Skip to main content

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.

* 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.”

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.

Binney made his explosive disclosures both in Wired Magazine (here and here), and on Democracy Now!:  

[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.

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.

(emphasis added).

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.

Originally posted to Jesselyn Radack on Fri Apr 27, 2012 at 05:15 AM PDT.

Also republished by Anonymous Dkos.

Your Email has been sent.
You must add at least one tag to this diary before publishing it.

Add keywords that describe this diary. Separate multiple keywords with commas.
Tagging tips - Search For Tags - Browse For Tags


More Tagging tips:

A tag is a way to search for this diary. If someone is searching for "Barack Obama," is this a diary they'd be trying to find?

Use a person's full name, without any title. Senator Obama may become President Obama, and Michelle Obama might run for office.

If your diary covers an election or elected official, use election tags, which are generally the state abbreviation followed by the office. CA-01 is the first district House seat. CA-Sen covers both senate races. NY-GOV covers the New York governor's race.

Tags do not compound: that is, "education reform" is a completely different tag from "education". A tag like "reform" alone is probably not meaningful.

Consider if one or more of these tags fits your diary: Civil Rights, Community, Congress, Culture, Economy, Education, Elections, Energy, Environment, Health Care, International, Labor, Law, Media, Meta, National Security, Science, Transportation, or White House. If your diary is specific to a state, consider adding the state (California, Texas, etc). Keep in mind, though, that there are many wonderful and important diaries that don't fit in any of these tags. Don't worry if yours doesn't.

You can add a private note to this diary when hotlisting it:
Are you sure you want to remove this diary from your hotlist?
Are you sure you want to remove your recommendation? You can only recommend a diary once, so you will not be able to re-recommend it afterwards.
Rescue this diary, and add a note:
Are you sure you want to remove this diary from Rescue?
Choose where to republish this diary. The diary will be added to the queue for that group. Publish it from the queue to make it appear.

You must be a member of a group to use this feature.

Add a quick update to your diary without changing the diary itself:
Are you sure you want to remove this diary?
(The diary will be removed from the site and returned to your drafts for further editing.)
(The diary will be removed.)
Are you sure you want to save these changes to the published diary?

Comment Preferences

Subscribe or Donate to support Daily Kos.

Click here for the mobile view of the site