n Thursday, [April 26, 2012] the U.S. House of Representatives passed the draconian Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act (H.R. 3523 or CISPA
) by a vote of 248-168, with 206 Republicans and 42 Democrats voting in favor.
If the legislation passes muster in the Senate and is signed by
President Obama (who has threatened a veto, but don't hold your breath),
it would allow private firms--internet service providers (ISPs),
telecoms and wireless providers--to hand over personal information about
users to law enforcement and security agencies.
This unprecedented power-grab by a cabal of giant corporations and
the federal government would take place under the guise of
"cybersecurity," the latest front in the secret state's assault on
Americans' civil liberties and privacy rights. While the bill's sponsors and supporters claim that any
"information-sharing" of personal data would be "voluntary," it would
occur without benefit of a warrant or a court order and automatically
"exempts such information from public disclosure."
Denouncing the bill, the ACLU's
Richardson said that CISPA's "biggest and most fundamental flaw" is
that it empowers "the military, including agencies like the NSA, to
collect the internet records of Americans' everyday internet use."
ISPA is the latest in a series of repressive measures that have
incrementally rolled-back the Bill of Rights since 1995's Oklahoma City
bombing and the 9/11 terrorist provocations. Under successive Democratic
and Republican administrations fundamental constitutional protections,
specifically those guaranteed by the First, Fourth and Fifth Amendments,
have been gutted.
Beginning with the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996 (AEDPA
which severely limited the rights of prisoners to obtain habeas corpus
relief from federal courts, 2001's Authorization for Use of Military
which handed the Executive Branch carte blanche to wage endless,
undeclared wars, and now the National Defense Authorization Act of 2012 (NDAA
which empowers the President to order the military to pick up and
indefinitely imprison anyone, anywhere in the world declared a
"terrorist," including American citizens detained on U.S. soil, without
charge or trial, the architecture of a police state is firmly in place.
"In the past decade," the Electronic Frontier Foundation's (EFF
Trevor Timm averred, "the amorphous phrase 'national security' has
invaded many arenas of government action, and has been used to justify
much activity that did not involve legitimate terrorist threats. The
most obvious (and odious) example is the unfortunately named USA-PATRIOT
Act, a law that was sold to the American public as essential to
combating terrorism, but which has overwhelmingly been applied to
ordinary American citizens never even suspected of terrorism."
Citing the example of the FBI, Timm pointed out that under the
rubric of "stopping terrorism" the Bureau "issued more than 192,000
National Security Letters to get Americans' business, phone or Internet
records without a warrant. These invasive letters--which come with a gag
order on the recipient so they can't even admit they received one--have
been used to gather information about untold number of ordinary
citizens, including journalists."
Indeed, "'Information sharing'--CISPA's mantra--has also created
privacy nightmares for everyday Americans in the name of national
security. The federal government routinely shares its massive national
security databases with local law enforcement agencies with predictable
Amongst CISPA's controversial provisions, the Director of National Intelligence (DNI), the Obergruppenführer of
America's 16-agency Intelligence Community, "shall issue guidelines
providing that the head of an element of the intelligence community may,
as the head of such element considers necessary to carry out this
subsection: (A) grant a security clearance on a temporary or permanent
basis to an employee or officer of a certified entity; (B) grant a
security clearance on a temporary or permanent basis to a certified
entity and approval to use appropriate facilities; and (C) expedite the
security clearance process for a person or entity as the head of such
element considers necessary, consistent with the need to protect the
national security of the United States."
Under "Definitions," (1) a "certified entity" is described as a
"protected entity, self-protected entity, or cybersecurity provider
that--(A) possesses or is eligible to obtain a security clearance, as
determined by the Director of National Intelligence; and (B) is able to
demonstrate to the Director of National Intelligence that such provider
or such entity can appropriately protect classified cyber threat
"(2) The term 'cyber threat information' means information 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--(A) efforts to degrade, disrupt,
or destroy such system or network; or (B) theft or misappropriation of
private or government information, intellectual property, or personally
identifiable information. (3) Cyber threat intelligence.--The term
'cyber threat intelligence' means 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--(A) efforts to degrade, disrupt, or destroy such
system or network; or (B) theft or misappropriation of private or
government information, intellectual property, or personally
According to this reading, a "certified entity" is any one of the
thousands of über-secretive "cybersecurity firms" with their stable of
"cleared" employees who hold top secret and above security clearances
who rely upon and do the bidding of their masters--corporate
shareholders and the federal government.
