Saturday, April 21, 2012

Big Brother Spies Want More Info, Fewer Rights for U.S. Citizens

Cyber Spying Bill Would Gather '#TMI,'

Internet Rights and Civil Liberties Group Says

In case there is any confusion about this, don't "friend" Big Brother.  Don't "like" him, either.

Politicians and corporate interests are making another run at control of the Internet, this time with a bill that allows the government to spy on you through your Facebook pages, Google searches, cell phone records  and more.

In a déjà vu moment---one of many we can expect to see---an Internet control bill is working its way through Congress, and Internet rights activists are gearing up for a fight much as they did a few months ago to thwart other Internet-choking bills.

The Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act (CISPA), which would allow private companies and the government to share information about U.S. citizens with few limits, has drawn the ire of Internet and civil liberties groups who have launched a campaign called "Stop Cyber Spying."  The bill (HR 3523) could be voted on by the full House this week. 

The group, which includes such organizations as the American Civil Liberties Union, Reporters Without Borders and Electronic Frontier Foundation, is calling on Web users to tweet their lawmakers to stop the bill, using the #CISPA and  #CongressTMI  (too much information) hashtags on Twitter.

The "stop spying" interests say it would trash U.S. citizens' Fourth Amendment privacy rights and make it easier for military spy agencies, such as the National Security Agency of warrantless wiretap infamy,  to find out everything about everybody.  Backlash to the Stop Online Piracy Bill (SOPA) in January, when Google, Wikipedia and other popular web sites posted blackouts and calls to act, led angry consumers to contact Congress members in overwhelming numbers.  SOPA withered. 

No blackouts are planned for this protest, and Facebook, which had opposed SOPA, supports CISPA as do heavyweights such as AT&T and Microsoft.  Can you imagine the powerful combination of Facebook, which has more than 800 million users worldwide, teaming up with the once-secret spy agency to keep tabs on us? 

After President Bush's warrantless wiretap program was exposed in 2005, AT&T was sued for secretly violating customers' rights to privacy.  In 2008 Bush and Congress gave AT&T retroactive immunity.

No need for a pardon this go-around.  Secrecy?  Forget about it. CISPA in your face short-circuits the need for such a maneuver and leaves you with fewer of the rights our founders thought were good ideas more than 230 years ago. CISPA winks at the giant telecoms and Internet Service Providers, "We got your back," in case the government-private enterprise is challenged in court. 

The NSA is not waiting for this bill.  They are spending our tax money to spy on us more and faster.  NSA is building a $2 billion "data center" on 240 acres in Utah. (NSA said they could not build the facility near its headquarters in Maryland because there was not enough electricity there to power their operation!)

Closer to home in Oak Ridge, NSA is spending Americans' tax money on a different type of Manhattan Project.  The goal is to build the most powerful computer the world has ever known, one capable of processing a quadrillion operations a second to break codes and crack secure messages.

The Obama administration has not backed off from Bush-era practices.  President Obama extended the misnamed Patriot Act last May, and on New Year's Eve he signed the National Defense Authorization Act.  The NDAA allows the military to pick up and indefinitely detain U.S. citizens whom the government suspects are involved in terrorism.

I have never been able to wrap my mind around the idea of the U.S. curbing rights such as with the Patriot Act  and spying on us at home in the name of protecting our freedoms.  If we trash our civil rights and Constitutional freedoms in the name of defending them, what have we accomplished other than dangerously concentrating power?

Like saying "bomb" on an airplane, be sure not to tweet "I ran" after jogging around the block, and do not email that little Jimmy, your two-year-old, is a "terror" around the house.  Big Brother could come knocking.

Gary Moore is Public Information Director of Brentwood, TN-based  Citizens for a Free and Open Internet PAC.

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