Yesterday, the House of Representatives passed the Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act (CISPA), a bill the ACLU described as:
. . . a dangerously overbroad bill that would allow companies to share our private and sensitive information with the government without a warrant and without proper oversight.A broad coalition of privacy and civil liberties groups, including my organization, the Government Accountability Project, opposed CISPA:
CISPA creates an exception to all privacy laws to permit companies to share our information with each other and with the government in the name of cybersecurity.Even the White House opposes the bill, and, commendably, Obama threatened to veto CISPA.
The ACLU pointed out more specifically that
CISPA gives companies the authority to share that information with the National Security Agency or other elements of the Department of Defense, who could keep it forever.(emphasis added).
The House passed CISPA, which would legalize the National Security Agency's (NSA) warrantless access to troves of innocent Americans' information with no oversight, despite the fact that NSA whistleblower Bill Binney came forward before the CISPA vote with explosive disclosures about NSA's massive, warrantless domestic spying program, Stellar Wind, including:
* The first public description of Stellar Wind, the NSA’s massive domestic spying program, which has the capacity to intercept trillions of domestic electronic communications of Americans, including e-mails, phone calls, and internet activities.So, does whistleblowing matter? Apparently not to the House of Representatives, but it should matter to the American people, whose privacy CISPA eviscerates, and to the Senate, which will soon take up its version of CISPA.
* Revealing NSA employee Ben Gunn as the organizer of Stellar Wind. A senior NSA analyst who worked with Binney, GAP client J. Kirk Wiebe, also blew the whistle on Gunn’s role, stating: “One day I notice out in the hallway, stacks and stacks of new servers in boxes just lined up . . . I walk in and I almost get thrown out by a guy that we knew named Ben Gunn.”
* That Stellar Wind gave the NSA warrantless access to telecommunications companies’ massive domestic and international billing records, amounting to an estimated “over a billion and a half calls a day.” . . .
* That since 9/11, the NSA has intercepted an estimated “between 15 and 20 trillion” electronic transactions.
* That the scope of Stellar Wind is much larger than what was previously publicly known “Binney says Stellar Wind was far larger than has been publicly disclosed and included not just eavesdropping on domestic phone calls but the inspection of domestic email.”
* That the patriotic-sounding “Terrorist Surveillance Program” was used as a cover for Stellar Wind: “But it was grouped with Stellar Wind and some other programs, so that they could give cover to it, talk about some programs, say they’re talking about the Terrorist Surveillance Program, but it was basically a group of programs, some of which they did not want to talk about.”
[BINNEY]. . . .but after 9/11, all the wraps came off for NSA, and they decided to—between the White House and NSA and CIA, they decided to eliminate the protections on U.S. citizens and collect on domestically. So they started collecting from a commercial—the one commercial company that I know of that participated provided over 300—probably, on the average, about 320 million records of communication of a U.S. citizen to a U.S. citizen inside this country.(emphasis added).
AMY GOODMAN: What company?
WILLIAM BINNEY: AT&T. It was long-distance communications. So they were providing billing data. At that point, I knew I could not stay, because it was a direct violation of the constitutional rights of everybody in the country. Plus it violated the pen register law and Stored Communications Act, the Electronic Privacy Act, the intelligence acts of 1947 and 1978. I mean, it was just this whole series of—plus all the laws covering federal communications governing telecoms. I mean, all those laws were being violated, including the Constitution.
Watch it here:
Yet despite these explosive disclosures, the House passed CIPSA. As the House was poised to vote on CIPSA, Michelle Richardson of the ACLU also appeared on Democracy Now! and articulated CIPSA's dangerous overreach:
Current law now creates a presumption of privacy in our phone calls, emails and internet records, and they say that companies have to keep them private unless there’s an emergency or the government serves them with a subpoena or warrant. And in one fell swoop, this bill will say that these privacy laws simply no longer apply. So, all of the process afforded under those laws, the protections, the congressional reporting, the role of a judge, all of that is swept away in one bill and will allow companies to decide how much and what type of information they want to turn over to the government. And it can include incredibly sensitive information, like the content of emails or internet use history. There’s no obligation on the companies to extract the personally identifiable information . . .As for why major corporations are supporting this bill, Richardson offered a deft explanation:
Last I heard, all of the major corporations that are involved with the internet are supporting this CISPA, the Rogers bill. And frankly, they’re going to make out like bandits. Under this bill, if they share our private information, they get complete protection from liability. Consumers will no longer be able to assert their privacy rights that exist under current law and hold them accountable in court. They can’t be prosecuted by the government like they currently can for illegal wiretapping or sharing information. They’re getting FOIA exemptions, so that no one will ever know about these breaches or the things that they share with the government. They’re really walking away here with maximum flexibility to share our personal information with minimum accountability and no enforcement to make sure that they are not oversharing and infringing on our privacy.Watch the full interview here:
Binney's whistleblowing should matter enough to stop our elected officials from affording NSA the legal power to collect and store information on innocent Americans without court oversight. Congress already made the mistake once of "legalizing" what was illegal NSA behavior - the FISA Amendment's Act of 2008 - complete with retroactive immunity for private companies who handed over Americans' data to the government. CIPSA would go even further, and as Bill Binney courageously disclosed, the NSA has proven time and again that it cannot stay within the law. If there was a ever a time for Congress to listen to a whistleblower, that time is now.