Congress To Hash Out Cybersecurity In The Dark

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Privacy advocates are standing up to oppose a bill before the U.S. House Intelligence Committee that would grant more powers to corporations for sharing customer data among themselves and, if the bill survives the committee process whole, the government.

Not only is the Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act (CISPA) a potential legal tool for companies and law enforcement agencies to pass citizens’ private information back and forth; it’s also a piece of legislation the Intelligence Committee doesn’t want to discuss in front of the public as it considers additions.

According to a report at The Hill, the committee is closing the doors on media and the general public when it begins marking up the bill next week, and it won’t allow the proceedings to be streamed on the Internet.

A committee spokesperson deflected criticism, saying the move will expedite the process, that there’s a lot of confidential information that could get out and that the committee did the same thing last year anyway, in similar discussions.

But critics say these are exactly the kind of talks that should be open to the public, because they involve lawmakers trading thoughts over how to craft a bill that one opponent describes as a “backdoor wiretap” on warrantless private data searches.

More than 40 organizations implored the Intelligence Committee to hold open-door talks when CISPA comes up next week, publicizing a letter sent out to committee members Wednesday. The letter asserted that the public “has a right to know how Congress is conducting the people’s business, particularly when such important wide-ranging policies are at stake”:

All Congressional committee hearings and votes should be conducted in accordance with our country’s highest principles of transparency and openness and made accessible to the public…The general rule should be open government.

As you know, it is the practice of most other committees not only to open their markups, but also to webcast them and share the text of the legislation in advance of voting. Closure of the entire markup is unwarranted.

Mike Rogers (R-Mich.), Intelligence Committee chairman, is sponsoring the bill. A copy of the draft — minus, of course, any amendments to come out of the closed-door revisions next week — can be found here.

Ben Bullard

Reconciling the concept of individual sovereignty with conscientious participation in the modern American political process is a continuing preoccupation for staff writer Ben Bullard. A former community newspaper writer, Bullard has closely observed the manner in which well-meaning small-town politicians and policy makers often accept, unthinkingly, their increasingly marginal role in shaping the quality of their own lives, as well as those of the people whom they serve. He argues that American public policy is plagued by inscrutable and corrupt motives on a national scale, a fundamental problem which individuals, families and communities must strive to solve. This, he argues, can be achieved only as Americans rediscover the principal role each citizen plays in enriching the welfare of our Republic.

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  • Warrior

    Hmmm, this data sharing “act” sunsets in 5 years? Blue Man Group has been running a lot longer than that!

  • Chester

    Warrior, have you EVER known any act that gives law enforcement new authority and ability to be allowed to die? Even worse, the banks and other corporations will know more about you and your life than you do.

  • Kevin Wickham

    Behind closed doors never ends well for citizens

    • John Cherish

      Obamacare was behind closed doors too, How did that turn out for us 2700 pages and over 20,000 pages of rules so far …wait the door is not transparent …so much for the most transparent administration in history

  • vicki

    So they want individual information to be public but the discussion to be private? There is a name for that. Hypocrisy.

  • Michael Shreve

    The U.S. constitution enumerates the RIGHT of a citizen to be secure in his person and papers. ONLY the government believes that what happens in cyberspace is public property. NOW they want to ensure that ALL privacy in cyberspace is at the whim of government.

  • Wendel N Jessica Hiland

    What is all the bitching? This is big brother…This is just a sample of things to come. What did you think would happen when you voted for the big government dictator most commonly known as Obama? The I.R.S is doing this for the good of the PEOPLE. How dare you complain. You are sounding like enemies of the state and opposed to the common good. And what is this about your constitutional rights being infringed upon? The government is in the process of dismantling the constitution as we speak. First is the Second Amendment…. with others to follow. I guarantee