Cybersecurity Bill Could ‘Sweep Away’ Internet Users’ Privacy, Homeland Security Warns

This wallpaper lines the walls at the Department of Homeland Security's new Cyber Crimes Center in Fairfax, Virginia. (photo: Paul J Richards/AFP/Getty)
This wallpaper lines the walls at the Department of Homeland Security’s new Cyber Crimes Center in Fairfax, Virginia. (photo: Paul J Richards/AFP/Getty)


Sam Thielman | Guardian UK | Reader Supported News | August 4, 2015


Homeland Security admits Cybersecurity Information Sharing Act raises concerns while corporations and data brokers lobby for bill as it returns to Senate


he Department of Homeland Security (DHS) on Monday said a controversial new surveillance bill could sweep away “important privacy protections”, a move that bodes ill for the measure’s return to the floor of the Senate this week.

The latest in a series of failed attempts to reform cybersecurity, the Cybersecurity Information Sharing Act (Cisa) grants broad latitude to tech companies, data brokers and anyone with a web-based data collection to mine user information and then share it with “appropriate Federal entities”, which themselves then have permission to share it throughout the government.

Minnesota senator Al Franken queried the DHS in July; deputy secretary of the department Alejandro Mayorkas responded today that some provisions of the bill “could sweep away important privacy protections” and that the proposed legislation “raises privacy and civil liberties concerns”.

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USA Police State Celebrated as Defense of Freedom

Rand Paul. (photo: Getty Images)
Rand Paul. (photo: Getty Images)

William Boardman |, Reader Supported News | June 7, 2015

USA Freedom Act replaces USA Patriot Act, sort of, and so?

ne needs a wicked sense of humor these days to fully appreciate the present moment in American history, as a supposedly free country debates which police state practices to adopt, while ignoring any thought that maybe the United States should not be a police state at all.

For a brief shining moment early on June 1, parts of the USA Patriot Act expired and, miraculously, the republic remained standing. Now the lapsed portions of the USA Patriot Act have been replaced by the USA Freedom Act, and officials from President Obama on down are saying things like “this will strengthen civil liberty safeguards,” when the real accomplishment has been an effective defense of the USA Police State. Orwell would be proud.

Quickly signing the USA Freedom Act into law on June 2, the President’s first reaction was to complain euphemistically about the brief interruption of some police state powers: “After a needless delay and inexcusable lapse in important national security authorities, my administration will work expeditiously to ensure our national security professionals again have the full set of vital tools they need to continue protecting the country.” [emphasis added]

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US Supreme Court Backs Mandatory Voter ID Laws

Protesters march in Wisconsin against voter ID laws. (photo: Capital Times)
Protesters march in Wisconsin against voter ID laws. (photo: Capital Times)

Joanna Walters | The Guardian UK | Reader Supported News | March 23, 2015

ACLU files emergency motion to stop controversial new law coming into effect, after supreme court turned away challenge on Monday


ivil liberties campaigners filed an emergency motion on Monday to stop Wisconsin’s “disenfranchising” new voter identification requirements from going into effect, setting up an instant showdown after the US supreme court turned away an appeal to throw out Wisconsin’s controversial law that forces people already registered to vote to show photo ID.

If the emergency filing by the American Civil Liberties Union fails and Wisconsin fully activates its voter ID laws, the high court’s non-decision could affect an estimated 300,000 voters in that state – with sweeping voting-rights implications nationwide.

Now that the supreme court has declined to take the Wisconsin case, brought by the ACLU and other groups, the justices could be presented later this year with cases from either Texas or North Carolina, where similar laws are being challenged in local courts.

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Who Can Control NSA Surveillance?

 (illustration: unknown source)
(illustration: unknown source)

Mattathias Schwartz | The New Yorker | Reader Supported News | January 25, 2015

resident Obama spent only a few moments of his State of the Union this week talking about the National Security Agency and civil liberties. A year before, he’d promised to “end” Section 215, the N.S.A.’s most controversial surveillance program, “as it currently exists.” In his speech last Tuesday, he said almost nothing concrete, aside from mentioning a forthcoming report “on how we’re keeping our promise to keep our country safe while strengthening privacy.”

Since Edward Snowden revealed the extent of the N.S.A.’s activities in the summer of 2013, there have been a number of official reports on the troubled relationship between surveillance and privacy—one from the President’s Review Group, two from the Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board, and another, last week, from the National Academy of Sciences. In August, 2013, the Office of the Director of National Intelligence started a Tumblr, on which they’ve posted many interesting and useful documents, including redacted orders from the secret Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISA).

