A Dragnet of emptywheel’s Most Important Posts on Surveillance, 2007 to 2017

Happy Birthday to me! To us! To the emptywheel community!

On December 3, 2007, emptywheel first posted as a distinct website. That makes us, me, we, ten this week.

To celebrate, the emptywheel team has been sharing some of our favorite work from the last decade. This is my massive dragnet of surveillance posts.

For years, we’ve done this content ad free, relying on donations and me doing freelance work for others to fund the stuff you read here. I would make far more if I worked for some free-standing outlet, but I wouldn’t be able to do the weedy, iterative work that I do here, which would amount to not being able to do my best work.

If you’ve found this work valuable — if you’d like to ensure it remains available for the next ten years — please consider supporting the site.


Whitehouse Reveals Smoking Gun of White House Claiming Not to Be Bound by Any Law

Just days after opening the new digs, I noticed Sheldon Whitehouse entering important details into the Senate record — notably, that John Yoo had pixie dusted EO 12333 to permit George Bush to authorize the Stellar Wind dragnet. In the ten years since, both parties worked to gradually expand spying on Americans under EO 12333, only to have Obama permit the sharing of raw EO 12333 data in its last days in office, completing the years long project of restoring Stellar Wind’s functionalities. This post, from 2016, analyzes a version of the underlying memo permitting the President to change EO 12333 without providing public notice he had done so.


McConnell and Mukasey Tell Half Truths

In the wake of the Protect America Act, I started to track surveillance legislation as it was written, rather than figure out after the fact how the intelligence community snookered us. In this post, I examined the veto threats Mike McConnell and Michael Mukasey issued in response to some Russ Feingold amendments to the FISA Amendments Act and showed that the government intended to use that authority to access Americans’ communication via both what we now call back door searches and reverse targeting. “That is, one of the main purposes is to collect communications in the United States.”

9 years later, we’re still litigating this (though, since then FISC has permitted the NSA to collect entirely domestic communications under the 2014 exception).


FISA + EO 12333 + [redacted] procedures = No Fourth Amendment

The Government Sez: We Don’t Have a Database of All Your Communication

After the FISCR opinion on what we now know to be the Yahoo challenge to Protect American Act first got declassified, I identified several issues that we now have much more visibility on. First, PAA permitted spying on Americans overseas under EO 12333. And it didn’t achieve particularity through the PAA, but instead through what we know to be targeting procedures, including contact chaining. Since then we’ve learned the role of SPCMA in this.

In addition, to avoid problems with back door searches, the government claimed it didn’t have a database of all our communication — a claim that, narrowly parsed might be true, but as to the intent of the question was deeply misleading. That claim is one of the reasons we’ve never had a real legal review of back door searches.

Bush’s Illegal Domestic Surveillance Program and Section 215

On PATRIOTs and JUSTICE: Feingold Aims for Justice

During the 2009 PATRIOT Act reauthorization, I continued to track what the government hated most as a way of understanding what Congress was really authorizing. I understood that Stellar Wind got replaced not just by PAA and FAA, but also by the PATRIOT authorities.

All of which is a very vague way to say we probably ought to be thinking of four programs–Bush’s illegal domestic surveillance program and the PAA/FAA program that replaced it, NSLs, Section 215 orders, and trap and trace devices–as one whole. As the authorities of one program got shut down by exposure or court rulings or internal dissent, it would migrate to another program. That might explain, for example, why Senators who opposed fishing expeditions in 2005 would come to embrace broadened use of Section 215 orders in 2009.

I guessed, for example, that the government was bulk collecting data and mining it to identify targets for surveillance.

We probably know what this is: the bulk collection and data mining of information to select targets under FISA. Feingold introduced a bajillion amendments that would have made data mining impossible, and each time Mike McConnell and Michael Mukasey would invent reasons why Feingold’s amendments would have dire consequences if they passed. And the legal information Feingold refers to is probably the way in which the Administration used EO 12333 and redacted procedures to authorize the use of data mining to select FISA targets.

Sadly, I allowed myself to get distracted by my parallel attempts to understand how the government used Section 215 to obtain TATP precursors. As more and more people confirmed that, I stopped pursuing the PATRIOT Act ties to 702 as aggressively.


Throwing our PATRIOT at Assange

This may be controversial, given everything that has transpired since, but it is often forgotten what measures the US used against Wikileaks in 2010. The funding boycott is one thing (which is what led Wikileaks to embrace Bitcoin, which means it is now in great financial shape). But there’s a lot of reason to believe that the government used PATRIOT authorities to target not just Wikileaks, but its supporters and readers; this was one hint of that in real time.


The March–and April or May–2004 Changes to the Illegal Wiretap Program

When the first iteration of the May 2004 Jack Goldsmith OLC memo first got released, I identified that there were multiple changes made and unpacked what some of them were. The observation that Goldsmith newly limited Stellar Wind to terrorist conversations is one another reporter would claim credit for “scooping” years later (and get the change wrong in the process). We’re now seeing the scope of targeting morph again, to include a range of domestic crimes.

Using Domestic Surveillance to Get Rapists to Spy for America

Something that is still not widely known about 702 and our other dragnets is how they are used to identify potential informants. This post, in which I note Ted Olson’s 2002 defense of using (traditional) FISA to find rapists whom FBI can then coerce to cooperate in investigations was the beginning of my focus on the topic.


FISA Amendments Act: “Targeting” and “Querying” and “Searching” Are Different Things

During the 2012 702 reauthorization fight, Ron Wyden and Mark Udall tried to stop back door searches. They didn’t succeed, but their efforts to do so revealed that the government was doing so. Even back in 2012, Dianne Feinstein was using the same strategy the NSA currently uses — repeating the word “target” over and over — to deny the impact on Americans.

Sheldon Whitehouse Confirms FISA Amendments Act Permits Unwarranted Access to US Person Content

As part of the 2012 702 reauthorization, Sheldon Whitehouse said that requiring warrants to access the US person content collected incidentally would “kill the program.” I took that as confirmation of what Wyden was saying: the government was doing what we now call back door searches.


20 Questions: Mike Rogers’ Vaunted Section 215 Briefings

After the Snowden leaks started, I spent a lot of time tracking bogus claims about oversight. After having pointed out that, contrary to Administration claims, Congress did not have the opportunity to be briefed on the phone dragnet before reauthorizing the PATRIOT Act in 2011, I then noted that in one of the only briefings available to non-HPSCI House members, FBI had lied by saying there had been no abuses of 215.

John Bates’ TWO Wiretapping Warnings: Why the Government Took Its Internet Dragnet Collection Overseas

Among the many posts I wrote on released FISA orders, this is among the most important (and least widely understood). It was a first glimpse into what now clearly appears to be 7 years of FISA violation by the PRTT Internet dragnet. It explains why they government moved much of that dragnet to SPCMA collection. And it laid out how John Bates used FISA clause 1809(a)(2) to force the government to destroy improperly collected data.

