CISA fails to pass before break, yet the fight is far from over


The U.S. Senate is heading home for summer recess without taking further action on the Cybersecurity Information Sharing Act (CISA), a.k.a. the “Darth Vader” surveillance bill. This is a victory for everyone who has spoken out against CISA. So far, you’ve generated more than six million faxes, sending a strong message to Congress: We want real security, not more cyber surveillance.

In turn, many senators also spoke out against the bill, calling for a number of privacy improvements. Earlier this week, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) wrote a letter to Senator Al Franken to highlight the agency’s concerns about the authority the bill would confer to companies to share your information directly with any federal agency.

As a result ?— and despite the endorsement of the Obama administration and the concerted efforts of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, a champion of the bill ?— no final agreement could be reached in time for a vote. That means that any action on CISA will have to be taken up in the fall.

Even with the proposed amendments, the draft legislation remains deeply flawed. The changes fail to address nearly all of the problems we highlight at StopCyberSyping.com. It would still increase the government’s surveillance powers. Law enforcement could still use the information to prosecute whistleblowers under the Espionage Act. It would still grant companies sweeping legal immunity for handing over our personal information to the government.

Fundamentally, CISA is not a security bill. It remains a surveillance bill at heart.

If Congress is truly interested in improving digital security, it should pass a law that takes steps to address pressing problems, such as existing software vulnerabilities. CISA, however, does not do that. Even in its amended form, it would be bad for privacy and bad for security.

If there is anything the journey so far has taught us, it’s that there’s a community that cares about getting cybersecurity right. Last week, you joined us in a Week of Action to fight CISA. You were not alone. There were 68 security experts, academics, and civil society organizations that penned a joint letter urging President Obama to veto CISA when and if it reaches his desk.

We hope you keep up the good work, and when CISA rises from the dead in the fall, you help us kill it for good.