SSCI’s Cybersecurity Bill Would Chill News Reporting

The Cybersecurity Information Sharing Act of 2014 (CISA), released as a draft by Chairman Dianne Feinstein on June 17 and soon to be considered by the Senate Intelligence Committee, would threaten the flow of accurate news and information to the public and policymakers. The bill would allow government agencies to collect, without a warrant or other traditional legal process, journalists’ phone and other records if the government considers the journalists or their sources threats to the security of information stored on computer networks.

In a letter sent to the Senate intelligence Committee today, the Sunshine in Government Initiative pointed out that this overbroad proposal to address cybersecurity threats chills newsgathering based on confidential sources, removes meaningful judicial oversight, ignores carefully crafted legislation dealing with confidential sources, and places the careful balancing of vital democratic interests in the hands of the executive branch and private industry.

“In sum, CISA would enable the federal government to do an end-run around the Constitution and existing privacy laws,” we wrote.

Absent the protections found in strong judicial oversight, legal standards and prior notice requirements, federal investigators and prosecutors could easily obtain the communications records of journalists and their confidential sources, thereby creating an impermissible chilling effect on newsgathering […]

We recognize and appreciate the government’s responsibility to secure the nation from cyber attacks. However the bill as proposed steps across lines drawn by the nation’s founders and inhibits newsgathering and the flow of accurate information to the public.



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