CISPA making a comeback…again

The Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act (CISPA) could soon be coming back up in Congress thanks to efforts by Sens. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) and Saxby Chambliss (R-GA).

After quite speculation at the end of last monthMother Jones reported on Monday that Feinstein confirmed that she and Chambliss were working to revive the measure, which is sure to get under the craw of Internet activists and civil liberties groups.

“I am working with Senator Saxby Chambliss (R-Ga.) on bipartisan legislation to facilitate the sharing of cyber related information among companies and with the government and to provide protection from liability,” Feinstein told Mother Jones. “The legislation will…still maintain necessary privacy protections.”

This is the second attempt this year to move CISPA through Congress. The House of Representatives passed CISPA back in April, over a veto threat from the White House due to a lack of privacy protections. The Senate, however, shelved the measure shortly thereafter.

Rep. Justin Amash (R-MI) offered amendments that would have strengthened Internet privacy, but they were voted down in the House Rules Committee. The rejection of those amendments meant that Internet service providers could not guarantee or promise to protect your Internet privacy. The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) noted at the time that CISPA, as passed by the House, gave immunity to companies that improperly shared data with the government.

An open letter from academics, engineers, and professionals to lawmakers opposed to the CISPA noted that the measure “uses vague language to describe network security attacks, threat indicators, and countermeasures, allowing for the possibility that innocuous online activities could be construed as ‘cybersecurity’ threats” and exempts certain laws that protect Internet privacy.”

There is an important factor in the now-revived debate over CISPA that was missing before, and that’s the impact of public disclosures of NSA surveillance programs. When the measure was passed by the House earlier this year, these programs weren’t known to many — if not most — members of Congress, let alone the American people.

But since June, Americans have learned that the NSA has used a broad interpretation of the PATRIOT Act to collect data of Americans’ phone callsInternet recordsemails, and even their social media connections; even if they’re not suspected of terrorist activity.

Feinstein is a vigorous supporter of NSA spying and bulk data collection. Chambliss also backs the NSA programs.

The disclosure of these snooping programs could make it very difficult to move CISPA — an already very controversial bill — through a Congress that has grown increasingly skeptical of potentially privacy invasive laws.

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