Conservatives Don't Understand-- Or Don't Care-- That Protecting Online Privacy Is Crucial
Thursday Nancy Pelosi led almost all the Democrats against voting for Mike Rogers' invasive, pro-corporate Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act, H.R. 3523. In the end it passed the House 248-168. There were 42, mostly conservative, mostly extremely corrupt, Democrats-- led by money-grubbing DCCC chair Steve Israel-- who crossed the aisle to vote with the Republicans. They passed 28 Republicans crossing in the other direction.
Most of the for-sale Blue Dog scum-- remember, Israel is an "ex"-Blue Dog although "relapsed" is probably a better description-- voted with Boehner and Cantor as they usually do. Blue Dogs who buy into the GOP practice of taking corporate campaign cash for votes all backed CISPA: Altmire (PA), Barrow (GA), Bishop (GA), Boren (OK), Boswell (IA), Cardoza (CA), Chandler (KY), Cooper (TN), Costa (CA), Cuellar (TX), Donnelly (IN), Kissell (NC-- yes, he finally made it official 2 weeks ago and joined), Matheson (UT), McIntyre (NC), Peterson (MN), Ross (AR), Schrader (OR), Scott (GA), Shuler (NC), and Thompson (CA) as did ultra-conservatives not formally associated with the Blue Dogs, like Critz (PA), Hochul (NY), Lipinski (IL), Owens (NY), Ruppersberger (MD), and Towns (NY).
Open Secrets shedsd some valuable light on which corporations have been paying off which Members of Congress to vote for this bill.
A list of companies and organizations that have sent letters of support for the bill to the House Intelligence Committee, where the legislation was created, meshes closely with the list of top lobbying groups so far this year-- not to mention groups that lobbied on SOPA and PIPA.
For example, AT&T, which sent this letter, spent more money lobbying in the first three months of 2012 than any other single corporation ($7 million, second only to the mega-trade organization Chamber of Commerce, which also lobbied on CISPA though to a lesser extent). The telephone utilities industry as a whole, which includes AT&T and Verizon (which sent this letter) spent $15.3 million in the first quarter of this year, increasing its lobbying expenditures by 35 percent over the previous three months. The total laid out for lobbying by the computer/Internet industry, which includes some of the biggest backers of CISPA, SOPA and PIPA, fell 6 percent in the first quarter-- but at $32.1 million, the industry was still the sixth-largest spender on lobbying amont all industries so far in 2012.
It's hard to assess how much each of these companies spent lobbying Congress specifically on CISPA-- or other hot-button Internet bills-- because many of these companies have a variety of issues they're pursuing on Capitol Hill, but are required to report just one dollar amount covering everything. AT&T, for instance, spent its $7 million talking to lawmakers about 121 separate pieces of legislation... [Mike] Rogers has received at least $175,000 from organizations that have lobbied on the bill. That's about 15 percent of the total $1.1 million he has reported raising this election cycle. The top two groups: defense contractor SAIC (whose PAC has given Rogers $20,000 this election cycle) and Koch Industries (whose PAC has given Rogers over $14,500.)
The progressive Democrat running against Rogers in southern Michigan, Lance Enderle (you can help his campaign here) isn't the kind of Democrat who supports bills being pushed by the Koch brothers. He's an actual Democrat. This is what he told me this morning about Rogers' bill: “CISPA is not about protecting our national security, it is about invading personal privacy. When will the attacks on our Civil Liberties stop and the focus of economic and environmental stabilization begin? This is another fine example of Republican fear mongering introduced by Mike Rogers. This doesn’t surprise me coming from Mike, considering he voted for SOPA, PIPA, The Patriot ACT, NDAA, and from his position on the Select Intelligence committee he has called for the execution of Pfc. Bradley Manning. Mike loves to restrict our personal freedoms, hell I am more conservative than he is when you refer to the Constitution and our Civil Liberties... I have a question for Mike and his Republican cronies: When did corporations become our police force?”
Because of all the right-wing (and heavily bribed) Democrats voting with the GOP, the message that's seeped into the zeitgeist is "The House’s solid bipartisan vote for a cybersecurity bill sends a message to the Senate: Now it’s your turn to act." Obama's veto threat is flicked aside like a dandruff particle.
The White House, along with a coalition of liberal and conservative groups and some lawmakers, strongly opposed the measure, complaining that Americans’ privacy could be violated. They argued that companies could share an employee’s personal information with the government, data that could end up in the hands of officials from the National Security Agency or the Defense Department. They also challenged the bill’s liability waiver for private companies that disclose information, complaining that it was too broad.
Echoing those concerns were several Republicans and Democrats who warned of potential government spying on its citizens with the help of employers.
“In an effort to foster information sharing, this bill would erode the privacy protections of every single American using the Internet. It would create a ‘Wild West’ of information sharing,” said Rep. Bennie Thompson of Mississippi, the top Democrat on the House Homeland Security Committee.
Said Rep. Joe Barton, R-Texas: “Until we protect the privacy rights of our citizens, the solution is worse than the problem.”
A more thorough analysis by Conor Friedersdorf at The Atlantic asserts that Americans are justified for feeling paranoid about Rogers' bill. "[I]f we're going to allow private companies and government to snoop into our private information for the narrow purpose of protecting national security," he suggests, "there needs to be a way to monitor what goes on so that there's at least the possibility that abuses could be caught." His main point is that "Critics of CISPA are right to be wary... because of the abysmal record that government and industry have amassed."
The Bush Administration engaged in illegal warrantless wiretapping for years. All the while, the National Security Agency collaborated with America's major telecommunications companies. AT&T gave government officials unsupervised access to all data flowing through major hubs, including email messages, phone calls, web-browsing data, and private network traffic.
When the NSA program was finally revealed, Bush Administration officials weren't prosecuted and jailed. In fact, Thomas Drake, an NSA whistleblower who complained about a separate warrantless surveillance project, was prosecuted by both the Bush and the Obama Administrations.
...In a statement objecting to CISPA as currently written, the Obama Administration stated that "citizens have a right to know that corporations will be held legally accountable for failing to safeguard personal information adequately." Damn right they do! But Obama has done nothing to hold anyone accountable for spying on Americans during the Bush years. And Bush-era abuses -- coupled with the failure to hold anyone accountable for them, the prosecution of whistleblowers, and ongoing warrantless surveillance -- are indirectly but powerfully relevant to CISPA.
Ed Perlmutter (D-CO) tried ameliorating the legislation with a Motion to Recommit that would instruct Rogers to amend the bill so that employers and government entities could no longer demand passwords to workers' social media accounts as a condition of employment. Republicans blocked it again, every Democrat voting yes-- even the worst Blue Dogs-- and every Republican voting no. Aside from protecting Facebook and Twitter accounts, Perlmutter's amendment would also protect freedom of expression on the Internet by prohibiting the Federal Government from establishing a national firewall similar to the "Great Internet Firewall of China.”