Senator John McCain has introduced a new cybersecurity bill that calls for the NSA and the military to actively monitor all levels of communication on the civilian internet with little to no oversight.
Under the McCain bill, data deemed “malicious” would be sent by Internet Service Providers to cybersecurity centers, including the National Security Agency’s Threat Operation Center and the U.S. Cyber Command Joint Operations Center, for evaluation.
The language in the bill is intentionally vague, which has led to concerns among civil libertarians that “malicious data” could eventually come to include emails and internet communications containing simple protest speech, which is protected under the United States Constitution.
Another concern is that the bill guarantees all ISPs that choose to submit suspicious network activity protection from lawsuits and other legal action, making it all but impossible for the average citizen to control or challenge the type of information being collected.
Michelle Richardson, of the ACLU, commented that “This is a privacy nightmare that will eventually result in the military substantially monitoring the domestic, civilian Internet.”
McCain, for his part, dismisses such concerns as nonsense. Brian Rogers, a McCain spokesman, stated that “Senator McCain’s priority in crafting this bill has been to make sure it strengthens our security while continuing to safeguard the privacy of consumers. He remains open to addressing legitimate concerns as this process moves forward.”
McCain’s track record on civil liberties has taken a negative turn, of late. Most recently, he co-sponsored the most radical provisions in the National Defense Authorization Act, the indefinite detention of American citizens.
What is clear is that the McCain cybersecurity bill would dramatically extend the reach of government intelligence agencies, and include the military in a domestic surveillance role. It represents one more aspect of privacy stripped away from the American people in the name of national security.