The US government seems to be adopting the attitude that it is an omniscient entity divinely bestowed to pursue its sacrosanct goal to mess up the internet. The defenders of online freedom were still dancing on the grave of SOPA/PIPA
when from the depths of the unmitigated paranoia that begat those evil twins arose an aberrant cousin CISPA (Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act), a bill whose drafters learned well from the failure of its predecessors. Therefore, instead of being proposed under the guise of copyright protection, CISPA is a weapon in the war against terrorism, which for the eleven years since that fateful September day has become the most hallowed and inviolable tenet on The Hill.
In 11 Years Al Qaeda Has Not Stubbed Anyone’s Toes in the USA
It is not making light of the horror of 9/11 to state that a handful of deluded extremist lunatics single-handedly changed America forever. However, it has to be noted that in the eleven years since, bona fide Al Qaeda terrorists have not managed to stub the toe of a citizen on American soil (Little Rock’s Abdulhakim Muhammed is regarded as a copycat, not a card-carrying Al Qaeda member). Most credit the sterling work of the Department of Homeland Security rather than the fortunate incapacity of Bin Laden’s hapless crew to carry out any missions at all in that time in the United States.
Reps. Mike Rogers (R-MI) and C.A. “Dutch” Ruppersberger (D-MD) have shrewdly drafted their bill to track the sordid and wretched activities of said real or imagined terrorists, along with foreign states and hackers everywhere. It would be difficult to find any measurable opposition to such admirable goals, since if legislation were to be proposed tomorrow that all Americans should wear propeller beanie hats to combat terrorism it would likely be supported by the majority of the population.
Downloading a Movie Is Technically “Degrading a Network”
There is little doubt that the cyberactivities of government-sponsored hackers primarily in China need to be stopped as they have tapped a straw into America’s intelligence lifeblood and are sucking the country dry. The problem is that there is a phrase that has chilled the blood of the informed: The bill utilizes the wording “notwithstanding any other provision of law,” which insinuates that CISPA becomes a supra-Constitutional overlord with unlimited powers. “Efforts to degrade, disrupt or destroy” a network would become the subject of CISPA investigations, but opponents maintain that the wording could be used to squash pirate content as downloading a large file like a movie could be defined as an attempt to degrade a network!
CISPA: For Cybersecurity Only?
CISPA also exempts private companies from liability when they turn over private user information, opening the door to Google, Facebook, et al. to open up a conduit to the National Security Agency where every keystroke is registered and tracked sans the formalities of a warrant. The American Civil Liberties Union has claimed that “for 40 years we have had legislation about wiretapping that protects people. This would overturn that and make a cyber-exception.” The Electronic Frontier Foundation chimes in with the observation that CISPA “should be used for cybersecurity purposes only, but the bill doesn't say that.” Therein lies the fundamental problem with the bill: It’s couched in well-meaning terms to obfuscate a mechanism that can be widely abused to cyberspy on the online activities of any and every American. And if history has taught us anything at all, it is that even the most well-intentioned initiative can be hijacked for purposes far more nefarious than were immediately evident when it was created.
If you’re getting the feeling that “here we go again” with SOPA/PIPA under another name you’re not only quite correct, but also too late. The bill is due to be passed any day now and it should be law soon unless the Administration vetoes it. Even then, the driving compulsion to subjugate the internet will likely just be embodied under the guise of another bill... until it finally becomes the law of the land.