Civil Liberties: The Apparent Cost of Cybersecurity

With the holidays fast approaching, we must take time to reflect on and show appreciation for the civil liberties we possess as American citizens. That being said, I would like to elaborate on the reality of our situation and the government’s infringement upon our rights and civil liberties provided to us by the Constitution. This particular assault on the Fourth Amendment began when President Obama signed the $1.1 trillion spending bill into law. Since the only measure to prevent a government shutdown was to pass the bill, it was approved by a 65–33 vote in the senate and a 316–113 vote in the House. With only 48 hours to analyze a 2,000-page bill, America’s representatives saw the unique urgency to pass this bill as an opportunity to sneak in the unprecedentedly invasive Cybersecurity Act of 2015, which has thus far proven to be an even less constitutional revival of the Patriot Act. The act is a combination of three bills, one being the heavily criticized Cybersecurity Information Sharing Act (CISA). In the wake of some embarrassing vulnerability breaches, the government pushed this legislation as a fix to those vulnerabilities and a boost to national security. Contrary to its title, this act actually does very little to protect the privacy and cyber security of American citizens, let alone protect their civil liberties. The Cybersecurity Act of 2015 authorizes tech companies to share information regarding cyber threats with “any government entity.” Any company that decides to share consumer data through this provision is also made immune to consumer lawsuits. The Department of Homeland Security is the entity that initially receives the data, but the Act allows the DHS to pass along all pertinent details to the FBI and NSA to be further investigated and perhaps carry out legal action. President Obama declared the omnibus bill a “good win.” The passage of this law and the irrational satisfaction from the president outline a serious issue in regard to the process through which we institute the rule of law that is supposed to bind us from our own worst intentions. Hindsight being 20/20, we as citizens have the opportunity to glance back at the vague language in the Patriot Act that enabled the government to spy on millions of Americans without due process, and see the correlation between the obscurity of the language found in the Cybersecurity Act of 2015. The passage of this Act is a blatant assault on our individual civil liberties, and we must resist the government’s propagation of falsehoods designed to trick ill-informed citizens into believing legislation like CISA is necessary. Civil liberties are non-negotiable, so despite the government’s attempt to claim that the forfeiture of such liberties ensures a collective protection from “terror”, those liberties are incapable of being forfeited. The Fourth Amendment exists for a reason. Even if 99% of Americans decided that we should give up our Fourth Amendment protections against unwarranted eavesdropping to thwart possible terrorist plots the non-negotiability of our constitutional rights bars such forfeiture despite the majority’s beliefs. We must recognize the true consequences of this tradeoff that the federal government continually tries to oblige American citizens to take part in. We must stay true to our constitution and remind our representatives that there is no bigger threat to our collective freedom than us.