Federated Queries and EO 12333 FISC Workaround

In neither NSA nor FBI do the authorities work in isolation. That means you can conduct a query on federated databases and obtain redundant results in which the same data point might be obtained via two different authorities. For example, a call between Michigan and Yemen might be collected via bulk collection off a switch in or near Yemen (or any of the switches between there and the US), as well as in upstream collection from a switch entering the US (and all that’s assuming the American is not targeted). The NSA uses such redundancy to apply the optimal authority to a data point. With metadata, for example, it trained analysts to use SPCMA rather than PATRIOT authorities because they could disseminate it more easily and for more purposes. With content, NSA appears to default to PRISM where available, probably to bury the far more creative collection under EO 12333 for the same data, and also because that data comes in structured form.

Also not widely understood: the NSA can query across metadata types, returning both Internet and phone connection in the same query (which is probably all the more important now given how mobile phones collapse the distinction between telephony and Internet).

This post described how this worked with the metadata dragnets.

The Purpose(s) of the Dragnet, Revisited

The government likes to pretend it uses its dragnet only to find terrorists. But it does far more, as this analysis of some court filings lays out.


The Corporate Store: Where NSA Goes to Shop Your Content and Your Lifestyle

There’s something poorly understood about the metadata dragnets NSA conducts. The contact-chaining isn’t the point. Rather, the contact-chaining serves as a kind of nomination process that puts individuals’ selectors, indefinitely, into the “corporate store,” where your identity can start attracting other related datapoints like a magnet. The contact-chaining is just a way of identifying which people are sufficiently interesting to submit them to that constant, ongoing data collection.

SPCMA: The Other NSA Dragnet Sucking In Americans

I’ve done a lot of work on SPCMA — the authorization that, starting in 2008, permitted the NSA to contact chain on and through Americans with EO 12333 data, which was one key building block to restoring access to EO 12333 analysis on Americans that had been partly ended by the hospital confrontation, and which is where much of the metadata analysis affecting Americans has long happened. This was my first comprehensive post on it.

The August 20, 2008 Correlations Opinion

A big part of both FBI and NSA’s surveillance involves correlating identities — basically, tracking all the known identities a person uses on telephony and the Internet (and financially, though we see fewer details of that), so as to be able to pull up all activities in one profile (what Bill Binney once called “dossiers”). It turns out the FISC opinion authorizing such correlations is among the documents the government still refuses to release under FOIA. Even as I was writing the post Snowden was explaining how it works with XKeyscore.

A Yahoo! Lesson for USA Freedom Act: Mission Creep

This is another post I refer back to constantly. It shows that, between the time Yahoo first discussed the kinds of information they’d have to hand over under PRISM in August 2007 and the time they got directives during their challenge, the kinds of information they were asked for expanded into all four of its business areas. This is concrete proof that it’s not just emails that Yahoo and other PRISM providers turn over — it’s also things like searches, location data, stored documents, photos, and cookies.

FISCR Used an Outdated Version of EO 12333 to Rule Protect America Act Legal

Confession: I have an entire chapter of the start of a book on the Yahoo challenge to PRISM. That’s because so much about it embodied the kind of dodgy practices the government has, at the most important times, used with the FISA Court. In this post, I showed that the documents that the government provided the FISCR hid the fact that the then-current versions of the documents had recently been modified. Using the active documents would have shown that Yahoo’s key argument — that the government could change the rules protecting Americans anytime, in secret — was correct.


Is CISA the Upstream Cyber Certificate NSA Wanted But Didn’t Really Get?

Among the posts I wrote on CISA, I noted that because the main upstream 702 providers have a lot of federal business, they’ll “voluntarily” scan on any known cybersecurity signatures as part of protecting the federal government. Effectively, it gives the government the certificate it wanted, but without any of the FISA oversight or sharing restrictions. The government has repeatedly moved collection to new authorities when FISC proved too watchful of its practices.

The FISA Court’s Uncelebrated Good Points

Many civil libertarians are very critical of the FISC. Not me. In this post I point out that it has policed minimization procedures, conducted real First Amendment reviews, taken notice of magistrate decisions and, in some cases, adopted the highest common denominator, and limited dissemination.

How the Government Uses Location Data from Mobile Apps

Following up on a Ron Wyden breadcrumb, I figured out that the government — under both FISA and criminal law — obtain location data from mobile apps. While the government still has to adhere to the collection standard in any given jurisdiction, obtaining the data gives the government enhanced location data tied to social media, which can implicate associates of targets as well as the target himself.

The NSA (Said It) Ate Its Illegal Domestic Content Homework before Having to Turn It in to John Bates

I’m close to being able to show that even after John Bates reauthorized the Internet metadata dragnet in 2010, it remained out of compliance (meaning NSA was always violating FISA in obtaining Internet metadata from 2002 to 2011, with a brief lapse). That case was significantly bolstered when it became clear NSA hastily replaced the Internet dragnet with obtaining metadata from upstream collection after the October 2011 upstream opinion. NSA hid the evidence of problems on intake from its IG.

FBI Asks for at Least Eight Correlations with a Single NSL

As part of my ongoing effort to catalog the collection and impact of correlations, I showed that the NSL Nick Merrill started fighting in 2004 asked for eight different kinds of correlations before even asking for location data. Ultimately, it’s these correlations as much as any specific call records that the government appears to be obtaining with NSLs.


What We Know about the Section 215 Phone Dragnet and Location Data

During the lead-up to the USA Freedom Debate, the government leaked stories about receiving a fraction of US phone records, reportedly because of location concerns. The leaks were ridiculously misleading, in part because they ignored that the US got redundant collection of many of exactly the same calls they were looking for from EO 12333 collection. Yet in spite of these leaks, the few figured out that the need to be able to force Verizon and other cell carriers to strip location data was a far bigger reason to pass USAF than anything Snowden had done. This post laid out what was known about location data and the phone dragnet.

While It Is Reauthorizing FISA Amendments Act, Congress Should Reform Section 704

When Congress passed FISA Amendments Act, it made a show of providing protections to Americans overseas. One authority, Section 703, was for spying on people overseas with help of US providers, and another was for spying on Americans overseas without that help. By May 2016, I had spent some time laying out that only the second, which has less FISC oversight, was used. And I was seeing problems with its use in reporting. So I suggested maybe Congress should look into that?

It turns out that at precisely that moment, NSA was wildly scrambling to get a hold on its 704 collection, having had an IG report earlier in the year showing they couldn’t audit it, find it all, or keep it within legal boundaries. This would be the source of the delay in the 702 reauthorization in 2016, which led to the prohibition on about searches.

