared Polis is a progressive Democrat.

It’s also likely that one of the senators running for President of the United States might make a stand against it. Sen. Rand Paul is a staunch opponent of CISA. In August, Paul offered amendments on the bill.

“This bill says that if a company violates [the privacy agreement] in sharing your information, that there will be legal immunity for that company,” Paul said on the Senate floor according to The Hill. “I think that weakens privacy.”

“It makes your privacy agreement not really worth the paper it’s written on.”

His amendments were rejected in October.

It might not be a libertarian minded Republican that takes the stand on this one. Self-described Democratic Socialist Sen. Bernie Sanders also opposed CISA, voting against its passage.

According to Wired, Sen. Ron Wyden is against it also, writing in a press release that “Americans deserve policies that protect both their security and their liberty. This bill fails on both counts.”

The trouble is, CISA is now part of the Omnibus bill, a must-pass bill:

Lumping CISA in with the omnibus bill further reduces any chance for debate over its surveillance-friendly provisions, or a White House veto. And the latest version actually chips away even further at the remaining personal information protections that privacy advocates had fought for in the version of the bill that passed the Senate.

“They took a bad bill, and they made it worse,” says Robyn Greene, policy counsel for the Open Technology Institute.

And since any vote against the Omnibus bill is a vote against the entire budget, which threatens a government shutdown during Christmas.

Do you see that happening?

The only scenario that makes sense is if one of the presidential candidates wants to get some free press by making a stand for privacy, which any of them might.

What do you think about all this? Tell us in the comments.

Photo Credit: Kurhan/123rf



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