Sometimes it may not seem like it, but American citizens have rights that are protected by the Constitution. In the aftermath of 9/11, there were cases when some of these rights were whittled down to stubs. But now New York City's Mayor Michael Bloomberg has hefted an axe and wielded it down on the very paper our country was founded on; he proclaimed that to provide greater security, America’s interpretation of the Constitution will “have to change.”
No one wants another Boston Marathon bombing situation, so there’s been a huge outcry for more surveillance cameras; if you care about privacy and civil liberties, then you knew it was coming, and according to Mayor Bloomberg, “We have to understand that in the world going forward, we’re going to have more cameras and that kind of stuff.” Yet you might not have been prepared for this: in a press conference covered by Politicker, Mayor Bloomberg stated:
The people who are worried about privacy have a legitimate worry. But we live in a complex world where you’re going to have to have a level of security greater than you did back in the olden days, if you will. And our laws and our interpretation of the Constitution, I think, have to change.
Oh hell no!
But Bloomberg was just warming up. He added, “Look, we live in a very dangerous world. We know there are people who want to take away our freedoms.” He played the “it’s-for-the-safety-of-the-children” card before explaining that we need a new and improved, “appropriate level of protection.” In what seems like doublespeak, he added, “What we can't do is let the protection get in the way of us enjoying our freedoms.” He was talking specifically about how we can’t label certain groups as terrorists because "that would let the terrorists win. That's what they want us to do."
No, Mayor Bloomberg, taking away our interpretation of the Constitution that protects our civil liberties, that makes us America, is letting the terrorists win! He said, “We cannot let the terrorist put us in a situation where we can’t do those things.” Oh, like taking photos? Security and privacy expert Bruce Schneier pointed out this piece of hypocrisy: “After years of warning us that photography is suspicious, the police were happy to accept all of those amateur photographs and videos at the Boston Marathon.”
But if you buy into the be-very-scared hype, then you might think the Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act (CISPA) is a good thing. In fact, Stewart Baker, a former DHS official under President George W. Bush, seized the Boston bombing as an opportunity to attack the EFF and ACLU. Techdirt described it as “something comes along that swaggers right up to you and punches you in the face with its breathtaking imbecility.” That’s because Baker said the bombing proved just how wrong the ACLU and EFF are about CISPA and surveillance. The Volokh Conspiracy filed it under “Fool me once . . . “
Plenty of folks are worried about what will happen if CISPA passes, based on the kinds of misuse, abuse and mission creep we’ve seen in the past. “The Freedom of Information Act is a cornerstone for public oversight of government activity.” The Sunlight Foundation warned, “Wholesale exemptions for ‘cyber threat information’ will prevent public oversight and deny citizens and watchdogs the ability to understand how the government and businesses communicate about and respond to cyber threats.” Furthermore, “CISPA and the SECURE IT Act give government officials broad new powers and the current FOIA provisions provide them with blanket protection from public scrutiny.”
If you don’t give a rat’s hiney about FOIA and the protections We the People are afforded via the United States Constitution, then how about straight-up cybersecurity logic about why it’s a terrible idea to dump all that data in a huge, shared federal pile? The Register reported that the head of a security firm said "the legislation could create several problems, not least of which was the equivalent of sticking a giant 'Hack Me' sign on the government's info stores.”
Amichai Shulman, CTO at Imperva, said that the policy would theoretically create more repositories of data for government to analyze but warned that the gathering of threat data would be accompanied by the potential risk of hacker attacks against the newly established info hubs. Shulman also spoke of the possibility of bureaucratic creep (ie, data on info hubs being used for purposes other than security analysis, Big Data number crunching) and said the info hubs were a potential target for attack.
Although President Obama has threatened to veto CISPA, it’s in the Senate’s hands; thankfully they are currently “too busy.” CISPA cyber spying has been called “worse than the Patriot Act,” but if you don’t believe that, then please read up about it! With the current wording, it will shred your privacy. There are websites protesting CISPA, but some of the biggest players like Google and Wikipedia are silent. Netizens were exhausted after the SOPA fight, but “CISPA is a comprehensive con job designed to pull the veil over the eyes of the world.” If, in the aftermath of the Boston bombing, you fall for the fear-factor con job to strip away the protections we have via our constitution, then the terrorist have won.
It’s not like there’s no cybersecurity issues that need work right now to provide the “appropriate level of protection.” Perhaps the professionals can instead work on securing our critical infrastructure first? Here’s an idea, first secure the computer network on the U.S. Navy’s Littoral Combat Ship, The USS Freedom, which “is vulnerable to hacking.” Defense Department spokeswoman Jennifer Elzea told Bloomberg that Michael Gilmore, the Pentagon’s director of weapons testing, “recommended those vulnerabilities be remediated without delay.”