Representative Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) has proposed a bill that could allow Internet freedom advocates a little bit of time to regroup and build a stronger framework to combat the Federal government’s continuous crusade to gain undisputed control over the Internet. But it could be a Trojan horse.
Issa’s proposal, The Internet American Moratorium Act (IAMA), was released in an online draft earlier this week for public discussion. The bill would enact a two-year ban on burdensome Internet regulation from Congress and the Administration of Barack Obama, effectively barring any new burdensome regulation from the government.
Issa followed the release of his draft bill with an “Ask Me Anything” session on the popular online community Reddit, during which he fielded questions from users who called into question his devotion to Internet freedom.
Issa has been an outspoken critic of such Internet regulation bills as the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) and the Protect IP Act (PIPA), both of which established ways by which Federal and private sector collusion could chill online free speech for everyday Internet users while also allowing for dissemination of private information to government agencies.
The Congressman did, however, support and vote in favor of the also unpopular Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act (CISPA), which led to a backlash from Internet users that proved its Congressional undoing.
Asked about his support for that initiative by a Reddit user, Issa answered in part:
CISPA was not a secret. And when you compare its development to the normal legislative process, it can’t accurately be described as “rushed though.” But it all started by establishing clear policy goals and broad legislative principles. On June 24, 2011, the Speaker of the House John Boehner and House Majority Leader Cantor created a Cybersecurity Task Force to make recommendations and coordinate among the nine House committees with significant jurisdiction on cybersecurity issues. In particular they focused on four areas:
- Critical Infrastructure and Incentives
- Information Sharing and Public-Private Partnerships
- Updating Existing Cybersecurity Laws
- Legal Authorities
This taskforce, made up of nine members of Congress and their staffs, met with numerous experts, associations, industry groups, privacy groups and federal agencies, in addition to their counterparts in the Senate and the White House. On October 5, 2011 the House Cybersecurity Task Force released its recommendations to the public. The recommendations reinforced concerns that Internet-based companies and critical infrastructure networks are either being hacked or are extremely vulnerable to hacking by entities both domestic and abroad. They also advocated for solutions that did not encumber the private sector with new regulations.
Issa said he believed that the benefits of CISPA outweighed the bill’s threat potential to personal privacy and free speech on the Internet, concerns the Electronic Frontier Foundation said last April were valid.
The White House criticized CISPA, which initially failed in Congress along with a handful of other Internet regulation bills, but recent reports indicate that executive branch officials are working on their own version of cyber regulation that would most likely be pushed into law via Presidential fiat.
Some of the Reddit questioners pointed this out during the online interview, indicating that the Issa initiative is merely a Trojan horse that would allow the Federal government to enact even more burdensome Internet laws while avoiding public outrage.
And, indeed, the current draft of the bill contains a national security exemption, permitting the President — after notifying Congress — to allow executive branch agencies “to promulgate rules that have otherwise been suspended” by the Act in order to address an “existential threat to the Internet.”