Budget Bill Turns Out to Be a Great Opportunity to Pass New Surveillance Legislation

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Congress has been trying to pass CISA for a while now. CISA is the Cybersecurity Information Sharing Act, and it’s designed to make it easier for private companies to share information with law enforcement about hacks and cyber attacks. It passed the Senate a couple of months ago, but there’s been some pushback in the House, so it’s been in limbo for a while.

I figure that all you really need to know about CISA is this: Dianne Feinstein is for it and Ron Wyden is against it. That would be enough for me to oppose it sight unseen. Still, what’s the problem? Well, the text of the bill seems to have a loophole: it would allow companies to share just about anything with law enforcement, including requests for surveillance of individuals. The fact that this could be fixed pretty easily but hasn’t been, invites obvious suspicions.

And it gets worse. CISA has now been tossed into the year-end budget bill, which means it’s going to get passed for sure. And it’s been “improved”:

The latest version of the bill appended to the omnibus legislation…creates the ability for the president to set up “portals” for agencies like the FBI and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, so that companies hand information directly to law enforcement and intelligence agencies instead of to the Department of Homeland Security. And it also changes when information shared for cybersecurity reasons can be used for law enforcement investigations. The earlier bill had only allowed that backchannel use of the data for law enforcement in cases of “imminent threats,” while the new bill requires just a “specific threat,” potentially allowing the search of the data for any specific terms regardless of timeliness.

So not only hasn’t this loophole been fixed, it’s been explicitly widened. There are other problems with this new and improved CISA too. Marcy Wheeler is reading the bill right now and posting about other changes as she comes across them. But no matter. As Wyden says, it may be a “surveillance bill by another name,” but it’s a surveillance bill that’s going to land on the president’s desk in a few days. And he’ll sign it.

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SIX TRUTHS

Reclaiming power from those who abuse it often starts with telling the truth. And in "This Is How Authoritarians Get Defeated," MoJo's Monika Bauerlein unpacks six truths to remember during the homestretch of an election where democracy, truth, and decency are on the line.

Truth #1: The chaos is the point.

Truth #2: Team Reality is bigger than it seems.

Truth #3: Facebook owns this.

Truth #4: When we go to work, we're in the fight.

Truth #5: It's about minority rule.

Truth #6: The only thing that can save us is…us.

Please take a moment to see how all these truths add up, because what happens in the weeks and months ahead will reverberate for at least a generation and we better be prepared.

And if you think journalism like Mother Jones'—that calls it like it is, that will never acquiesce to power, that looks where others don't—can help guide us through this historic, high-stakes moment, and you're able to right now, please help us reach our $350,000 goal by October 31 with a donation today. It's all hands on deck for democracy.

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