NSA-Friendly CISA Bill Easily Passes U.S. Senate; Snowden Attacks

CISA (Cybersecurity Information Sharing Act of 2015) easily passed through the U.S. Senate’s vote on Tuesday, creating a new avenue for consumer data sharing that benefits anti-privacy entities like the NSA

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NSA-Friendly CISA Bill Easily Passes U.S. Senate; Snowden Attacks

The largest tech companies in the world, from Google and Apple, to Reddit and Twitter, issued statements condemning the cyber-security bill called CISA, but to no avail. CISA (Cybersecurity Information Sharing Act of 2015) easily passed through the U.S. Senate’s vote on Tuesday, creating a new avenue for consumer data sharing that benefits anti-privacy entities like the NSA, reports The Guardian.

CISA vote cruises through Senate

The vote was attended and levied by 95 of the 100 U.S. Senators, as five either abstained or missed the voting process entirely. The five Senators who didn’t vote were Cruz (R-TX), Graham (R-SC), Presidential hopeful Rand Paul (R-KY), Rubio (R-FL), and Vitter (R-LA). The vote was a landslide in favor of CISA, with a 74-21 vote in favor of its passage.

The Senators who voted against it were Baldwin (D-WI), Booker (D-NJ), Brown (D-OH), Cardin (D-MD), Coons (D-DE), Crapo (R-ID), Daines (R-MT), Franken (D-MN), Heller (R-NV), Leahy (D-VT), Lee (R-UT), Markey (D-MA), Menendez (D-NJ), Merkley (D-OR), Risch (R-ID), Presidential hopeful Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Sullivan (R-AK), Tester (D-MT), Udall (D-NM), Warren (D-MA), and Wyden (D-OR).

In short, New Jersey, Vermont, Oregon, Montana, Idaho, and Massachusetts were the only ones to have both Senators vote against the bill.

The bill was introduced by co-sponsors Richard Burr and Dianne Feinstein, both committee chairmen for the Senate Intelligence Committee back in March. The Cybersecurity Information Sharing Act of 2015 does exactly what the title describes. It creates a program at the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), through which corporations could share user data in bulk with several US government agencies.

In exchange for participating, the companies would receive complete immunity from Freedom of Information Act requests and regulatory action relating to the data they share. DHS would then share the information throughout the government.

Criticism & support

The list of parties attacking this bill is extensive, in addition to most of the major technology and internet corporations. Edward Snowden made his thoughts clear through a torrent of attacks on his new Twitter account over the past week.

Additionally, The Princeton Center for Information Technology Policy recently sent an open letter to the Senate, urging them not to pass the bill. They surmised that the bill would fatally undermine the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). They also said the following:

“The Freedom of Information Act would be neutralized while a cornucopia of federal agencies could have access to the public’s heretofore private-held information with little fear that such sharing would ever be known to those whose information was shared.”

Two other parts of CISA’s progression through Congress were somewhat telling. Support for the bill came from places like the American Banking Association, the Telecommunications Industry Association (TIA), the Wall Street Journal, and the Washington Post. 

Secondly, even though the co-sponsors argued vehemently that CISA was not an Internet user surveillance bill, co-sponsors Richard Burr and Dianne Feinstein discouraged their colleagues from voting for amendments to mitigate what senators called unreasonable invasions of privacy, including one notifying citizens that their data was being examined. Amendments from Ron Wyden, Al Franken, Patrick Leahy, Dean Heller, and Chris Coons all failed.

“We don’t support the current CISA proposal,” Apple said in a statement last week. “The trust of our customers means everything to us and we don’t believe security should come at the expense of their privacy.”

What happens now?

The vote by the House of Representatives is next. The bill must next be conferenced together with three similar bills that already passed by the House of Representatives, after which it will be voted on again. Stopping three bills that are already supported, grouped with the new CISA bill will be difficult. This procedure will likely be even quicker and smoother than in the Senate.

For those who do not wish to see this passed by their state’s representatives, contacting them in the short-term would be a good idea. That might be the last stop for this level of consumer privacy and checks against agencies looking for maximum access to personal information, like the NSA.

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