Imagine having government-approved employees embedded at Facebook, complete with federal security clearances, serving as conduits for secret information about their American customers.
That’s not a hypothetical — those words are a verbatim excerpt from concerned GOP presidential hopeful, Congressman Ron Paul. The Republican representative from Texas asks Americans to consider that draconian dilemma before it becomes a reality. It will all be possible under a new bill slated for discussion on Capitol Hill this week.
The legislation in question is CISPA — the Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act — and the United States Congress is expected to meet in Washington, DC this week to propose advancing the bill all the way to the White House.
In an address released to the public on early Monday this week, Congressman Paul addresses to his supporters his concerns over the bill by outlining just what really the federal government could accomplish if it can move CISPA all the way to the oval office for President Barack Obama’s approval.
The bill is being touted as a necessary legislation to crack down on threats of cyber terrorism. What is really being done behind the damning verbiage, though, is something much worse, warns Paul.
“CISPA is essentially an Internet monitoring bill that permits both the federal government and private companies to view your private online communications with no judicial oversight, provided, of course, that they do so in the name of cyber security,” he explains.
Although advertised as an implement to ensure national safety, the lawmakers that penned CISPA were not exactly clear as to what constitutes cyber security when drafting the bill. The result, warns Paul, is a legislation that, if passed, will let the government pry into the personal correspondence of anyone in America if the feds believe that, by their interpretation, it poses some sort of threat to the country.
“The bill is very broadly written and allows the Department of Homeland Security to obtain large swabs of personal information contained in your email or other online communications,” warns the presidential hopeful. “It also allows email and other private information fund online to be used for purposes far beyond any reasonable definition of fighting cyber terrorism.”
The House and Senate considered similar laws earlier this year, but in those instances, huge online protests were waged against the bills in question — the Stop Online Piracy Act and the Protect Intellectual Property Act, or SOPA and PIPA, respectively. After national outrage erupted over both of those proposed laws, the American public saw to it that both acts were eradicated before the president could approve them. Only a few months down the road, however, Ron Paul says that the same censorship clauses attempted by Congress only weeks earlier are once again up for debate, only under a new name.
“We should never underestimate the federal government’s insatiable desire to control the Internet,” he says.
“CISPA represents an alarming form of corporatism as it further intertwines governments with companies like Google and Facebook,” continues the congressman. “It permits them to hand over your private communications to government officials without a warrant, circumventing the well-known established federal laws like the Wiretap Act and the Electronic Communications Privacy Act.
“It also grants them broad immunity from lawsuits for doing so, leaving you for without recourse for invasion of privacy,” he adds.
Opponents are already attacking Congress and those responsible for CISPA before the bill can be brought for another vote. With critics paling in numbers when compared to the backlash earlier this year against SOPA, however, it currently stands to be an uphill battle for proponents of an open Internet waging a war against what Paul calls a “Big Brother writ” that cuts into “the resources of the private industry to work for the nefarious purpose of spying on the American people.”
“We can only hope the American people will respond to CISPA as they did with SOPA back in January,” concludes the congressman.