Internet bill could allow DHS to spy on Congress, Supreme Court

Josh Peterson Tech Editor
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A new proposal by Texas Democratic Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee threatens to give the Department of Homeland Security the power to spy on Congress and the Judicial Branch.

Under Jackson Lee’s amendment, the already controversial Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act (CISPA) — a bill that would enable the sharing of information  about cyber threats between intelligence agencies and private corporations — would also empower the secretary of DHS to “intercept” and “use” information collected on federally-affiliated networks.

The amendment would also authorize the secretary of DHS to enact “countermeasures” against perceived network threats.

In particular, the amendment reads, “the content of communications will be collected and retained only when communication is associated with known or reasonably suspected cybersecurity threat, and communications and system traffic will not be associated with such threats.”

A broad range of civil and digital liberties groups across the ideological spectrum have repeatedly expressed their concerns over the bill.

“Ryan Radia, associate director of technology studies at the Competitive Enterprise Institute, a libertarian-leaning think tank that has criticized CISPA, suggested that it could also allow DHS to monitor the communications of the federal courts and Congress, and intercept tax returns sent to the IRS,” CNET reported on Tuesday evening.

CISPA — first introduced in November 2011 — currently enjoys the support of 112 cosponsors and a broad range of business groups. Facebook has also come out in support of the bill, much to the displeasure of many Internet users. As of Monday, 18 Democratic congressmen and Texas Republican Rep. Ron Paul had voiced their opposition to the bill.

Of the 43 amendments to the bill, Jackson Lee has proposed five.

A debate on the House floor over CISPA is scheduled for Thursday, and the House is scheduled to vote on the bill on Friday. The White House issued a veto threat for the bill on Wednesday.

The congresswoman’s office did not respond to TheDC’s request for comment by the time of publication.

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