The Yahoo Scan: On Facilities and FISA

The discussion last year of a scan the government asked Yahoo to do of all of its users was muddled because so few people, even within the privacy community, understand how broadly the NSA has interpreted the term “selector” or “facility” that it can target for collection. The confusion remains to this day, as some in the privacy community claim HPSCI’s use of facility based language in its 702 reauthorization bill reflects new practice. This post attempts to explain what we knew about the terms in 2016 (though the various 702 reauthorization bills have offered some new clarity about the distinctions between the language the government uses).


Ron Wyden’s History of Bogus Excuses for Not Counting 702 US Person Collection

Ron Wyden has been asking for a count of how many Americans get swept up under 702 for years. The IC has been inventing bogus explanations for why they can’t do that for years. This post chronicles that process and explains why the debate is so important.

The Kelihos Pen Register: Codifying an Expansive Definition of DRAS?

When DOJ used its new Rule 41 hacking warrant against the Kelihos botnet this year, most of the attention focused on that first-known usage. But I was at least as interested in the accompanying Pen Register order, which I believe may serve to codify an expansion of the dialing, routing, addressing, and signaling information the government can obtain with a PRTT. A similar codification of an expansion exists in the HJC and Lee-Leahy bills reauthorizing 702.

The Problems with Rosemary Collyer’s Shitty Upstream 702 Opinion

The title speaks for itself. I don’t even consider Rosemary Collyer’s 2017 approval of 702 certificates her worst FISA opinion ever. But it is part of the reason why I consider her the worst FISC judge.

It Is False that Downstream 702 Collection Consists Only of To and From Communications

I pointed out a number of things not raised in a panel on 702, not least that the authorization of EO 12333 sharing this year probably replaces some of the “about” collection function. Most of all, though, I reminded that in spite of what often gets claimed, PRISM is far more than just communications to and from a target.

UNITEDRAKE and Hacking under FISA Orders

A document leaked by Shadow Brokers reveals a bit about how NSA uses hacking on FISA targets. Perhaps most alarmingly, the same tools that conduct such hacks can be used to impersonate a user. While that might be very useful for collection purposes, it also invites very serious abuse that might create a really nasty poisonous tree.

A Better Example of Article III FISA Oversight: Reaz Qadir Khan

In response to Glenn Gerstell’s claims that Article III courts have exercised oversight by approving FISA practices (though the reality on back door searches is not so cut and dry), I point to the case of Reaz Qadir Khan where, as Michael Mosman (who happens to serve on FISC) moved towards providing a CIPA review for surveillance techniques, Khan got a plea deal.

The NSA’s 5-Page Entirely Redacted Definition of Metadata

In 2010, John Bates redefined metadata. That five page entirely redacted definition became codified in 2011. Yet even as Congress moves to reauthorize 702, we don’t know what’s included in that definition (note: location would be included).

FISA and the Space-Time Continuum

This post talks about how NSA uses its various authorities to get around geographical and time restrictions on its spying.

The Senate Intelligence Committee 702 Bill Is a Domestic Spying Bill

This is one of the most important posts on FISA I’ve ever written. It explains how in 2014, to close an intelligence gap, the NSA got an exception to the rule it has to detask from a facility as soon as it identifies Americans using the facility. The government uses it to collect on Tor and, probably VPN, data. Because the government can keep entirely domestic communications that the DIRNSA has deemed evidence of a crime, the exception means that 702 has become a domestic spying authority for use with a broad range of crimes, not to mention anything the Attorney General deems a threat to national security.

“Hype:” How FBI Decided Searching 702 Content Was the Least Intrusive Means

In a response to a rare good faith defense of FBI’s back door searches, I pointed out that the FBI is obliged to consider the least intrusive means of investigation. Yet, even while it admits that accessing content like that obtained via 702 is extremely intrusive, it nevertheless uses the technique routinely at the assessment level.

Other Key Posts Threads

10 Years of emptywheel: Key Non-Surveillance Posts 2008-2010

10 Years of emptywheel: Key Non-Surveillance Posts 2011-2012

10 Years of emptywheel: Key Non-Surveillance Posts 2013-2015

10 Years of emptywheel: Key Non-Surveillance Posts 2016-2017

10 Years of emptywheel: Jim’s Dimestore

Working Thread, Cybersecurity Act

As I’ve been reporting, Paul Ryan added a version of the Cybersecurity Information Sharing Act to the omnibus. It starts on page 1728. This will be my working thread.

(1745) They’ve changed what gets stripped from “person” to “individual,” thereby not requiring that corporate names get stripped.

(1747) The bill takes out CISA’s requirement of getting authorization before using an indicator for law enforcement.

(1753) The language on ensuring there are audit capabilities (but not that they’re used) takes out this language, which was in CISA.

C) consistent with this title, any other applicable provisions of law, and the fair information practice principles set forth in appendix A of the document entitled “National Strategy for Trusted Identities in Cyberspace” and published by the President in April, 2011, govern the retention, use, and dissemination by the Federal Government of cyber threat indicators shared with the Federal Government under this title, including the extent, if any, to which such cyber threat indicators may be used by the Federal Government; and

(1754) This section replaced an “or” in CISA with the underlined “and,” which I think sharply constrains the list of stuff that shouldn’t be shared. (It also replaces “person” with “individual” as consistent with other changes.)

(i) Identification of types of information that would qualify as a cyber threat indicator under this title that would be unlikely to include information that—

(I) is not directly related to a cybersecurity threat; and

(II) is personal information of a specific individual or information that identifies a specific individual.

(1755) OmnibusCISA requires the AG to make both the interim and final privacy guidelines public; CISA had only made interim ones public.

jointly issue and make publicly available final guidelines

(1760) The clause noting that other info sharing is still permissible adds the underlined language.

(i) reporting of known or suspected criminal activity, by a non-Federal entity to any other non-Federal entity or a Federal entity, including cyber threat indicators or defensive measures shared with a Federal entity in furtherance of opening a Federal law enforcement investigation;

(1761-2) The bill basically gives DHS 90 days (60, really) to set up its portal before the President can declare the need to set up a competing one. This also involves slightly different timing on notice to Congress of whether DHS manages to pull it together in 90 days.

IN GENERAL.—At any time after certification is submitted under subparagraph (A), the President may designate an appropriate Federal entity, other than the Department of Defense (including the National Security Agency), to develop and implement a capability and process as described in paragraph (1) in addition to the capability and process developed under such paragraph by the Secretary of Homeland Security, if, not fewer than 30 days before making such designation, the President submits to Congress a certification and explanation that—

(I) such designation is necessary to ensure that full, effective, and secure operation of a capability and process for the Federal Government to receive from any non-Federal entity cyber threat indicators or defensive measures under this title;

 (1766) The OmniCISA is slightly better on threat of death sharing as it must be specific.

