NSA spying: For and against, plus what about cybersecurity bill CISPA?

As Congress considers reforms to U.S. surveillance programs, NSA Director Keith Alexander is asking the public for help in defending the spying.

“If you take those [surveillance powers] away, think about the last week and what will happen in the future,” he said, according to Hillicon Valley. “If you think it’s bad now, wait until you get some of those things that happened in Nairobi.” (He’s referring to the attack in a Kenya mall that killed dozens and injured more than 100 people.) Alexander also has said the surveillance has helped with the Boston Marathon bombings case and similar threats.

Senators on Wednesday unveiled a bill that seeks to limit the NSA’s collection of phone records and online communications, whose details and scope were revealed in June after former government tech contractor Edward Snowden leaked information to the Guardian and Washington Post. While the U.S. government’s rationale for the massive surveillance program is to fight against foreign terrorism threats, Americans’ communications have been swept up, too.

“The disclosures over the last 100 days have caused a sea change in the way the public views the surveillance system,” said Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., one of four senators who sponsored the bill, at a news conference Wednesday.

The bill, called the Intelligence Oversight and Surveillance Reform Act, blends portions of about a dozen other draft bills, according to the Guardian. Among its provisions are the creation of a constitutional advocate to represent the public in the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, and allowing companies to disclose more information about their part in the spying — something Silicon Valley companies such as Google, Facebook and Yahoo have been pushing for.

Meanwhile, remember cybersecurity? The author of CISPA, or the Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act, is complaining about the Snowden effect.

“Snowden clearly hurt our chances to have an unconfused debate about what we’re trying to accomplish,” said House Intelligence Committee Chairman Mike Rogers, R-Mich., Wednesday, a reports Hillicon Valley.

As we’ve written, CISPA aims to increase the sharing of information between the government and businesses. Before the Snowden leaks, a big concern over CISPA was how much information would be shared with spying agencies such as the NSA. Turns out that even without CISPA, the answer is a lot.


Photo: General Keith Alexander, director of the National Security Agency, appears before the House Select Intelligence Committee June 18 in Washington. (Olivier Douliery/Abaca Press/MCT)

Levi Sumagaysay Levi Sumagaysay (4246 Posts)

Levi Sumagaysay is editor of the combined SiliconBeat and Good Morning Silicon Valley. She also helps take care of SiliconValley.com, the Mercury News tech website. Email: lsumagaysay@bayareanewsgroup.com