Congress easily passed a thinly disguised surveillance provision—the final version of the Cybersecurity Information Sharing Act, or CISA— on Friday, shoehorned into a must-pass budget bill to prevent a government shutdown before the holidays.
Born of a climate of fear combined with a sense of urgency, the bill claims to do one thing—help companies share information with the government to heed off cyber attacks—and does entirely another—increases the U.S. government’s spying powers while letting companies with poor cyber hygiene off the hook. It’s likely to spawn unintended consequences.
Some critics felt its passage was in some ways eerily similar to when the USA Patriot Act, one of the most expansive surveillance bills in recent U.S. history, was made into law shortly after September 11, 2001.
In both cases, Congress had little time to even read the bills, making it inevitable that many would vote without being fully informed. And the result is the same—increased power and less accountability for the intelligence community.
“CISA is the new PATRIOT Act. It’s a bill that was born out of a climate of fear and passed quickly and quietly using a broken and nontransparent process,” wrote Evan Greer, campaign director for Fight For the Future, a digital rights group, in an email to The Intercept.