(iii) the purpose of responding to, or otherwise preventing or mitigating, a specific threat of death, a specific threat of serious bodily harm, or a specific threat of serious economic harm, including a terrorist act or a use of a weapon of mass destruction;

(1768-9) Wow. The regulatory exception is even bigger than it was under CISA. Here’s what CISA said (underline added in both):

(i) IN GENERAL.—Except as provided in clause (ii), cyber threat indicators and defensive measures provided to the Federal Government under this title shall not be directly used by any Federal, State, tribal, or local government to regulate, including an enforcement action, the lawful activities of any entity, including activities relating to monitoring, operating defensive measures, or sharing cyber threat indicators.

And here’s what OmniCISA says:

(i) IN GENERAL.—Except as provided in clause (ii), cyber threat indicators and defensive measures provided to the Federal Government under this title shall not be  used by any Federal, State, tribal, or local government to regulate, including an enforcement action, the lawful activities of any non-Federal entity or any activities taken by a non-Federal entity pursuant to mandatory standards, including activities relating to monitoring, operating defensive measures, or sharing cyber threat indicators.

(1771) The Rule of Construction is more permissive in OmniCISA, too. Compare CISA:

(c) Construction.—Nothing in this section shall be construed—

(1) to require dismissal of a cause of action against an entity that has engaged in gross negligence or willful misconduct in the course of conducting activities authorized by this title; or

With OmniCISA.

CONSTRUCTION.—Nothing in this title shall be construed—

(1) to create—

(A) a duty to share a cyber threat indicator or defensive measure; or

(B) a duty to warn or act based on the receipt of a cyber threat indicator or defensive measure; or

Whereas CISA still permitted the government to pursue a company for gross negligence, OmniCISA instead makes clear that companies can ignore cyber information they get shared from the government.

(1771) I’m going to circle back and compare the various oversight reporting from all four bills in more detail. But the big takeaway is that they’ve stripped a PCLOB review from all 3 of the underlying bills.

(1782) I’m not sure what this new language does. A lawyer who works in this area thinks it protects Brady obligations. I hope he’s right and it’s not, instead, a way to eat limits on the use for prosecution.

(n) CRIMINAL PROSECUTION.—Nothing in this title shall be construed to prevent the disclosure of a cyber threat indicator or defensive measure shared under this title in a case of criminal prosecution, when an applicable provision of Federal, State, tribal, or local law requires disclosure in such case.

(1783) In a (long-overdue) report on how to deal with hacking, OmniCISA takes out a report on this topic specifically done for the Foreign Relations Committee, suggesting this information will remain classified and potentially unavailable to the committees. I guess they have to hide Israel’s spying.

(2) A list and an assessment of the countries and nonstate actors that are the primary threats of carrying out a cybersecurity threat, including a cyber attack, theft, or data breach, against the United States and which threaten the United States national security, economy, and intellectual property.

(1785) This is the sunset language. It doesn’t seem to sunset anything.

(a) IN GENERAL.—Except as provided in subsection 3 (b), this title and the amendments made by this title shall be effective during the period beginning on the date of the enactment of this Act and ending on September 30, 2025.

In One of His First Major Legislative Acts, Paul Ryan Trying to Deputize Comcast to Narc You Out to the Feds

Screen Shot 2015-12-07 at 7.53.31 PMAs the Hill reports, Speaker Paul Ryan is preparing to add a worsened version of the Cybersecurity Information Sharing Act to the omnibus budget bill, bypassing the jurisdictional interests of Homeland Security Chair Mike McCaul in order to push through the most privacy-invasive version of the bill.

But several people tracking the negotiations believe McCaul is under significant pressure from House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) and other congressional leaders to not oppose the compromise text.

They said lawmakers are aiming to vote on the final cyber bill as part of an omnibus budget deal that is expected before the end of the year.

As I laid out in October, it appears CISA — even in the form that got voted out of the Senate — would serve as a domestic “upstream” spying authority, providing the government a way to spy domestically without a warrant.

CISA permits the telecoms to do the kinds of scans they currently do for foreign intelligence purposes for cybersecurity purposes in ways that (unlike the upstream 702 usage we know about) would not be required to have a foreign nexus. CISA permits the people currently scanning the backbone to continue to do so, only it can be turned over to and used by the government without consideration of whether the signature has a foreign tie or not. Unlike FISA, CISA permits the government to collect entirely domestic data.

We recently got an idea of how this might work. Comcast is basically hacking its own users to find out if they’re downloading copyrighted material.

[Comcast] has been accused of tapping into unencrypted browser sessions and displaying warnings that accuse the user of infringing copyrighted material — such as sharing movies or downloading from a file-sharing site.

That could put users at risk, says the developer who discovered it.

Jarred Sumner, a San Francisco, Calif.-based developer who published the alert banner’s code on his GitHub page, told ZDNet in an email that this could cause major privacy problems.

Sumner explained that Comcast injects the code into a user’s browser as they are browsing the web, performing a so-called “man-in-the-middle” attack. (Comcast has been known to alert users when they have surpassed their data caps.) This means Comcast intercepts the traffic between a user’s computer and their servers, instead of installing software on the user’s computer.


“This probably means that Comcast is using [deep packet inspection] on subscriber’s internet and/or proxying subscriber internet when they want to send messages to subscribers,” he said. “That would let Comcast modify unencrypted traffic in both directions.”

In other words, Comcast is already doing the same kind of deep packet inspection of its users’ unencrypted activity as the telecoms use in upstream collection for the NSA. Under CISA, they’d be permitted — and Comcast sure seems willing — to do such searches for the Feds.

Some methods of downloading copyrighted content might already be considered a cyberthreat indicator that Comcast could report directly to the Federal government (and possibly, under this latest version, directly to the FBI). And there are reports that the new version will adopt an expanded list of crimes, to include the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act.

In other words, it’s really easy to see how under this version of CISA, the government would ask Comcast to hack you to find out if you’re doing one of the long list of things considered hacking — a CFAA violation — by the Feds.

How’s that for Paul Ryan’s idea of conservatism, putting the government right inside your Internet router as one of his first major legislative acts?

It’s Not Just the FISA Court, It’s the Game of Surveillance Whack-a-Mole

In response to this post from Chelsea Manning, the other day I did the first in what seems to have become a series of posts arguing that we should eliminate the FISA Court, but that the question is not simple. In that post, I laid out the tools the FISC has used, with varying degrees of success, in reining in Executive branch spying, especially in times of abuse.

In this post, I want to lay out how reining in surveillance isn’t just about whether the secret approval of warrants and orders would be better done by the FISC or a district court. It’s about whack-a-mole.

That’s because, right now, there are four ways the government gives itself legal cover for expansive surveillance:

  • FISC, increasingly including programs
  • EO 12333, including SPCMA
  • Magistrate warrants and orders without proper briefing
  • Administrative orders and/or voluntary cooperation

FISA Court

The government uses the FISA court to get individualized orders for surveillance in this country and, to a less clear extent, surveillance of Americans overseas. That’s the old-fashioned stuff that could be done by a district court. But it’s also one point where egregious source information — be it a foreign partner using dubious spying techniques, or, as John Brennan admitted in his confirmation hearing, torture — gets hidden. No defendant has ever been able to challenge the basis for the FISA warrant used against them, which is clearly not what Congress said it intended in passing FISA. But given that’s the case, it means a lot of prosecutions that might not pass constitutional muster, because of that egregious source information, get a virgin rebirth in the FISC.

