Senate votes in favor of bill critics including Edward Snowden say will allow the government to collect sensitive personal data unchecked
The Guardian, By Sam Thielman, October 27
The US Senate overwhelmingly passed a controversial cybersecurity bill critics say will allow the government to collect sensitive personal data unchecked, over the objections of civil liberties groups and many of the biggest names in the tech sector.
The vote on Tuesday was 74 to 21 in support of the legislation. Democratic presidential contender Bernie Sanders voted against the bill. None of the Republican presidential candidates (except Lindsey Graham, who voted in favor) were present to cast a vote, including Rand Paul, who has made privacy from surveillance a major plank of his campaign platform.
Ahead of the vote a group of university professors specializing in tech law, many from the Princeton Center for Information Technology Policy, sent an open letter to the Senate, urging them not to pass the bill. The bill, they wrote, would fatally undermine the Freedom of Information Act (Foia).
Despite protestations that Cisa was not a surveillance bill, co-sponsors Richard Burr and Dianne Feinstein discouraged their colleagues from voting for amendments to mitigate what senators called unreasonable invasions of privacy, including one notifying citizens that their data was being examined. Amendments from Ron Wyden, Al Franken, Patrick Leahy, Dean Heller and Chris Coons all failed, though Wyden’s failed by a very narrow vote.
The American Banking Association and the Telecommunications Industry Association (TIA) applauded the passage of the bill. “The legislation passed by the Senate today bolsters our cyber defenses by providing the liability protections needed to encourage the voluntary sharing of cyber threat information,” the TIA said in a statement. “We applaud the Senate for moving this important bill and urge Congressional leaders to act quickly to send this bill to the president’s desk.”
Cisa was negotiated and marked up in secret. Corporate lobbying group The US Chamber of Commerce has been the only consistent champion of the legislation outside the halls of the Senate; the editorial boards of the Wall Street Journal and the Washington Post both published opinions in favor of the bill today.
Cisa would create a program at the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) through which corporations could share user data in bulk with several US government agencies. In exchange for participating, the companies would receive complete immunity from Freedom of Information Act requests and regulatory action relating to the data they share. DHS would then share the information throughout the government.
The bill must next pass the House of Representatives, a procedure that will likely be much quicker and smoother than the opposition it faced in the Senate from Oregon senator Ron Wyden, among others. Then it must be negotiated by the House and the Senate and then likely passed in a package with two others.
View News: Everything You Need to Know About the Recently Passed, Privacy-Decimating CISA Bill, November 3