In the hours leading up to President Obama’s State of the Union speech, if you were watching the news you wouldn’t have guessed he signed an executive order into law just hours before. Obama signed the cyber security EO and issued an embargo on it, restricting journalists and media sources from reporting on the order until after his speech. While the embargo wasn’t legally binding, past precedents of keeping executive orders hush have only been used when the orders contain classified information.
What’s worse – the President’s blatant disregard for the First Amendment and a free press, his violation of the separation of powers in bypassing Congress and signing the decree into law, or the privacy-attacking cyber security policy itself?
It’s hard to choose.
See, this isn’t President Obama’s first rodeo with cyber security legislation. The legislation failed to pass Congress twice last year. After weakening some of the restrictions in the policy, Obama decided to push it through himself. He must have forgotten that Congress is the body that holds all legislative power.
But according to the President, the order was pushed through in urgency because of rising cyber threats. So what does it do?
In essence, the order is “intended” to strengthen the nation’s infrastructure of computer networks to prevent “cyber threats” (vague). It provides for voluntary information sharing between government agencies and the private sector, in an effort to monitor “critical infrastructure” (vague) for potential cyber attacks. In fact, the order in its entirety is all quite vague, leaving many concerned that this will allow for misinterpretation.
Chaninat & Leeds’ US and Thai Attorneys have been representing clients in Thailand and abroad for over 40 years.
Officials say the EO won’t violate individual civil liberties as it relates directly to private sector and government agencies. But the order could be superseded by stricter legislation, called the “Cyber Intelligence and Sharing Protection Act” (CISPA) which exempts privacy laws and would allow for companies to report on internet users’ activity and information in order to protect cyber security. The unamended CISPA was reintroduced into Congress Wednesday.
According to The New American, companies, in exchange for delivering users’ private data to the National Security Agency (NSA) and Department of Homeland Security (DHS), the “federal government will shield participating companies for any liability stemming from challenges to the government’s use of the electronic communication of its customers.”
No doubt the potential for infringement on citizens’ Fourth Amendment rights against unlawful search and seizure exists here. Your personal data can make its way from the hands of private companies like say, your banking and financial institutions, to the government with little awareness or acceptance on your part.
But don’t worry: when President Obama announced the executive order, he assured the nation that it was done “for our safety.” Which is about as vague as the terms used in the order itself.
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