“This is a privacy nightmare that will eventually result in the military substantially monitoring the domestic, civilian Internet,” said Michelle Richardson of the American Civil Liberties Union.
Unlike the Democratic-led alternative supported by Majority Leader Harry Reid, the McCain bill stresses voluntary information sharing instead of regulation of critical industries by the Department of Homeland Security. McCain’s bill was introduced last week.
But the types of information that could be shared are broad, and the data would go to “cybersecurity centers” that specifically include the National Security Agency’s Threat Operations Center and the U.S. Cyber Command Joint Operations Center.
The bill says private companies such as Internet service providers could send the defense agencies evidence such as “network activity or protocols known to be associated with a malicious cyber actor or that may signify malicious intent.”
Neither “network activity” nor “malicious intent” are defined in the bill, and they could theoretically encompass ordinary emails containing legal protest speech.
A staffer working on the bill who spoke on condition he not be named said nothing in the legislation would allow sharing of emails that did not pertain to attacks on information security systems and that acts of civil disobedience would be off-limits.
As troubling to civil libertarians as the scope of the data are the destination agencies and the lack of recourse. Companies that tip off federal officials would be protected from lawsuits and criminal charges over what they pass along.
A Senate aide, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the Senate is unlikely to pass either the McCain bill or the Democratic version and that talks on a possible compromise could begin in the coming weeks.
President Obama’s proposed legislation, like the omnibus bill Reid wants, would leave DHS in charge of cybersecurity. DHS could ask for help from the NSA, but would be subject to closer oversight than actions led by the NSA and other parts of the Defense Department.
McCain last month said he wanted the NSA to be more involved, and the agency is seen as having greater defensive and offensive capability. Under his bill, which was co-authored by seven other Republicans, the cybersecurity centers could use the information they get to investigate crime and for “a national security purpose.”
The NSA has powerful eavesdropping tools and is ordinarily barred from turning them on U.S. persons not suspected of working for foreign powers. A law that gave the major U.S. telephone carriers immunity for past cooperation with the agency permits greater surveillance with approval of a court that meets in secret.
A number of cybersecurity bills, generally with a narrower focus, are also pending in the House of Representatives.
Here we go again. It makes you wonder why so many are willing to give up their freedoms and rights indiscriminately without safeguards.
Thanks to Joseph Mann and Reuters, and
Thanks for “listening”
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