In addition, starting 2004, the government started using the FISA Court to coerce corporations to continue domestic collection programs they had previously done voluntarily. As I noted, while I think the FISC’s oversight of these programs has been mixed, the FISC has forced the government to hew closer (though not at) the law.

EO 12333, including SPCMA

The executive branch considers FISA just a subset of EO 12333, the Reagan Executive Order governing the intelligence community — a carve out of collection requiring more stringent rules. At times, the Intelligence Community have operated as if EO 12333 is the only set of rules they need to follow — and they’ve even secretly rewritten it at least once to change the rules. The government will always assert the right to conduct spying under EO 12333 if it has a technical means to bypass that carve out. That’s what the Bush Administration claimed Stellar Wind operated under. And at precisely the time the FISC was imposing limits on the Internet dragnet, the Executive Brach was authorizing analysis of Americans’ Internet metadata collected overseas under SPCMA.

EO 12333 derived data does get used against defendants in the US, though it appears to be laundered through the FISC and/or parallel constructed, so defendants never get the opportunity to challenge this collection.

Magistrate warrants and orders

Even when the government goes to a Title III court — usually a magistrate judge — to get an order or warrant for surveillance, that surveillance often escapes real scrutiny. We’ve seen this happen with Stingrays and other location collection, as well as FBI hacking; in those cases, the government often didn’t fully brief magistrates about what they’re approving, so the judges didn’t consider the constitutional implications of it. There are exceptions, however (James Orenstein, the judge letting Apple challenge the use of an All Writs Act to force it to unlock a phone, is a notable one), and that has provided periodic checks on collection that should require more scrutiny, as well as public notice of those methods. That’s how, a decade after magistrates first started to question the collection of location data using orders, we’re finally getting circuit courts to review the issue. Significantly, these more exotic spying techniques are often repurposed foreign intelligence methods, meaning you’ll have magistrates and other TIII judges weighing in on surveillance techniques being used in parallel programs under FISA. At least in the case of Internet data, that may even result in a higher standard of scrutiny and minimization being applied to the FISA collection than the criminal investigation collection.

Administrative orders and/or voluntary cooperation

Up until 2006, telecoms willing turned over metadata on Americans’ calls to the government under Stellar Wind. Under Hemisphere, AT&T provides the government call record information — including results of location-based analysis, on all the calls that used its networks, not just AT&T customers — sometimes without an order. For months after Congress was starting to find a way to rein in the NSA phone dragnet with USA Freedom Act, the DEA continued to operate its own dragnet of international calls that operated entirely on administrative orders. Under CISA, the government will obtain and disseminate information on cybersecurity threats that it wouldn’t be able to do under upstream 702 collection; no judge will review that collection. Until 2009, the government was using NSLs to get all the information an ISP had on a user or website, including traffic information. AT&T still provides enhanced information, including the call records of friends and family co-subscribers and (less often than in the past) communities of interest.

These six examples make it clear that, even with Americans, even entirely within the US, the government conducts a lot of spying via administrative orders and/or voluntary cooperation. It’s not clear this surveillance had any but internal agency oversight, and what is known about these programs (the onsite collaboration that was probably one precursor to Hemisphere, the early NSL usage) makes it clear there have been significant abuses. Moreover, a number of these programs represent individual (the times when FBI used an NSL to get something the FISC had repeatedly refused to authorize under a Section 215 order) or programmatic collection (I suspect, CISA) that couldn’t be approved under the auspices of the FISC.

All of which is to say the question of what to do to bring better oversight over expansive surveillance is not limited to the short-comings of the FISC.  It also must contend with the way the government tends to move collection programs when one method proves less than optimal. Where technologically possible, it has moved spying offshore and conducted it under EO 12333. Where it could pay or otherwise bribe and legally shield providers, it moved to voluntary collection. Where it needed to use traditional courts, it often just obfuscated about what it was doing. The primary limits here are not legal, except insofar as legal niceties and the very remote possibility of transparency raise corporate partner concerns.

We need to fix or eliminate the FISC. But we need to do so while staying ahead of the game of whack-a-mole.

CISA Overwhelmingly Passes, 74-21

Update: Thought I’d put a list of Senators people should thank for voting against CISA.

GOP: Crapo, Daines, Heller, Lee, Risch, and Sullivan. (Paul voted against cloture but did not vote today.)

Dems: Baldwin, Booker, Brown, Cardin, Coons, Franken, Leahy, Markey, Menendez, Merkley, Sanders, Tester, Udall, Warren, Wyden

Just now, the Senate voted to pass the Cyber Information Sharing Act by a vote of 74 to 21. While 7 more people voted against the bill than had voted against cloture last week (Update: the new votes were Cardin and Tester, Crapo, Daines, Heller, Lee, Risch, and Sullivan, with Paul not voting), this is still a resounding vote for a bill that will authorize domestic spying with no court review in this country.

The amendment voting process was interesting of its own accord. Most appallingly, just after Patrick Leahy cast his 15,000th vote on another amendment — which led to a break to talk about what a wonderful person he is, as well as a speech from him about how the Senate is the conscience of the country — Leahy’s colleagues voted 57 to 39 against his amendment that would have stopped the creation of a new FOIA exemption for CISA. So right after honoring Leahy, his colleagues kicked one of his key issues, FOIA, in the ass.

More telling, though, were the votes on the Wyden and Heller amendments, the first two that came up today.

Wyden’s amendment would have required more stringent scrubbing of personal data before sharing it with the federal government. The amendment failed by a vote of 55-41 — still a big margin, but enough to sustain a filibuster. Particularly given that Harry Reid switched votes at the last minute, I believe that vote was designed to show enough support for a better bill to strengthen the hand of those pushing for that in conference (the House bills are better on this point). The amendment had the support of a number of Republicans — Crapo, Daines, Gardner, Heller, Lee, Murkowksi, and Sullivan — some of whom would vote against passage. Most of the Democrats who voted against Wyden’s amendment — Carper, Feinstein, Heitkamp, Kaine, King, Manchin, McCaskill, Mikulski, Nelson, Warner, Whitehouse — consistently voted against any amendment that would improve the bill (and Whitehouse even voted for Tom Cotton’s bad amendment).

