cyber security bill moving swiftly through Congress would give government intelligence agencies broad powers to work with private companies to share information about Internet users. While some critics are beginning to organize online against the legislation, defense contractors, many already working with the National Security Agency on related data-mining projects, are lobbying to press forward. Like many bad policy ideas, entrenched government contractors seem to be using taxpayer money to lobby for even more power and profit.A
The proposal, H.R.3523, the Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act of 2011, introduced by Congressmen Mike Rogers (R-MI) and Dutch Ruppersberger (D-MD), provides companies and the government "free rein to bypass existing laws in order to monitor communications, filter content, or potentially even shut down access to online services for 'cybersecurity purposes.'" Though the bill has been compared to SOPA given its potential to smother free speech on the Internet, the ill-fated copyright legislation that inspired an intense lobbying battle earlier this year, much of the tech community has has joined with copyright interests to support CISPA.
A full list of companies and trade groups supporting the legislation, from Facebook to AT&T, can be found here. Combing through the lobbyist disclosure forms, Republic Report noticed that two of the top firms spending a lot of money to pass CISPA are major National Security Agency (NSA) contractors:
– Computer Sciences Corporation (CSC): A major government IT firm, CSC has several large contracts with U.S. intelligence agencies. CSC provides "secure information technology infrastructure for the NSA ... [to] secure and non-secure telephony and network services, distributed computing services, and enterprise and security management at the NSA headquarters and its surrounding offices." CSC already works on a pilot program that directly relates to the data-mining project envisioned by CISPA. According to disclosures reviewed by Republic Report, CSC currently contracts with Navigators Global LLC, a Republican-led lobbying firm, to promote CISPA.
– Sciences Applications International Corporation (SAIC): Another major defense contractor, SAIC provides a variety of services to the NSA. The NSA is one of SAIC's "primary clients" — the firm is helping the intelligence agency build a massive data-mining center in Utah. Lobbying disclosures reviewed by Republic Report show that SAIC has contracted with the firm Dennis Miller Associates to lobby on CISPA.
As the Center for Democracy and Technology explains, CISPA vastly expands a current information gathering effort between the NSA and private firms:
The legislation is being billed as an expansion of a collaboration between the National Security Agency (NSA) and major ISPs dubbed the Defense Industrial Base Pilot. Under the DIB Pilot, the NSA shares classified cyberattack signatures and information about cybersecurity threats with large ISPs that provide Internet service to major defense contractors.
Other current NSA data-mining contractors are lobbying to pass CISPA. Northrop Grumman has at least 10 registered lobbyists promoting the bill. Lockheed Martin has a comprable number of lobbyists doing the same.
But CSC's team of 26 registered lobbyists reflects the company's dependence on government contracts for profit. And registered lobbyists are only part of the influence operation. CSC also helps finance trade associations, like the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, which is also pushing hard to pass the CISPA.
Like the for-profit college industry, which uses taxpayer money to lobby for even more taxpayer money while defrauding students, the extent to which private sector firms with government spy contracts are lobbying for broader power should alarm everyone.
UPDATE: Watch EFF's Travor Timm discuss the legislation with Bloomberg Law's Lee Pacchia.