House Votes to Fight Chinese Spying on Americans With American Spying on Americans

by Kirsten Boyd Johnson

They will be dressed like Mormon missionaries.

The House of Representatives gave a thundering seal of approval on Thursday to a delightful American version of a News of the World-style private information-stealing initiative except that because it is the American version, it must be bigger and more hairy and makes it particularly not illegal for armies of nosy trolls to collect and search warrant-free through private Internet communications as long as the troll is seated at a computer located in a federal agency office building. The bill, CISPA, is being sold by its bipartisan sponsors with the usual doses of constipated hollering about Chinese spying, which it proposes to solve in part by authorizing mass U.S. spying, on its own citizens.

The government cannot ask private corporations such as Google or Facebook to turn over private user communications; the bill merely “empowers” companies to turn over information they think constitutes a cybersecurity threat along with any information they would kindly like to volunteer “to protect the national security of the United States.” The companies do not have to protect identifying information if they don’t feel like it, so it will be up to your email provider to decide whether Department of Homeland Security agents get the privilege of laughing at you for your unicorn porn addiction support group.

Here’s a useful bit from the Electronic Frontier Foundation cheat sheet:

Under CISPA, any company can “use cybersecurity systems to identify and obtain cyber threat information to protect the rights and property” of the company. This phrase is being interpreted to mean monitoring your communications—including the contents of email or private messages on Facebook.

Right now, well-established laws, like the Wiretap Act and the Electronic Communications Privacy Act, prevent companies from routinely monitoring your private communications. Communications service providers may only engage in reasonable monitoring that balances the providers’ needs to protect their rights and property with their subscribers’ right to privacy in their communications. And these laws expressly allow lawsuits against companies that go too far. CISPA destroys these protections by declaring that any provision in CISPA is effective “notwithstanding any other law” and by creating a broad immunity for companies against both civil and criminal liability.

An amendment prohibiting the government from using information it obtains to monitor the legal activities of protesters did not get a floor vote, so all of you malcontents will be stuck forwarding Uncle Norm’s chain emails with the pictures of the dogs drinking beer to avoid suspicion from now on. [The Verge]

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littlebigdaddy April 27, 2012 at 4:20 pm

So let me get this straight…it is Obama who is stealing our freedoms, not the GOP at all?

sewollef April 27, 2012 at 4:31 pm

From what I read, Obama has 'vowed to veto' said bill if it reaches his desk.

imissopus April 27, 2012 at 4:48 pm

And it has to get through the Senate before it gets to Obama. So who knows what is going to happen. If Obama is really serious about the veto threat, the Senate may not even bother to take it up. Of course, the special interests that wrote it will just try again at some point. This bill is already an attempt to rewrite the SOPA bill from a few months ago.

At least KBJ is writing relatively calmly about this. If Ken Layne had written this post the bill would already be as good as passed and Obama would have torn up the Constitution and turned America into 1984, etc. etc. hysterical screeching and so forth.

Wile E. Quixote April 27, 2012 at 4:57 pm

And from what I've seen when Obama says 'vowed to veto' he really means 'will bend over and grab his ankles and sign it in the vain hopes that David Brooks or Kathleen Parker will write a nice column about how bipartisan he is.'

Guppy April 27, 2012 at 5:02 pm

The same Obama that voted to give AT&T a free pass for doing pretty much the same thing?

Doktor StrangeZoom April 27, 2012 at 6:53 pm

Yeah, I'm not so optimistic about that one.

ManchuCandidate April 27, 2012 at 4:21 pm

US America corprats are the kindest, bravest, warmest, most wonderful human beings (thanks to the Supremes over 100+ years ago) I've ever known in my life and would never ever ever ever abuse the system ever.

DemmeFatale April 27, 2012 at 9:27 pm

I hope Frank Sinatra gets to the bottom of this!

DerrickWildcat April 27, 2012 at 4:22 pm

That Napolitano is a fine looking Woman. Really super smart too!

el_donaldo April 27, 2012 at 4:22 pm

All this time I thought we were making dick jokes you guys were actually plotting a socialist revolution. I'm taking my unicorn porn collection and going home.

Sigh, UPDATE: Thanks for editing away the dick joke reference so now it looks like I'm talking about dicks for the sake of dicks, Kirsten.

KBoydJohnson April 27, 2012 at 4:32 pm

You're welcome. xo

Boojum April 27, 2012 at 10:06 pm

I didn't get xo'ed, and I like Viking women.

I think I will go have a good cry.

BornInATrailer April 27, 2012 at 4:47 pm


el_donaldo April 27, 2012 at 4:52 pm

I know, but I got "xo"ed, too. I think she likes me.

GuyClinch April 27, 2012 at 4:23 pm

You can't spy on me! I spy on myself!!!

Tundra Grifter April 27, 2012 at 4:23 pm

Nice photo of the Wonkette office (I'm guessing here, because I could not find an alt text).

I didn't realize you only employeed white men.

Fukui-sanYesOta April 27, 2012 at 4:24 pm

Under CISPA, any company can “use cybersecurity systems to identify and obtain cyber threat information to protect the rights and property” of the company.

Sounds like a super-nifty Union-busting tool.

Seriously, will the Republicans pass any bill which isn't just a big ol' choke-down of corporate cock? Rhetorical question; of course they won't.

actor212 April 27, 2012 at 4:28 pm

Hey now, no one's ever accused an ISP of using personal information for ill deeds!

anniegetyerfun April 27, 2012 at 4:24 pm

If there is one group in this country that is not empowered enough, it is the big corporations. I hope this bill helps them finally feel empowered!