The vote on Heller’s amendment looked almost nothing like Wyden’s. Sure, the amendment would have changed just two words in the bill, requiring the government to have a higher standard for information it shared internally. But it got a very different crowd supporting it, with a range of authoritarian Republicans like Barrasso, Cassidy, Enzi, Ernst, and Hoeven — voting in favor. That made the vote on the bill much closer. So Reid, along with at least 7 other Democrats who voted for Wyden’s amendment, including Brown, Klobuchar, Murphy, Schatz, Schumer, Shaheen, and Stabenow, voted against Heller’s weaker amendment. While some of these Democrats — Klobuchar, Schumer, and probably Shaheen and Stabenow — are affirmatively pro-unconstitutional spying anyway, the swing, especially from Sherrod Brown, who voted against the bill as a whole, makes it clear that these are opportunistic votes to achieve an outcome. Heller’s vote fell just short 49-47, and would have passed had some of those Dems voted in favor (the GOP Presidential candidates were not present, but that probably would have been at best a wash and possibly a one vote net against, since Cruz voted for cloture last week). Ultimately, I think Reid and these other Dems are moving to try to deliver something closer to what the White House wants, which is still unconstitutional domestic spying.

Richard Burr seemed certain that this will go to conference, which means people like he, DiFi, and Tom Carper will try to make this worse as people from the House point out that there are far more people who oppose this kind of unfettered spying in the House. We shall see.

For now, however, the Senate has embraced a truly awful bill.

Update, all amendment roll calls

Wyden: 41-55-4

Heller: 47-49-4

Leahy: 37-59-4

Franken: 35-60-5

Coons: 41-54-5

Cotton amendment: 22-73-5

Final passage: 74-21-5

Anonymous Former Intel Official Confirms: CISA Is about Bypassing NSA Minimization on Upstream Collection

In the last few days, I have laid out how CISA will permit the intelligence community to bypass the rules currently imposing reasonable limits on the sharing of domestic cyberattack information implicating Americans. Currently, any upstream collection comes in through NSA; unlike PRISM data, NSA cannot share raw upstream collection. Thus, any US person data collected via upstream collection must be treated according to minimization procedures that are especially strict for this purpose.

But under CISA, data comes in through DHS and — assuming NSA and FBI veto its data scrub, as they are sure to do — gets circulated immediately to NSA, FBI, Treasury, ODNI, and several other agencies. Unlike under the current regime, FBI and other agencies that can imprison or sanction Americans will get raw data, without US person identifiers “relevant to” the threat indicator (as they will be, by virtue of being collected with them) minimized. Once FBI gets it, the data will be shared promiscuously, because that’s FBI’s job.

Not everyone buys this. But CNN just quoted an anonymous senior intel official confirming my fears.

There’s yet another issue. Jonathan Mayer, a computer scientist and lawyer with expertise on national security, is worried that if a hacker steals a database of Americans’ private information from a company, the NSA gets to keep that.

But a former senior U.S. official told CNNMoney that NSA already grabs stolen data in its mission to protect the United States from hackers. And it has rules in place to minimize the effect on peoples’ privacy.

“Would it give our spy agencies greater visibility? Definitely. That’s the point,” the official said.

Yes. That’s the point. Not only does this confirm that NSA, FBI, Treasury, ODNI, and others will get databases full of content, but given that NSA’s rules will not be applied here (FBI will get the data at the same time as NSA) the rules to protect people’s privacy that are currently in place won’t be in effect.

Two Intended Consequences CISA Supporters Will Be Responsible For

Tomorrow, the Senate will vote on CISA. It is expected to pass by large margins.

Given that a majority in the Senate is preparing to vote for CISA, I wanted to lay out two intended consequences of CISA, so supporters will know what we will hold them responsible for when these intended consequences prove out:

The government will lose power to crack down on providers who don’t take care of customers’ data. 

As I have laid out, if a company voluntarily shares a cyber indicator with the government, the government cannot use that data to initiate any regulatory action against the company. In the future, then, any Wyndham Hotels or Chrysler that have long ignored known vulnerabilities will be able to avoid FTC lawsuits or NHTSA recalls simply by telling the government about the vulnerability — and continuing to do nothing to protect customers. The bill will even make it less likely customers will otherwise learn about such things (partly through FOIA exemptions, partly by increasing the difficulties of doing security research independent of a company), which would provide them another route — a lawsuit — for holding a company accountable for leaving their data exposed.

So the Senators who vote for CISA tomorrow will be responsible for giving you fewer protections against negligent companies, making it more likely your data will be exposed.

CISA will provide a way around the warrant requirement for domestic collection of content

In 1972, the Supreme Court unanimously held that the government needed a warrant before conducting electronic surveillance for “domestic security” purposes. After some years, Congress set up the FISA court and process, through which the government can obtain warrants — and under FISA Amendments Act, mere certificates — permitting them to spy on US persons, while maintaining some modicum of review both at the warrant stage and (though it never worked in practice) the prosecution stage.

CISA will set up an alternative system for a very broadly defined cyber use, whereby Congress permits corporations to share the fruits of spying on their own customers with the government. Virtually all the protections built into the FISA system — a review by a judge, judicially approved minimization procedures, the requirement to protect US person identities as much as possible, and notice provisions if used for prosecution — will be eliminated here. Corporations will be able to spy on customers and hand over that data under permissive guidelines, giving the government all the benefits of domestic surveillance (again, just for a broadly defined cyber purpose). [See this post for more details on this.]

And make no mistake: the government will be obtaining content, not just metadata. If they didn’t plan on obtaining content, they would not include permission to use CISA-acquired data to prosecute kiddie porn, which after all is always about content (the same is true of IP theft).

Worse, it’s not clear how this abuse of constitutional precedent will be overturned. Without notice to criminal defendants, no one will ever be able to get standing. So SCOTUS will never review the constitutionality of this. By deputizing corporations to spy, the government will have found a way around the Fourth Amendment.

So Senators who vote for CISA tomorrow will be voting to begin to dismantle an imperfect, but nevertheless vastly superior, system designed to uphold the Fourth Amendment.

And note: what Senators will be voting for in exchange for these two intended consequences will be meager. Bill sponsor Richard Burr admitted last week that his earlier claims, that this bill would prevent hacks, was overstated. Now, he only promises this will limit the damage of hacks — though there’s little evidence that’s true either.  So if Senators vote for this bill, they’ll be trading away a lot for very little in terms of security in exchange.

Again, this blog post won’t change the outcome tomorrow. But it should put every Senator preparing to vote for this bad bill on notice that we will hold you responsible for these things.

Post updated with paragraph about how little this bill does to improve cybersecurity.

The Administration Statement on CISA

I wanted to analyze the Administration’s statement on the Cyber Intelligence Sharing Act, which I’ve reproduced in its entirety below. Opponents of the bill feel the statement betrays Obama’s stated (though usually not performed) commitment to civil liberties. And they point to the statement’s criticism of defensive measures (see the fifth paragraph below) as one reason the President should oppose this bill but isn’t.

Of course, that misconstrues the purpose of such statements, which is to influence the shape of bills as the sausage gets made. As such, this statement commends Richard Burr for concessions he has made, while pointing to the areas where the Administration will push for improvement.

