CISPA passed the U.S. House of Representatives. This makes me mad, but I’m unsurprised that it would get through eventually. So I wrote to my U.S. Senators today, Richard Blumenthal and Christopher Murphy of Connecticut. I’m posting the letter here, for three reasons: 1) for feedback on how to make it better the next time I send it (and I will have to send it again); 2) as a model for other people to use, and to examine follow-up comments to make their own alterations to their future letters; and 3) to provide a public record that such an e-mail was sent to them, and that this could become a political issue for them in the future.
Dear Senators Murphy and Blumenthal,
As you may know, today the U.S. House of Representatives passed HR624, otherwise known as the Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act, or more popularly as CISPA.
I am writing to you to ask that you vote against any Senate version of the bill which may somehow make it to the floor of the U.S. Senate, and that you use your powers as a Senator to place a hold on any Senate version of this bill — or filibuster it as necessary — to prevent any version of this bill from passing the Senate.
I also ask that you work to include in any Senate version of this bill, a formal restatement of the principles of the fourth and fifth amendments of the United States Constitution, which explicitly defines the digital data of individual persons (not just citizens) as “Effects”, and thus protected from unreasonable search and seizures without a warrant — and to require companies which hold such data to insist upon warrants from law enforcement personnel before releasing information to local, state, or federal authorities.
We live in a time of greatly-expanded law enforcement powers. Today, the New England city of Boston is effectively “shut down” while a massive manhunt ensued for the alleged Marathon bombers. Yet a study of history has shown, time and again, that where citizens can be spied on at will, and their letters and materials can be studied at length and with impunity for any reason, that there is a corresponding reduction in political and economic freedom. Such powers, unregulated, lead to the criminalization of thought as well as deed.
I urge you, at this moment, to take a stand for individual liberty and the rights of the people as enshrined in the fourth amendment to the constitution, and block ANY Cyber Security Act which does not treat people’s data as private and protected from search and seizure.
It’s not perfect. I’d be happier if there was a version of a Cyber Security bill I could support, instead of having to keep objecting to the same bad ones. I also note with some pleasure that my own Congresswoman, Rosa DeLauro, and all of my nearby congressional representatives, voted against the House version of the bill. Thank goodness that I don’t have to start writing angry letters to them about their votes on those bills, and I can instead write to them to say thank you.