In an announcement not posted at the Onion.com, the Department of Homeland Security designated October as “National Cyber Security Awareness Month.” In the official press release on the DHS website, Deputy Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas stated, “Cybersecurity is a top priority for DHS” and that “…cybersecurity impacts Americans in all aspects of their lives, including in their use of personal technologies and in their workplaces.”
Once all the laughter died down, a DHS spokesman is reported to have said, “no really, that’s an actual press release, not a joke. I mean it dude. Stop looking at me that way and just email it out to the press.” Apparently, whoever wrote that didn’t get the other memo that’s been going around for years about the DHS being the worst threat to cyber security in the history of the word “cyber.”
Today the government is spying on Americans in ways the founders of our country never could have imagined. The FBI, federal intelligence agencies, the military, state and local police, private companies, and even firemen and emergency medical technicians are gathering incredible amounts of personal information about ordinary Americans that can be used to construct vast dossiers that can be widely shared through new institutions like Joint Terrorism Task Forces, fusion centers, and public-private partnerships. And this surveillance often takes place in secret, with little or no oversight by the courts, by legislatures, or by the public…
The fear of terrorism has led to a new era of overzealous police intelligence activity directed, as so often in the past, against political activists, racial and religious minorities, and immigrants. This new surveillance activity is not directed solely at suspected terrorists and criminals. It’s directed at all of us. Increasingly, the government is engaged in suspicionless surveillance that vacuums up and tracks sensitive information about innocent people. The erosion of reasonable restrictions on government’s power to collect people’s personal information is putting the privacy and free speech rights of all Americans at risk.
In fact it was just two years ago that the Department of Homeland Security was actively casting jealous eyes at the online stalking powers of the NSA:
Domestic spying capabilities used by the National Security Agency to collect massive amounts of data on American citizens could soon be available to the Department of Homeland Security — a bureaucracy with the power to arrest citizens that is not subject to limitations imposed on the NSA.
Unlike the DHS, the NSA is an intelligence agency, not a domestic law enforcement agency. It cannot arrest those suspected of wrongdoing. That power of the federal government lies with agencies under the jurisdiction of the Justice Department, the Treasury, Homeland Security and other law enforcement agencies.
The NSA and DHS have waged a long Capitol Hill turf war over cybersecurity. Bills such as the Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act and the Cybersecurity Act of 2012 have sought to clearly define the relationship between the two agencies, but struggled to get off the ground…
The drive for an expanded DHS role in domestic spying, however, has been picking up steam. CISPA was reintroduced in the House of Representatives in February and passed in April. Although the bill stalled in the Senate, one of its most troubling portions remains intact: a provision granting private companies immunity from “any provision of the law” if they break privacy agreements between themselves and their customers to share private information with the federal government…
President Obama signed an executive order on February 12 establishing DHS’s role in securing the nation’s cybersecurity. Later, the federal government expanded a cybersecurity program “that scans Internet traffic headed into and out of defense contractors to include far more of the country’s private, civilian-run infrastructure,” according to a Reuters report…
“By using DHS as the middleman, the Obama administration hopes to bring the formidable overseas intelligence-gathering of the NSA closer to ordinary U.S. residents without triggering an outcry from privacy advocates who have long been leery of the spy agency’s eavesdropping,” Reuters reported.
It shouldn’t really be shocking or even surprising, when the government looks everyone in the face and says something completely hypocritical, but it is still a bit comical when one of the worst violators of privacy and cyber as well as personal security announces that they are going to spend a month teaching you how to keep your internet activity safe from people trying to eavesdrop on you.
Kelly is a lifelong resident of Las Vegas, who’s been very active in local grassroots activism, as well as on a national level during his extensive travels. He’s also the founder/main contributor of Nevada Cop Block, served as editor/contributor at CopBlock.org and designed the Official Cop Block Press Passes.
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