The bill's draconian language would in essence transform
investigative journalism and whistleblowing into a crime since "the
theft or misappropriation of private or government information,
intellectual property, or personally identifiable information" is precisely the meat and potatoes used by journalists and outraged citizens to uncover corporate and government lawbreaking.
Indeed under CISPA, the employees of firms such as the ultra-spooky Endgame Systems
, Lockheed Martin
or General Dynamics
, the designers of "boutique cyber weapons" for the government as BusinessWeek
last summer, would ply their dirty trade in destructive algorithmic
weapons with more than a wink-and-a-nod: they would be empowered to do
so and earn big bucks (courtesy of U.S. taxpayers) in the process!
To get a sense of some of the surveillance "products" which have
transformed private data into weaponized kit for the secret state,
readers are well-advised to peruse The Spyfiles
published last December by the whistleblowing web site WikiLeaks
"In the last ten years," WikiLeaks informed us, "systems for
indiscriminate, mass surveillance have become the norm. Intelligence
companies such as VASTech secretly sell equipment to permanently record
the phone calls of entire nations. Others record the location of every
mobile phone in a city, down to 50 meters. Systems to infect every
Facebook user, or smart-phone owner of an entire population group are on
the intelligence market."
To cite but one example culled from The Spyfiles, NICE Systems
founded by "retired" members of Israel's equivalent of the National
Security Agency, Unit 8200, has become a key player in the global
With decades of experience surveilling, tracking and repressing Palestinian and left-wing activists at home and abroad, the NiceTrack Mass Detection Center
a perfect tool that provides "nationwide interception, monitoring and
analysis" to enterprising securocrats who need a leg-up on home-grown
Accordingly, the Mass Detection Center "helps intelligence
organizations and national security agencies fight terrorism and reduce
national threat levels. It supports both mass and target monitoring
workflows and helps operators and analysts find new suspects, generate
new leads and monitor existing targets." Indeed, the software suite
"stores and analyzes all types of telephony and Internet content." We're
informed that "collecting and storing nationwide data enables
broadening the scope of target information and performing on-going and
NiceTrack Target 360° according to brochures published by WikiLeaks
the leading communication intercept system for tracking, monitoring,
and investigating targets' activities, securing 1.5 billion people
worldwide." Indeed, "the system is designed to provide Law Enforcement
Agencies (LEAs), intelligence organizations and SIGINT agencies with
hermetic 360° target monitoring by collecting, processing, retaining and
analyzing any type of communication activity."
Amongst the product's "Key Benefits" we learn that Target 360° can
"help" law enforcement "reduce crime, prevent terrorism" and "identify
other security threats" by providing "persistent situation awareness" of
a "target" through "advanced IP monitoring," "open source intelligence"
and "lawful hacking."
Additionally, Target 360° can "manage and efficiently structure
millions of internet activities and unstructured data into a simple and
meaningful intelligence picture." Target 360° "is designed to handle all
types of Web 2.0 internet applications, including Facebook, Twitter and
other social networks, forums, chats, and e-mails, and is scalable to
support new services" and can "be integrated with legacy systems for
telephony and mobile interception and provide a comprehensive solution
for all types of communication interception."
As numerous critics and journalists have pointed out, the
privatization of the government's intelligence and security functions,
theoretically transparent under provisions of the Freedom of Information
Act (FOIA), would, under CISPA, fall under the purview of the
Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and the National Security Agency
(NSA) where "disclosure" is little more than a euphemism for "down the
In all likelihood, privatized spooks would be exempt from revealing
the state's blanket surveillance of its citizens under any number of provisions
built into the Freedom of Information Act.
For example under section (b)(1), the secret state can prevent
"disclosure [of] national security information concerning the national
defense or foreign policy, provided that it has been properly classified
in accordance with the substantive and procedural requirements of an
Can you say "state secrets privilege," Sibel Edmonds
or Thomas Drake
Since, an "an employee or officer of a certified entity," i.e., a
private contractor, telecom or ISP will be empowered by Congress to
share user information with NSA and other departments of the federal
government, such information "shall be considered proprietary
information and shall not be disclosed to an entity outside of the
Federal Government except as authorized by the entity sharing such
Under CISPA it will be virtually impossible for the average citizen
to learn whether they have been spied upon since Section (b)(4) of FOIA
specifically protects "trade secrets and commercial or financial
information obtained from a person [that is] privileged or confidential.
