Rush vote on CISPA passes. The US can now legally spy on anyone using the internet. (EDIT: okay, not the Senate.)

Damn it all. I was writing a link round-up about all the to-and-fro in the CISPA sausage-making and all the good news I’d heard, when I got the news — Mike Rogers (R-MI) got it put to a last-second rush vote at the end of the day and it passed as-is, rejecting all proposed amendments, scuttling everything I had written.

[I]t would usher in a new era of information sharing between companies and government agencies — with limited oversight and privacy safeguards. The House Rules committee yesterday rejected a series of modestly pro-privacy amendments, which led a coalition of civil-liberties groups to complain that “amendments that are imperative won’t even be considered” in a letter today.

That prompted some politicians, including House Intelligence Committee member Adam Schiff (D-Calif.), to reluctantly oppose the bill. Schiff said that because his proposed amendments were rejected, he had to vote against CISPA “due to my concerns about civil liberties and the privacy of Americans.”

What made CISPA so controversial is a section saying that, “notwithstanding any other provision of law,” companies may share information with Homeland Security, the IRS, the NSA, or other agencies. By including the word “notwithstanding,” CISPA’s drafters intended to make their legislation trump all existing federal and state laws, including ones dealing with wiretaps, educational records, medical privacy, and more.

Emphasis mine.

The White House has outright stated that advisors would tell the President to veto the bill should it pass without those now-rejected safeguards in place. Granted, I don’t have a lot of faith that Obama’s administration is necessarily on the side of the angels on this one, but at least there’s some pretense that they are trying to do right by us common folk. Maybe, MAYBE, Obama will kill this bill. Then again, he probably won’t want to look soft on cyberterrorism, so I’m sure the last vestiges of privacy will be signed away in due course.

Previous coverage at my blog — you know, in case you’re curious as to just how horrible this is.

Edit: Right, right, it has to pass the senate too. So there’s two hurdles for it to clear yet.


  1. says

    I tend to think that more often than not, the designed-for-gridlock system of the US government does more harm than good (see: debt ceiling debate). But this is a case where I’m glad to have it.

  2. says

    Should actually have five hurdles left: The Senate, a conference committee (if there are two different bills or sets of ammendments), The House and Senate again (if it goes to committee), and the veto pen.

  3. CompulsoryAccount7746 says

    @Jason Thibeault #2:

    They didn’t reject all proposed amendments. They kept one that made it worse.

    Oh bloody hell. Which one was that?!

    Additional excuses to collect your info:
    – That guy looks interesting.
    – Someone might get hurt.
    – Think of the children!

    Article: BoingBoing – Congress just deleted the Fourth Amendment

  4. idonotknow says

    I hope Obama ISN’T on the side of the angels. Constantly watching everything you do and hoping to catch you doing something wrong so that you can be eternally punished for your own good is one of that sides trademarks.

  5. Brony says

    “…I don’t have a lot of faith that Obama’s administration is necessarily on the side of the angels on this one…”

    Not only is he not on the side of the angles, some circles have said that he has been even worse than Bush when it comes to privacy and de facto spying on everyone. Between his justice department stances and treatment of whistle blowers, I will not be voting for president this fall.

  6. plutosdad says

    This would not be the first horrible bill that Obama promised to veto if an amendment wasn’t added, then signed it anyway, like last year’s National Defense Authorization Act.

    I never for one second believed he cared about privacy. Remember on Oct 1, 09, when he spoke at the UN about the need for laws to protect religion from being insulted? In the best case he was pandering but still might sign a bill like that. In the worst case he believes it.

  7. psocoptera says

    #9 Brony – I am guessing that your are being very specific in your application of “privacy” and primarily mean searches (electronic or otherwise)? If you use a broader definition which includes the Griswold v. Conn. & Roe v. Wade privacy, Obama looks a lot better than the previous administration to me.

    #10 plutosdad – I looked that speech up and can’t find it. Do you have a link? I found and read a UN speech in Sept 2009 where pres. Obama said the follow: “Among those rights is the freedom to speak your mind and worship as you please; the promise of equality of the races, and the opportunity for women and girls to pursue their own potential; the ability of citizens to have a say in how you are governed, and to have confidence in the administration of justice.” Of course, he also said in the same speech that he would close the Gitmo prison…

  8. John Horstman says

    @10: The difference between this and NDAA is that the NDAA was amended to address the White House’s stated concerns (its concerns weren’t about violating civil rights, but about limits on the WH’s power to violate civil rights). I’m much more hopeful about this: we’re close enough to November that Obama doesn’t want to piss off Progressives any more than he already has. Losing the Left-wing base will cost him the election (if he loses the Left-wing base – lots of us are getting really sick of voting for the lesser of two evils, especially when the Dems refuse to run a real primary to address Obama’s virulent corporatism and erosion of civil rights).

  9. Qalm says

    psocoptera: If you use a broader definition which includes the Griswold v. Conn. & Roe v. Wade privacy…

    Only problem there is that CISPA is not an abortion bill. The outlook is grim indeed.

    John Horstman: we’re close enough to November that Obama doesn’t want to piss off Progressives any more than he already has.

    He’s planning to ram through a secretly-compiled free trade bill that stands to (among other wonderfulness) effectively prohibit any new environmental or labor protections across a large swath of the industrialized world, right on the eve of the election. What does that tell you about his willingness to piss off progressives?

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