In addition to the defensive measures provision, the chief area the White House is pushing for improvements is on the area where CISA is most vulnerable: on the centrality of DHS to the process.

As such, the Administration supports Senate passage of S. 754, while continuing to work with the Congress as S.754 moves through the legislative process to ensure further important changes are made to the bill, including, but not limited to, preserving the leadership of civilian agencies in domestic cybersecurity.


Focusing real-time sharing through one center at DHS enhances situational awareness, facilitates robust privacy controls, and helps to ensure oversight of such sharing. In addition, centralizing this sharing mechanism through DHS will facilitate more effective real-time sharing with other agencies in the most efficient manner.

Therefore, in order to ensure a focused approach and to facilitate streamlined information sharing while ensuring robust privacy protections, the Administration will strongly oppose any amendments that would provide additional liability-protected sharing channels, including expanding any exceptions to the DHS portal. In addition, the Administration remains concerned that the bill’s authorization to share with any Federal entity, notwithstanding any other provision of law, weakens the bill’s requirement that information be shared with a civilian entity.

Basically, the Administration is still trying to stave off a Tom Cotton effort to let entities share directly with the FBI. Cotton’s amendment is bad — but it mostly just exposes the reality of the bill for what it really is.

Moreover, the White House is nuts if they think the current structure will reflect meaningful involvement from DHS. As I noted the other day — and DailyDot reconfirmed today — other agencies (like the FBI) can veto any meaningful involvement from DHS.

So I’m not really surprised by the content of this statement, and the Administration’s signals they want to push defensive measures and DHS involvement in a particular direction. I am concerned about their apparent analysis of the state of the bill.

An important building block for improving the Nation’s cybersecurity is ensuring that private entities can collaborate to share timely cyber threat information with each other and the Federal Government. In January, the President submitted a legislative proposal to the Congress with the goal of, among other things, facilitating greater information sharing amongst the private sector and with the Federal Government. The Administration’s proposal provides a focused approach to incentivize more cybersecurity information sharing while ensuring the protection of privacy, confidentiality, and civil liberties. As the Administration has previously stated, information sharing legislation must carefully safeguard privacy, confidentiality, and civil liberties, preserve the long-standing respective roles and missions of civilian and intelligence agencies, and provide for appropriate sharing with targeted liability protections. The Administration is encouraged by the strong bipartisan support for cybersecurity information sharing legislation in the Congress.

The Administration appreciates that the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence adopted several amendments to S. 754 to address some of the Administration’s most significant concerns and is further encouraged that the bill’s sponsor has proposed additional changes on the Senate floor. This work has strengthened the legislation and incorporated important modifications to better protect privacy. As such, the Administration supports Senate passage of S. 754, while continuing to work with the Congress as S.754 moves through the legislative process to ensure further important changes are made to the bill, including, but not limited to, preserving the leadership of civilian agencies in domestic cybersecurity.

The Administration supports S. 754’s requirement that an entity sharing information with the Federal Government must share that information through the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) in order to receive liability protections. Moreover, S. 754 requires that such sharing be governed by privacy protection guidelines and that DHS must further disseminate such information in real-time with other Federal agencies. The Administration supports real-time sharing amongst Federal agencies with appropriate privacy protections, and is currently developing such a capability at DHS. Focusing real-time sharing through one center at DHS enhances situational awareness, facilitates robust privacy controls, and helps to ensure oversight of such sharing. In addition, centralizing this sharing mechanism through DHS will facilitate more effective real-time sharing with other agencies in the most efficient manner.

Therefore, in order to ensure a focused approach and to facilitate streamlined information sharing while ensuring robust privacy protections, the Administration will strongly oppose any amendments that would provide additional liability-protected sharing channels, including expanding any exceptions to the DHS portal. In addition, the Administration remains concerned that the bill’s authorization to share with any Federal entity, notwithstanding any other provision of law, weakens the bill’s requirement that information be shared with a civilian entity. This remains a significant concern, and the Administration is eager to work with the Congress to seek a workable solution.

S. 754 authorizes the use of certain potentially disruptive defensive measures in response to network incidents, provisions that were not included in the Administration’s proposal. The use of defensive measures raises significant legal, policy, and diplomatic concerns and, without appropriate safeguards, can have a direct deleterious impact on foreign policy, the integrity of information systems, and cybersecurity. The Administration is encouraged, however, that the bill’s sponsor has proposed changes that would limit an entity from employing a defensive measure that would provide it unauthorized access to another entity’s network. Though the Administration remains concerned that the bill’s authorization to operate defensive measures may prevent the application of other laws such as State common-law tort remedies, it is encouraged that the additional changes will help to appropriately constrain the use of defensive measures. The Administration is committed to continue working with stakeholders to address remaining concerns.

The Administration commends the Committee for recognizing that cybersecurity requires a whole-of-government approach and that information must be appropriately shared within the Federal Government. This sharing must be consistent with certain narrow cybersecurity use restrictions, as well as privacy, confidentiality, and civil liberties protections and transparent oversight. The Administration commends the Committee for requiring that intra-governmental sharing be governed by a set of policies and procedures developed by the Federal Government to protect privacy and civil liberties. The Administration is encouraged that the bill’s sponsor has proposed changes that would preserve the Federal Government’s ability to implement privacy protective policies and procedures. The Administration is encouraged by changes the bill’s sponsor has proposed to ensure that information sharing provided for in the bill is narrowly focused on the important purpose of this bill, the protection of information systems and information from cybersecurity threats and security vulnerabilities. Finally, the Administration is pleased that S.754 includes provisions that will improve the cybersecurity of Federal networks and systems. Consistent with the bill’s requirements, the Administration will implement this authority in a manner that both enhances cybersecurity and continues to protect the confidentiality, availability, and integrity of Federal agencies’ data.

Information sharing is one piece of a larger suite of legislation needed to provide the private sector, the Federal Government, and law enforcement with the necessary tools to combat cyber threats, and create for consumers and businesses a strong and consistent notification standard for breaches of personal data. In addition to updating information sharing statutes, the Congress should incorporate privacy, confidentiality protection, and civil liberties safeguards into all aspects of cybersecurity legislation.

The Pro-Scrub Language Added to CISA Is Designed to Eliminate DHS’ Scrub

I’ve been comparing the Manager’s Amendment (MA) Richard Burr and Dianne Feinstein introduced Wednesday with the old bill.

A key change — one Burr and Feinstein have highlighted in their comments on the floor — is the integration of DHS even more centrally in the process of the data intake process. Just as one example, the MA adds the Secretary of Homeland Security to the process of setting up the procedures about information sharing.

Not later than 60 days after the date of the enactment of this Act, the Attorney General and the Secretary of Homeland Security shall, in coordination with the heads of the appropriate Federal entities, develop and submit to Congress interim policies and procedures relating to the receipt of cyber threat indicators and defensive measures by the Federal Government. [my emphasis]

That change is applied throughout.

