Last-Minute Budget Bill Allows New Privacy-Invading Surveillance in the Name of Cybersecurity

The Intercept, By Jenna McLaughlin, December 18

In the wake of a series of humiliating cyberattacks, the imperative in Congress and the White House to do something — anything — in the name of improving cybersecurity was powerful.

But only the most cynical observers thought the results would be this bad.

The legislation the House passed on Friday morning is a thinly disguised surveillance bill that would give companies pathways they don’t need to share user data related to cyberthreats with the government — while allowing the government to use that information for any purpose, with almost no privacy protections.

Because Speaker of the House Paul Ryan slipped the provision into the massive government omnibus spending bill that had to pass — or else the entire government would have shut down — it was doomed to become law. (This post has been updated to reflect the vote, which was 316 to 113.)

The text of the bill — now known as the Cybersecurity Act of 2015, formerly known as CISA — wasn’t released until shortly after midnight Wednesday morning, giving members of Congress essentially no time to do anything about it.


“The bill is all the worst parts” of the different cybersecurity bills negotiated in recent months, Nathan White, senior legislative manager for Access Now, told The Intercept. “It was negotiated in secret. … It’s a sneaky process they’ve used.”

Can we call it Fascism now? The state and the corporations are pretty well welded at the hip.

Zero Hedge: CISA Is Now The Law: How Congress Quietly Passed The Second Patriot Act
Wired: Congress Slips CISA Into a Budget Bill That’s Sure to Pass
Washington Post: Senate passes cybersecurity information sharing bill despite privacy fears, October 27
AP: Massive year-end spending bill includes cybersecurity act, December 16

Esquire, Charlie Pierce: The Senate’s New ‘Give the NSA All Your Private Info’ Bill Would Make George Orwell Blush, October 28
Quartz: The new US cybersecurity bill will invade your privacy, but it won’t keep you safe, November 8
The Guardian: Congress just revived the surveillance state in the name of ‘cybersecurity’

Los Angeles Times: President Obama signs massive year-end tax cut and spending package

While conducted largely in secret, the talks between congressional leaders and the White House established a new model for conducting business under Ryan’s tenure. The top four congressional leaders never met as a group. Instead, work was outsourced to committee leaders, part of Ryan’s attempt to decentralize power and involve more lawmakers in decision-making.

Obama called Ryan after the vote, thanking him for “making this work so we didn’t have a shutdown,” the speaker told reporters at his office in the Capitol. The president invited Ryan to dinner at the White House in the new year.

This was all the LAT had to say about the CISA provisions:

The package also included cybersecurity reforms that will nudge companies to disclose cyberattacks, and shield them from some liability if they aid government investigations.

Cisa amendment would allow US to jail foreigners for crimes committed abroad, October 22
Senate passes controversial cybersecurity bill Cisa 74 to 21, October 27
Senate committee passes CISA cybersecurity bill that could broaden NSA powers, July 8, 2014

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