But, while the government has made some moves toward transparency about its surveillance programs, it has enacted few substantial reforms of them. The N.S.A. continues to use Section 215, named after a part of the Patriot Act, to collect metadata on hundreds of billions of U.S. phone calls. Obama has talked about moving the data to some third party. Congress has talked about more serious reforms, including an independent advocate who would represent privacy concerns before the FISA court. But the most significant reform that has been undertaken as the result of an order from Obama is a reduction in the scope of metadata searches, from three “hops,” or degrees of association, to two.

No more asset seizure: Eric Holder bans controversial ‘war on drugs’ tactic

Eric Holder (Screen shot)

Offer Edward Snowden Clemency

Katrina vanden Heuvel | The Washington Post | Reader Supported News | October 28, 2014

t is time for President Obama to offer clemency to Edward Snowden, the courageous U.S. citizen who revealed the Orwellian reach of the National Security Agency’s sweeping surveillance of Americans. His actions may have broken the law, but his act, as the New York Times editorialized, did the nation “a great service.”

In an interview that the Nation magazine is publishing this week, Nation Contributing Editor Stephen Cohen and I asked Snowden his definition of patriotism. He sensibly argues patriotism is not “acting to benefit the government,” but to “act on behalf of one’s country. . . . You’re not patriotic just because you back whoever’s in power today. . . . You’re patriotic when you work to improve the lives of the people of your country,” including protecting their rights.

That requires hard choices. When a government is trampling the rights of the people in secrecy, patriots have a duty to speak out. Snowden notes that there is no “oath of secrecy” for people who work for the government. Contract employees like Snowden sign a form, a civil agreement, agreeing not to release classified information, opening themselves to civil or criminal prosecution if they do. “But you are also asked to take an oath, and that’s the oath of service. The oath of service is not to secrecy, but to the Constitution — to protect it against all enemies, foreign and domestic. That’s the oath that I kept.”

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Eric Holder: DOJ To Urge Supreme Court To Overturn Gay Marriage Bans

Carlos Santoscoy | On Top Magazine | September 27, 2014

Attorney General Eric Holder has reiterated that the Department of Justice (DOJ) will urge the Supreme Court to strike down state bans on gay marriage.

Justices will hold a closed-door meeting on Monday to discuss petitions from five cases challenging bans in Utah, Oklahoma, Virginia, Indiana and Wisconsin.

Holder, who announced his resignation on Thursday but will remain on the job until his successor takes over, made his comment in an interview with NBC’s Pete Williams.

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Holder Departure Clouds Fate of Civil Rights Cases

Jesse J. Holland | Yahoo! News | September 28, 2014

oments after making fresh demands that Attorney General Eric Holder open federal investigations into police shootings of unarmed black men, a cluster of civil rights activists learned, courtesy of whispers and a shared e-tablet, that the nation’s first black attorney general was stepping down.

Civil rights leaders, liberal activists and black lawmakers are now left wondering what effect Holder’s impending departure will have on the high-profile efforts begun on his watch. “There’s a lot for us to calculate,” said the Rev. Al Sharpton, who was meeting with black leaders in Washington.

Holder has been applauded by civil rights and equal rights activists as the most effective attorney general ever for their causes.

“There has been no greater ally in the fight for justice, civil rights, equal rights, and voting rights than Attorney General Holder,” declared Myrlie Evers-Williams, widow of slain civil rights leader Medgar Evers and a former NAACP national chairwoman.

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Stop Hiding Images of American Torture

New York Times | September 1, 2014

hooded man standing on a box, electrodes wired to his fingers. A naked prisoner lying on a cement floor, a leash around his neck held casually by an American soldier. The bloody bodies of dead inmates with their heads bashed in.

Ten years later, the photos leaked from Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq remain seared into the American consciousness. But while the United States government was unable to prevent their release, more than 2,000 other photos taken at various American military facilities in Iraq and Afghanistan have remained hidden under a 2009 law. By one account, the images — which officials say are a mix of snapshots by soldiers and photos by military investigators documenting allegations of abuse — are “worse than Abu Ghraib.”

On Wednesday, the American Civil Liberties Union won an important victory for transparency when a federal district judge in New York City, Alvin Hellerstein, rejected the government’s blanket claim of privilege for all the photos. Judge Hellerstein ordered the government to show why the release of the photos would endanger American lives, and to show that it had considered each photo individually.

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