You knew that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell wasn’t going to just leave things alone after his strategy to renew the bulk surveillance provision of the PATRIOT Act failed somewhat miserably. He’s now announced that he’s going to dump the absolutely terrible CISA bill into the NDAA (National Defense Authorization Act). CISA, as we’ve discussed, is the latest in a long line of “information sharing” bills, that are really surveillance bills in disguise.
While defenders of these “information sharing” bills insist that they don’t open up new surveillance capabilities, as we discussed last week, the latest revelations from the Snowden documents, showing that the NSA uses its Section 702 “upstream” capabilities to monitor for “cybersecurity signatures”, reveal that these bills may not grant any new authorities, but would massively expand their ability to do surveillance. That’s because it now becomes clear that what the NSA is looking for is more of these “cybersecurity signatures” which it can then use against the “upstream” collection to collect all sorts of information, which is then designated as “incidental” collections that are then free to be searched.
In other words, last week’s revelations about the NSA and using upstream for cybersecurity should completely change the debate over cybersecurity bills. But… instead, McConnell is relying on a different story that came out the same day: the hacking of the government’s Office of Personnel Management. Of course, even McConnell seems to admit that having the cybersecurity bill in place wouldn’t have stopped that (no one has ever shown how these bills would stop a single cybersecurity attack ever), but whatever, “cybersecurity”:
“It might or might not deal with every aspect of what apparently happened a few days ago. But Congress is going to act on cybersecurity on this bill in the very near future.”
Actually, it wouldn’t have dealt with any aspect of what happened last week. And “acting” on something just because “hacking” seems pretty stupid, but I guess that’s how Congress works these days.
There’s also some political garbage going on behind the scenes, with McConnell trying to do this in order to get more Democrats to support the NDAA, but it seems like that — like his PATRIOT Act strategy — could backfire in a big way.