The good news is Congress passed the $1.15 trillion spending bill that will keep the government from shutting down next week.
How they did it is the bad news. First of all, it includes $620 billion in tax breaks, which will make our deficit worse.
The really bad news is that new Speaker of the House Paul Ryan inserted the entire CISA (Cybersecurity Information Sharing Act) into the budget bill during reconciliation. Reconciliation is the process by which, after the House and the Senate have passed a bill a joint committee irons out the differences between the two versions so the bill can proceed to the president for signature. Reconciliation is not meant as an opportunity to add an entirely separate (and unrelated) bill into the mix.
CISA is the bill that could not pass on its own. You would think we would know better, after all the revelations that our government has been illegally spying on its own citizens, something that we know about only because of people like Chelsea Manning, Edward Snowden, and Julian Assange, who have paid dearly with their freedom. Instead, CISA gives the government even more power to spy on us, and gives corporations the ability to share personal and private information about us with each other.
Doubling down, the version of CISA that Ryan inserted into the must-pass budget bill is far worse than the CISA that could not pass on its own. Originally touted as a bill that would protect us from cyber-terrorists in order to sell it to Congress and the American people, the new version drops that pretense and “Quietly Turns CISA Into A Full On Surveillance Bill“.
The new bill guts requirements that your personal information be scrubbed from mass collected data. It also allows the government to use this information to detect any criminal behavior. The Constitution specifically prohibits searches without probable cause, but this bill allows the government to spy on your digital life any time it wants for any reason (actually, for no reason at all).
To put this in perspective, what would you think about a country where the government put microphones in everyone’s home and business and listened in on all their private conversations? Where the government opened everyone’s mail, including personal letters and credit card statements. Or could demand that any company provide them with all information they have about their citizens (including from Facebook, Twitter, Apple, and Google). You’d probably say they lived in an oppressive, totalitarian country. Well, that’s what CISA does to us.
Yes, we had a chance to block CISA. Obama could have vetoed the entire spending bill, shutting down the government. That would have been political suicide for the Democrats. No, Ryan and the GOP knew they could sneak this into the must-pass spending bill at the last minute. Especially now after the recent terrorist shootings.
We have given up our freedom for a modicum of security. And as Benjamin Franklin said, we deserve neither. And we will get neither. This bill makes us less secure, while destroying our freedom.