July 28, 2015

Operation: Fax Big Brother To Stop CISA Is A Go



With a vote on the Cybersecurity Information Sharing Act (CISA) possible before the August recess, a broad coalition of civil liberties organizations have banded together to promote “Operation: Fax Big Brother.” The objective of this weeklong campaign is to raise awareness of the problematic elements of CISA and help educate individuals on the perils of pushing this legislation through without time for amendment and debate. Congress is woefully out of touch with technology if members think CISA is ideally constructed to deal with cybersecurity threats; thus, if members are going to live in a different technological era, it only makes sense to communicate with them in a technology from a bygone era: faxes.

As I noted in a recent article at Watchdog Arena, individuals can visit StopCyberSpying.com to find out more about the campaign and FaxBigBrother.com to send a fax to every member of the Senate detailing objections to CISA. Additionally, any tweet sent out with the hashtag #FaxBigBrother will also be turned into a fax, along with any image attached to the tweet.

The coalition, of which the Niskanen Center is a member, is pushing back against CISA more fervently than ever now that it could come up for a vote before the August recess.

Importantly, the initial criticisms of CISA still hold: from its clear inferiority to the status quo and obvious shell for a more expansive surveillance state, to the more mundane morphing of the bill’s language to accommodate the circumvention of due process and the possible unintended consequences of its passage.

Last evening, a coalition of 39 organizations and 29 security experts sent a letter to President Obama urging him to pledge a veto against CISA. The letter refers to a 2013 statement of policy on the House version of the bill in which the administration made it clear that it

[s]till seeks additional improvements and if the bill, as currently crafted, were presented to the President, his senior advisors would recommend that he veto the bill.

While the memo goes on to criticize the “broad scope of liability limitations” as a significant failure, it also concludes that the information-sharing element of the bill is but

[o]ne piece of a larger set of legislative requirements to provide the private sector, the Federal Government, and law enforcement with the tools to combat the current and emerging cyber threats facing the nation.

If the White House was concerned about the earlier House version of CISA and its shortcomings, it should be doubly concerned about the current Senate incarnation. The worrisome elements of the 2013 variant remain in the 2015 version, with the added problems of broad authorization for law enforcement to use collected information to prosecute a wide array of crimes.

The key force behind the #stopCISA effort is to show the need for more robust debate on such a complex issue. There is no cybersecurity panacea waiting for the right wording; rather, it will take a great deal of discussion and compromise – far more than the mere week and a half remaining before August recess. Congress should reconvene after the members return in September, permitting them ample time for careful consideration of the issue. The alternative is to rush to a vote that could very well imperil even more Americans’ personal information.