March 12, 2013 | By rainey Reitman

34 Civil Liberties Groups Speak Out Against CISPA in Lead Up to Hearings

On Monday, EFF and over 30 other Internet rights organizations sent a letter to members of Congress demanding they vote no on the "cybersecurity" bill known as CISPA. The letter starts off a week in which Congress will hold three different hearings about CISPA and computer and network security. In addition to the letter, each hearing will provide opportunity to voice many of the bill's problems. We encourage you to join the fight and tell your Representative to say no to CISPA.

In the coalition letter, groups including Mozilla, CDT, ACLU, EFF, and the American Library Association called on representatives to oppose CISPA because of privacy and civil liberties concerns:

CISPA's information sharing regime allows the transfer of vast amounts
of data, including sensitive information like internet records or the
content of emails, to any agency in the government including military
and intelligence agencies like the National Security Agency or the
Department of Defense Cyber Command. Once in government hands, this
information can be used for undefined 'national security' purposes
unrelated to cybersecurity.

CISPA may advance in the House at any time. EFF and other civil liberties groups are ramping up the fight against the bill. We'll be raising more awareness and urging users to speak to their representatives about CISPA's dangers.

The first hearing this week will focus on the Department of Homeland Security's (DHS) role in cybersecurity. In the past couple of years there has been a turf battle over whether the National Security Agency (NSA) or DHS should run the nation's Internet and network security. Even after NSA head General Keith Alexander declared that civilian agencies should be in charge, the House didn't get the message. The letter we sent highlights a loophole in CISPA allowing companies to bypass privacy laws and share potentially personal information directly with the NSA. We agree with General Alexander. Civilian control of our domestic cybersecurity is a necessity.

The second hearing will touch on computer crime laws. There is talk of increasing the penalties in these laws every year a cybersecurity bill is introduced. Last year, President Obama and Senator Leahy introduced changes to the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act (CFAA) that tried—and failed—to increase the penalties to 20 years in prison.

But this year should be different. Government lawyers used the CFAA in an aggressive prosecution against social justice activist Aaron Swartz. Since Aaron's death, EFF, CDT and others have been fighting to reform the draconian computer anti-hacking law. Aaron's case proved the CFAA is ripe for abuse. You can go here to tell your representative to support reform.

The last hearing will focus on the future of the U.S. military given modern information technology. The witnesses are exclusively from the Department of Defense, and we have no doubt that the ongoing—and incorrectly named—"cyberwar" between the US and China will feature prominently. Whether the hearing will address the civil liberties issues raised by military operations in cyberspace is another matter.

The hearings provide an outlet for users to let their representatives know that CISPA must be stopped. The letter we sent highlights many of CISPA's problems. And we encourage you to tell your Congressmen about them by signing our petition to stop CISPA. We'll be live tweeting the first two hearings on Wednesday, which start at 10 am and 11:30 am EDT on our @EFFLive account.

Read the entire coalition letter here.

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