But there’s one area where adding more DHS involvement appears to be just a show: where it permits DHS conduct a scrub of the data on intake (as Feinstein described, this was an attempt to integrate Tom Carper’s and Chris Coons’ amendments doing just that).

This is also an issue DHS raised in response to Al Franken’s concerns about how CISA would affect their current intake procedure.

To require sharing in “real time” and “not subject to any delay [or] modification” raises concerns relating to operational analysis and privacy.

First, it is important for the NCCIC to be able to apply a privacy scrub to incoming data, to ensure that personally identifiable information unrelated to a cyber threat has not been included. If DHS distributes information that is not scrubbed for privacy concerns, DHS would fail to mitigate and in fact would contribute to the compromise of personally identifiable information by spreading it further. While DHS aims to conduct a privacy scrub quickly so that data can be shared in close to real time, the language as currently written would complicate efforts to do so. DHS needs to apply business rules, workflows and data labeling (potentially masking data depending on the receiver) to avoid this problem.

Second, customers may receive more information than they are capable of handling, and are likely to receive large amounts of unnecessary information. If there is no layer of screening for accuracy, DHS’ customers may receive large amounts of information with dubious value, and may not have the capability to meaningfully digest that information.

While the current Cybersecurity Information Sharing Act recognizes the need for policies and procedures governing automatic information sharing, those policies and procedures would not effectively mitigate these issues if the requirement to share “not subject to any delay [or] modification” remains.

To ensure automated information sharing works in practice, DHS recommends requiring cyber threat information received by DHS to be provided to other federal agencies in “as close to real time as practicable” and “in accordance with applicable policies and procedures.”

Effectively, DHS explained that if it was required to share data in real time, it would be unable to scrub out unnecessary and potentially burdensome data, and suggested that the “real time” requirement be changed to “as close to real time as practicable.”

But compare DHS’s concerns with the actual language added to the description of the information-sharing portal (the new language is in italics).

(3) REQUIREMENTS CONCERNING POLICIES AND PROCEDURES.—Consistent with the guidelines required by subsection (b), the policies and procedures developed and promulgated under this subsection shall—

(A) ensure that cyber threat indicators shared with the Federal Government by any entity pursuant to section 104(c) through the real-time process described in subsection (c) of this section—

(i) are shared in an automated manner with all of the appropriate Federal entities;

(ii) are only subject to a delay, modification, or other action due to controls established for such real-time process that could impede real-time receipt by all of the appropriate Federal entities when the delay, modification, or other action is due to controls—

(I) agreed upon unanimously by all of the heads of the appropriate Federal entities;

(II) carried out before any of the appropriate Federal entities retains or uses the cyber threat indicators or defensive measures; and

(III) uniformly applied such that each of the appropriate Federal entities is subject to the same delay, modification, or other action; and

This section permits one of the “appropriate Federal agencies” to veto such a scrub. Presumably, the language only exists in the bill because one of the “appropriate Federal agencies” has already vetoed the scrub. NSA (in the guise of “appropriate Federal agency” DOD) would be the one that would scare people, but such a veto would equally as likely to come from FBI (in the guise of “appropriate Federal agency” DOJ), and given Tom Cotton’s efforts to send this data even more quickly to FBI, that’s probably who vetoed it.

If you had any doubts the Intelligence Community is ordering up what it wants in this bill, the language permitting them a veto on privacy protections should alleviate you of those doubts.

On top of NSA and FBI’s veto authority, there’s an intentional logical problem here. DHS is one of the “appropriate Federal agencies,” but DHS is the entity that would presumably do the scrub. Yet if it can’t retain data before any other agency, it’s not clear how it could do a scrub.

In short, this seems designed to lead people to believe there might be a scrub (or rather, that under CISA, DHS would continue to do the privacy scrub they are currently doing, though they are just beginning to do it automatically) when, for several reasons, that also seems to be ruled out by the bill. And ruled out because one “appropriate Federal agency” (like I said, I suspect FBI) plans to veto such a plan.

So it has taken this Manager’s Amendment to explain why we need CISA: to make sure that DHS doesn’t do the privacy scrubs it is currently doing.

I’ll explain in a follow-up post why it would be so important to eliminate DHS’ current scrub on incoming data.

The Financial Services Roundtable Wants to Terrify You into Giving Them More Immunity

The policy discussion about the many ways that the Cyber Information Sharing Act not only doesn’t do much to prevent the hacking of public and private networks, but in key ways will make it worse, must be making its mark. Because the Financial Services Roundtable, one of the key corporatist groups backing the bill, released this YouTube full of scary warnings but absolutely zero explanation about what CISA might do to increase cybersecurity.

Indeed, the YouTube is so context free, it doesn’t note that Susan Collins, the first person who appears in the video, has called for mandatory reporting from some sectors (notably, aviation), which is not covered in the bill and might be thwarted by the bill. Nor does it mention that the agency of the second person that appears in the video, Department of Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson, has raised concerns about the complexity of the scheme set up in CISA, not to mention privacy concerns. It doesn’t note that the third person shown, House Homeland Security Chair Michael McCaul, favored an approach that more narrowly targeted the information being shared and reinforced the existing DHS structure with his committee’s bill.

Instead of that discussion … “Death, destruction, and devastation!” “Another organization being hacked!” “Costing jobs!” “One half of America affected!” “What is it going to take to do something?!?!?!”

All that fearmongering and only one mention of the phrase “information sharing,” much less a discussion of what the bill in question really does.

In August, the head of the FSR, Tim Pawlenty, was more honest about what this bill does and why his banks like it so much: because it would help to hide corporate negligence.

“If I think you’ve attacked me and I turn that information over to the government, is that going to be subject to the Freedom of Information Act?” he said, highlighting a major issue for senators concerned about privacy.

“If so, are the trial lawyers going to get it and sue my company for negligent maintenance of data or cyber defenses?” Pawlenty continued. “Are my regulators going to get it and come back and throw me in jail, or fine me or sanction me? Is the public going to have access to it? Are my competitors going to have access to it? Are they going to be able to see my proprietary cyber systems in a way that will give up competitive advantage?”

That is, the banks want to share information with the government so it can help those private corporations protect themselves (without paying for it, really, since banks do so well at dodging taxes), without any responsibility or consequences in return. “Are my regulators going to get [information about how banks got attacked] and come back and throw me in jail, or fine me, or sanction me?” the banks’ paid lobbyist worries. As the author of this bill confirmed last week, this bill will undercut regulators’ authority in case of corporate neglect.

The example of banks dodging responsibility in the past — possibly aided by a similar (albeit more rigorous) information sharing regime under the Bank Secrecy Act — provides all the evidence for how stupid this bill would be. We need corporations to start bearing liability for outright negligence. And this bill provides several ways for them to avoid such liability.

Don’t succumb to bankster inciting fear. America will be less safe if you do.