"Lying in a featherbed will bring you no fame, nor staying beneath the quilt, and he who uses up his life without achieving fame leaves no more vestige of himself on Earth than smoke in the air or foam upon the water." -Dante Alighieri
Over the past few weeks, a new SOPA-esque bill has come to fruition in the United States Congress called the Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act (CISPA). The goal of the bill is to amend the National Security Act of 1947 and add provisions making legal the "voluntary" sharing of data between private corporations and the government with little to no judicial oversight. Enormous ramifications of First, Fourth, and Sixth Amendment violations aside, one of the primary purposes of the bill allowed for the federal government to go on the attack against websites and individual citizens for "misappropriation of private ... intellectual property," among many other provisions. If that sounds highly ambiguous, that is because it very much is, and that is the problem with this bill: it is extremely broad and allows for nearly any kind of speech or action to be deemed a threat to homeland security so long as the action is done with a computer.
Many politicians knew from the fallout of SOPA how toxic bills like these are, and knew to back off and not touch these issues without a better understanding and refinement Internet policies with technology companies highly involved (more on this later). However, that 'Congressional wisdom' (accepting nominations for Oxymoron of 2012) has been thrown out the door recently with the increasing number of co-signers and the abrupt push for a vote, passing 248-168. Sadly, that is not even the worst part.
Prior to that highly-rare ahead-of-schedule voting, amendments were debated, many of which were passed. The most dangerous of which was Amendment #6, defining what the government can do with shared information. Previously, CISPA was limited to uses involving "cybersecurity" or "national security" purposes, which have now been expanded to include investigation and prosecution of cybersecurity crime, protection of individuals, and--was anyone really surprised by this one?--protection of children.
As stated by Mike Masnick of Techdirt:
"Basically this means CISPA can no longer be called a cybersecurity bill at all. The government would be able to search information it collects under CISPA for the purposes of investigating American citizens with complete immunity from all privacy protections as long as they can claim someone committed a "cybersecurity crime". Basically it says the 4th Amendment does not apply online, at all. Moreover, the government could do whatever it wants with the data as long as it can claim that someone was in danger of bodily harm, or that children were somehow threatenedâ€”again, notwithstanding absolutely any other law that would normally limit the government's power. Somehow, incredibly, this was described as limiting CISPA, but it accomplishes the exact opposite. This is very, very bad."
Essentially, CISPA now blatantly violates at least three constitutional amendments:
* First Amendment - Since any action committed with a computer can be deemed a threat to national security by the broad strokes of CISPA, any speech can be stifled and censored if it is not well-liked by the government or its participants. For example, in part of the definition of CISPA, any "efforts to degrade, disrupt, or destroy [a] system or network" qualify. A user merely posting dissenting opinions, trolling or not, in a community or environment that highly disagrees with them can be considered an "effort to disrupt," and thus is a national security threat under the law. As an example, consider the mere existence of The Pirate Bay and Wikileaks.
* Fourth Amendment - Simply put, CISPA grants immunity for any corporate participation with or without a warrant or judicial oversight of any kind. Much like the highly controversial FISA Amendments Act of 2008, CISPA grants immunity to corporations that provide data to the government, regardless of Fourth Amendment protections against illegal search and seizure. Furthermore, CISPA grants the government free reign to shut down websites (and even individual citizens' communication privileges), much like the PRO-IP Act of 2008 granted the government the ability to shut down and seize websites over the past few years.
* Sixth Amendment - The Sixth Amendment secures the rights to a speedy and fair trial, and the notice of accusation and confrontation clause ensure a defendant will be made aware of the accusations against him without worry of hearsay being admissible. All of these constitutionally-guaranteed rights of the Sixth Amendment are ignored in CISPA, where--again, much like in the PRO-IP Act--the government is granted the right to secretly accuse, accept third-party unchallenged evidence, and pass judgment on sites and even individual citizens without any Sixth Amendment rights.
Lastly, earlier we had mentioned that one of the largest outcries against SOPA was the complete and utter lack of the technology community's involvement. As a ridiculous maneuver to gain technology community clout, somehow the authors and supporters of CISPA managed to wrangle the support of Facebook, Intel, Microsoft, and at least 25 other companies as a gesture of "Hey, they are involved now, so everything is okay!" This has already drawn the ire of Internet communities.
As stated earlier, the toxicity of such bills was well known after the SOPA fallout, but now that PATRIOT Act-level accusations of terrorism and "think of the children" can be tacked on, coupled with laughable technology community support, all Congressional memory of SOPA and its backlash have long since been forgotten. This is incomprehensibly unacceptable and must not be allowed to continue.