This exemption is intended to protect the interest of both the
government and submitter of information."
And once an "employee or officer of a certified entity" has been
"read into" a CIA, FBI, DHS or NSA black program, they are automatically
exempt from disclosing such information to a lawful court since CISPA
"prohibits a civil or criminal cause of action against a protected
entity, a self-protected entity (an entity that provides goods or
services for cybersecurity purposes to itself), or a cybersecurity
provider acting in good faith under the above circumstances."
With CISPA, official lawbreaking is automatically precluded from
review by a lawful court and the average citizen, who may have lost
their job because of malicious or flawed data collected by a "certified
entity" will be stripped of their ability to obtain compensation from
deputized cyber snoops "acting in good faith."
Most controversially perhaps, the statute reads: "notwithstanding
any other provision of law," companies can share information "with any
other entity, including the federal government."
As CNET News
Declan McCullagh pointed out, "By including the word 'notwithstanding,'
House Intelligence Committee Chairman Mike Rogers (R-Mich.) and ranking
member Dutch Ruppersberger (D-Md.) intended to make CISPA trump all
existing federal and state civil and criminal laws."
Indeed, by inserting the word "notwithstanding" into the
legislation, it "would trump wiretap laws, Web companies' privacy
policies, gun laws, educational record laws, census data, medical
records, and other statutes that protect information," McCullagh wrote.
As noted above, "CISPA's authorization for information sharing
extends far beyond Web companies and social networks. It would also
apply to Internet service providers, including ones that already have an
intimate relationship with Washington officialdom," CNET reported.
"Large companies including AT&T and Verizon handed billions of
customer records to the NSA; only Qwest refused to participate,"
McCullagh reminded us. "Verizon turned over customer data to the FBI
without court orders. An AT&T whistleblower accused the company of
illegally opening its network to the NSA, a practice that the U.S.
Congress retroactively made legal in 2008."
What's to prevent firms such as Google, Facebook or Twitter from
turning over our private data to the government, after all, they have
their customers' best interests at heart as part of their business
model, right? Better think again!
The New York Times
Sunday that that "Google's harvesting of e-mails, passwords and other
sensitive personal information from unsuspecting households in the
United States and around the world was neither a mistake nor the work of
a rogue engineer, as the company long maintained, but a program that
supervisors knew about, according to new details from the full text of a
That report, prepared by the Federal Communications Commission
"draws a portrait of a company where an engineer can easily embark on a
project to gather personal e-mails and Web searches of potentially
hundreds of millions of people as part of his or her unscheduled work
time, and where privacy concerns are shrugged off."
"As early as 2007," the Times disclosed,
"Street View engineers had 'wide access' to the plan to collect payload
data. Five engineers tested the Street View code, a sixth reviewed it
line by line, and a seventh also worked on it, the report says."
"Google's rogue engineer scenario collapses in light of the fact
that others were aware of the project and did not object," Marc
Rotenberg, the executive director of the Electronic Privacy Information
Center told the Times. "This is what happens in the absence of enforcement and the absence of regulation."
Such practices will be infinitely worse under CISPA. Google's
harvesting of their customers' private data or Facebook's routine
cooperation with law enforcement "requests" for users' information could
in fact be turned over whenever an intelligence agency declares that
doing so is in the interest of national- or cybersecurity and we would
have no way of ever learning about it since harvested emails, web
searches and stored profiles could be deemed "proprietary information."
With a ginned-up panic over "cybersecurity" taking its place
alongside imperialism's other "wars" on "terror," "drugs" and "crime,"
the secret state's "unprecedented attacks on democratic rights, in which
the entire political establishment and both Democrats and Republicans
are participating," as the World Socialist Web Site
"must be understood as preemptive preparations by the political
establishment to meet the coming social upheavals with police state
is a researcher and activist based in the San Francisco Bay Area. In addition to publishing in Covert Action Quarterly
and Global Research
an independent research and media group of writers, scholars,
journalists and activists based in Montreal, he is a Contributing Editor
with Cyrano's Journal Today
. His articles can be read on Dissident Voice
, Pacific Free Press
, Uncommon Thought Journal
, and the whistleblowing website WikiLeaks
. He is the editor of Police State America: U.S. Military "Civil Disturbance" Planning
, distributed by AK Press
and has contributed to the new book from Global Research
, The Global Economic Crisis: The Great Depression of the XXI Century