Slim_Pickins April 27, 2012 at 4:24 pm

Freedumbs, indeed.

Radiotherapy April 27, 2012 at 4:26 pm

I already feel safer.

SorosBot April 27, 2012 at 4:27 pm

I'm sure I can trust Verizon to protect my privacy, they're such a reasonable company.

FakaktaSouth April 27, 2012 at 4:35 pm

AT&T "can't" (yeah right) even get my bill right from month to month – what could go wrong?

Baconzgood April 27, 2012 at 4:28 pm

I trust Facebook to keep my information private.

Sharkey April 27, 2012 at 4:29 pm

Well, I never do anything wrong, but somebody really needs to look into that DerrickWildcat.

FlownOver April 27, 2012 at 4:29 pm

"They can't do that to our pledges!"

"Only we can do that to our pledges!"

actor212 April 27, 2012 at 4:29 pm

What's wrong with you libruls? What have you got to hide?

(There. That ought to cover me with CISPA. Now, back to dwarf porn…)

edgydrifter April 27, 2012 at 4:29 pm

We have to give up our freedoms here to protect them from being taken by those guys over there.

Schmannnity April 27, 2012 at 4:36 pm

This is going to put a crimp in my study at home demolitions lessons from the University of Islamabad and my Somali porn sites.

elviouslyqueer April 27, 2012 at 4:37 pm

Dear Department of Homeland Security:

When I suggested that Justice Scalia needed to be skullfucked with Ann Coulter's moldy dildo, I was really speaking metaphorically. It's an English major thing, so no harm no foul, right?

Oh, and tell Janet her hair looks especially fabulous today.



Native_of_SL_UT April 27, 2012 at 4:37 pm

Dwarf porn? You must be at work. We have to stick to the midget porn at work too because it only uses half the bandwidth.

Maman April 27, 2012 at 4:38 pm

Uncle Sam is watching….

Native_of_SL_UT April 27, 2012 at 4:39 pm

I have Comcast here at home and although I think those guys are colossal dicks I am sure they would neve

MissTaken April 27, 2012 at 4:40 pm

Crap, now the Govt will know that Emma Roberts Wears a Totally See-Through Dress at Coachella 2012.

imissopus April 27, 2012 at 4:49 pm

Hey, that was important information to have. Particularly the visual evidence.

SayItWithWookies April 27, 2012 at 4:44 pm

Great. I'm going to FOIA the emails of all the Republicans in Congress — that ought to put a stop to this bullshit.

sullivanst April 27, 2012 at 4:46 pm

Listening to the EFF outrage machine, you'd think the bill didn't contain any kind of definition of what constitutes "cyber threat information", or that the definition was so vague that it would cover forwarding emails of cute kitten pics to your Aunt Mary.

The bill actually makes clear that cyber threat information is information about hack attempts. Emails and private messages on Facebook are not hack attempts, and could not in good faith be mistaken for hack attempts. That kind of snooping just isn't covered by CISPA even as it currently stands, and the immunity clause would exclude it also.

That's not to say it's an ideal piece of legislation, but it's quite clear I'm not cut out for a job at EFF because I just don't have what it takes to maintain a professional level of outrage 40 hours a week.

BigSkullF*ckingDog April 27, 2012 at 4:46 pm

"laughing at you for your unicorn porn addiction support group."


Wile E. Quixote April 27, 2012 at 5:01 pm

Ha ha. You're so pathetic with your unicorn porn addiction. It's 2012, all of the cool kids are now into Marco Rubio/Scott Brown slashfic porn addiction groups.

Sincerely Yours,

Miss Lindsey Graham
Charleston, S. Carolina

DemmeFatale April 27, 2012 at 9:33 pm

Is there really such a thing as unicorn porn?
(Afraid of the answer.)
(And no, I won't goggle it.)

sewollef April 27, 2012 at 4:58 pm

All this is really redundant anyhoo…. since the NSA [aka. National Sarcasm Agency], will shortly have the capability to listen in on every phone call — in real time.

So that's every phone call made in the United States by everyone, 24/7 — in real time.

William Binney was a senior crypto-mathematician for the NSA. He was responsible for automating the agency's worldwide eavesdropping network. Now retired, he was interviewed recently by Vanity Fair… his most scary comment: He held his forefinger and thumb close together and said, "We are that far from a turnkey totalitarian state."

In 2001, the NSA was capable of recording 320 million phone calls a day. A day. That was 2001. Today, they are nearing completion on a new listening centre in Bluffdale, Utah, that can read, store and search any communication that travels through US infrastructure. As of 2008, that meant 1.5 billion calls a day could be recorded.

That translates to something like 20 Terabytes of information a minute. Mr Binney above, developed a data-mining capability that can read every word — in whatever language you choose.

Once this new facility in Utah comes on stream they will be able to decrypt 256-bit AES encryption. Considered strong enough for the NSA to use themselves.

There's another huge super-computing decryption centre in Oak Ridge, Tennessee doing similar work.

The scary thing [!] is when the NSA manages to break these 256-bit AES algorithms, they will have access to everything ever recorded by the United States secret agencies — going back 50 years. They have it all.

Best of it, it's all in the Vanity Fair article. They don't care who knows anymore.

mormos April 27, 2012 at 5:12 pm


ttommyunger April 27, 2012 at 5:14 pm

Don't need a job, don't give a fuck about public opinion, too old to be scared by a life sentence, don't do, say or think anything I wouldn't want the world to know about, so fuck the snoopers, fuck all of 'em very much.

sbj1964 April 27, 2012 at 6:49 pm

Welcome to Orwell's '1984' They're watching you?

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