Libertarian Party joins coalition urging Obama to veto cybersecurity bill

For Immediate Release Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Stop Watching Us The Libertarian Party calls for President Barack Obama to veto the Cybersecurity Information Sharing Act (CISA) of 2014, joining a coalition of other organizations that oppose this bill, including the Electronic Frontier Foundation, the American Civil Liberties Union, the Sunlight Foundation, the Competitive Enterprise Institute, and the Center for Democracy and Technology.

These groups and many more signed on to a letter sent to the president today to help put a stop to this terrible piece of legislation and move in the direction of increased privacy protections. The Libertarian Party additionally calls for the immediate repeal and nullification of all laws that violate the Fourth Amendment, including the U.S. Patriot Act and the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA).

CISA, which was marked up in a secret, closed session last week, focuses on increasing information sharing between the government and private sector. Having passed out of the Intelligence Committee, the bill is now set to head to the Senate floor with few meaningful privacy protections added.

“The routine violation of privacy and individual rights has become commonplace in the modern surveillance state, and CISA further streamlines this abuse of power,” said Libertarian National Committee Chair Nicholas Sarwark. “President Obama must veto CISA and any similar legislation that crosses his desk in the future, and he should demand the abolition of all government programs that violate individual privacy rights.”

CISA presents many of the same problems as the failed Cybersecurity Information Sharing and Protection Act (CISPA) of 2012, which contained significant privacy concerns and other shortcomings. Privacy experts have pointed out how CISA would damage the privacy and civil liberties of users. Language in CISA, like CISPA, enables the automatic and simultaneous transfer of cybersecurity information to U.S. intelligence agencies like the National Security Agency.

While amendments attached to CISA during the committee mark-up alleviate concerns about the bill’s disproportionate impact on non-U.S. persons, the revised bill fails to correct many of the bill’s most basic problems. In fact, while amendments ostensibly require additional limited data use and retention limitations, those provisions are left wide open to secret government interpretation. The bill also still imposes no affirmative duty for entities to strip out personally identifiable information unless the entity has actual knowledge that the identifiable information is present.

CISA authorizes the federal government to use the information in a broad range of investigations and prosecutions, such as Espionage Act investigations, raising questions about increased harm to whistleblowers and journalists. The bill also offers broad immunity protections for corporations, disincentivizing companies from protecting the privacy of users and limiting access to remedy for those whose rights are impacted. Additionally, CISA fails to incorporate any significant lessons learned regarding the critical role of transparency in oversight, providing a broad new categorical exemption from disclosure under the Freedom of Information Act, the first since the Act’s passage in 1966.

“CISA is a recipe for government misconduct and exploitation,” Sarwark said. “History has repeatedly shown that power corrupts, and this kind of unrestricted access to capturing and storing private information grants government officials unchecked power over American citizens, undermining the rule of law. It’s time to fight back against the injustice of mass surveillance and restore the constitutional privacy protections of the Fourth Amendment.”

The Libertarian Party is the only political party that has consistently opposed the government’s mass surveillance of citizens. This commitment to individual privacy rights and the rule of law began with the party’s first platform, adopted 42 years ago, which said, “Electronic and other covert government surveillance of citizens should be restricted to activity which can be shown beforehand, under high, clearly defined standards of probable cause, to be criminal and to present immediate and grave danger to other citizens.”

The Libertarian Party has also been at the forefront of political participation in recent coalitions opposing surveillance abuse, including Restore the Fourth , Stop Watching Us , The Day We Fight Back , Reset the Net , and Stand Against Spying .

“There’s one and only one way to stop this abuse: Repeal every law that violates your Fourth Amendment right to privacy,” Libertarian Party Political Director Carla Howell wrote last year . “Dismantle, unplug, and end all unneeded spy agencies and secret courts.”