By Michelle Richardson, ACLU Legislative Counsel
Just a few months ago, an unprecedented public outcry killed the “Stop Online Piracy Act” or SOPA – an effort in Congress to regulate the Internet and block the American people's access to some websites that would fall under the bill’s vague definition of “copyright infringement.”
It didn't take long for anti-privacy forces to try again.
The House today passed a "national security" bill that will let the government and private companies share information they think might constitute a national security threat with military and intelligence spy agencies. They can pass over your medical records, private emails, web history, and financial information, without you ever knowing. And they won't need a search warrant.
In recent years, and in the name of national security, our right to privacy -- and against unnecessary search and seizure -- has been slowly eroded. The PATRIOT Act, which is one of the most egregious examples, allows for roving domestic wiretaps, searches of library records, and surveillance of people suspected of "terrorist-related activities."
Today’s bill - the Cybersecurity Information Sharing and Protection Act (CISPA) - is just another name for unconstitutional encroachments on our fundamental rights to privacy and due process.
So, it is cold comfort but comfort nonetheless that the Obama Administration, which supports the PATRIOT Act, has threatened to veto CISPA.
GOP presidential candidates Ron Paul and Buddy Roemer have also spoken out on CISPA, with Paul saying, "[The bill] is Big Brother writ large, putting the resources of private industry to work for the nefarious purpose of spying on the American people."
Mitt Romney, however, has so far been silent on this invasion into our personal lives. He has opposed SOPA because it would "kill the private sector" and strongly favors continuing the PATRIOT Act. The presumptive GOP presidential nominee now needs to tell us where he stands on CISPA and on protecting our constitutional rights to privacy.
ACLU Liberty Watch 2012 is the voice for the Constitution in the this year’s presidential election. Follow us on Twitter: @ACLULW, or on Facebook: Facebook.com/ACLULibertyWatch.