What was the new cyber-security directive handed down to the NSA (National Security Agency) by Obama in mid-October? No one knows because the directive was labeled classified, and therefore cannot be seen by the public. A freedom of information act has been filed by EPIC (Electronic Privacy Information Center), but was rejected by the NSA on the grounds that:
“Disclosure could reasonably be expected to cause exceptionally grave damage to the national security.” the NSA response reads.
“Because the document is currently and properly classified, it is exempt from disclosure,” the statement notes. (Original Article).
Although the details are not known, many experts believe the new order will give the NSA more authority and power to spy on internet users, and respond to cyber-security threats. Already the NSA has been caught using controversial tactics of drag-netting users internet data and storing it in a database for later mining, violating the fourth amendment. When this tactic was exposed by whistle-blowers Bill Binney and Thomas Drake, the Espionage Act was used against them. In the end they were not prosecuted to the full extent of the law, but lost their jobs and suffered other ill consequences, for exposing abuse in the NSA.
Something else this order may expand is the use of viruses against anyone posing a cyber threat to the United States. Now if the government has no problem dragging whistle-blowers through the mud to silence them, who can we expect to be labeled cyber threats? So far these viruses have been used against foreign governments such as Iran, when trying to attack and dismantle their nuclear capabilities. The next authorization of virus use could be for American citizens.
But the NSA says there is nothing to worry about. It is a brave new world of cyber-terrorism out there, they say, and they should be able to do whatever is necessary to protect us, and cannot be hassled by letting the public know what constitutes a terrorist cyber threat, or who is being spied on. As EPIC points out, this entirely removes the public from the debate about cyber threats, and keeps us in the dark.
“We believe that the public hasn’t been able to involve themselves in the cybersecurity debate, and the reason they can’t involve themselves is because they don’t have the right amount of information,” EPIC attorney Amie Stepanovich said.
In an official statement to Congress earlier this year, EPIC explained that the NSA was a “black hole for public information about cybersecurity.”
What we know about the past actions of the NSA spying on Americans without a warrant, this new directive should be seen as a substantial threat to our fourth amendment rights against unreasonable searches and seizures. Our information online is akin to our persons, houses, papers, and effects–whether our papers are stored at home in a filing cabinet, or on our computers’ hard drive, the government has no right to view or confiscate our information without a warrant, and must instead follow due process. Americans need to stand up for our rights, as this directive comes on the heels of the discussion over expanding the government’s ability to access and read our email without a warrant.
The internet is the last bastion of freedom, do not allow the government to take it over. Click here to read about CISPA, the latest bill to regulate the internet.