Tag Archive: SOPA

May 02 2013

Stop TPP: Time to Take Action

I’ve been writing about the Trans Pacific Partnership for over a year, it still flies under the radar in the news media for a number of reasons, the most obvious reason is that the corporate giants don’t want the public knowing how really bad this trade agreement is. It is so bad that Mitt Romney urged Pres. Obama to finish negotiations and ratify it. Those negotiations are slowly coming to a conclusion.

Political corruption and the ‘free trade’ racket by Dean Baker, Al Jazeera

In polite circles in the United States, support for free trade is a bit like proper bathing habits: It is taken for granted. Only the hopelessly crude and unwashed would not support free trade.

There is some ground for this attitude. Certainly, the US has benefited enormously by being able to buy a wide range of items at lower cost from other countries. However, this does not mean that most people in the country have always benefited from every opening to greater trade.

And it certainly does not mean that the country will benefit from everything that those in power label as “free trade”. That is the story we are seeing now as the Obama administration is pursuing two major “free trade” agreements that in fact have very little to do with free trade and are likely to hurt those without the money and power to be part of the game.

The deals in questions, the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) and the US-European Union “Free Trade” Agreement are both being pushed as major openings to trade that will increase growth and create jobs. In fact, eliminating trade restrictions is a relatively small part of both agreements, since most tariffs and quotas have already been sharply reduced or eliminated.

Rather, these deals are about securing regulatory gains for major corporate interests. In some cases, such as increased patent and copyright protection, these deals are 180 degrees at odds with free trade. They are about increasing protectionist barriers.

AS part of these agreements, the worst parts of the zombie bill, Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA), are being incorporated to “police” the internet.

Foreseeing opposition and difficulty getting the 2/3rd’s majority to pass this nightmare, Sen Orrin Hatch (R-UT) has proposed amendments to a Senate budget resolution that would speed its passage and implementation:

Hatch, who has been pressing the White House to move forward with fast-track authority, intends to offer an amendment that calls for implementation of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), which is expected to be completed this year, along with a U.S.-European Union trade deal, which is set to begin talks in June, and any other potential free-trade agreements to be done under trade promotion authority (TPA). [..]

Meanwhile, all of these negotiations have been held in secret. Yves Smith writes this at naked capitalism:

Congressional staffers have confirmed that the text of the TPP draft is classified. That means that only people with security clearances, which for practical matters means Congressmen and certain staffers on key committees (House Ways and Means and the Senate Finance Committee) in theory have access. That is already a monster impediment. Congressmen almost never have the time (even where they have the ability) to read long agreements in full and parse how key sections work (which often mean going back to definitions and in some cases, existing law). So keeping most staffers and third parties with expertise away assures that (until the last minute) the discussion and “clarifications” of the provisions under negotiation will come only from parties that are already in the tank.

But practice is even worse than theory. The full draft text is being withheld. And as anyone who has been involved in legal-related drafting knows, the actual language is critical. General terms and concepts that sound innocuous can serve as Trojan horses for all sorts of clever “gotcha” provisions.

Yves also brings attention to an article from Truthout

   Under federal law, members of the House Ways and Means and the Senate Finance Committees are designated official advisers to the USTR. In addition to every Representative and Senator, those panels’ staffers – being on “committees of jurisdiction” – are made privy to the American delegation’s proposals.

   Not a single person in Congress, however – or in any legislature of any country party to the deal – is allowed to even once-over the latest version of the actual draft agreement. In an email to Truthout, USTR spokesperson Carol Guthrie confirmed that senators and Congresspeople on committees of jurisdiction, along with their staffers, are only allowed to see the USTR proposals – not the working agreement. She added that “others at the discretion of the committees’ chair and ranking member” are given access to USTR proposals.

It is time for some cleansing sunshine.

We need to start to take action by calling our Senators and Representatives to tell them to stop this bill that will give international corporations more power that our own government, laws and courts,

Apr 01 2013

TPP: Expansion of Corporate Power

The Electronic Frontier Foundation reports that negotiations for the Trans-Pacific Partnership continued under wraps in Singapore earlier this month.

The 16th round of negotiations over the Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement (TPP) began in Singapore today, as trade delegates and private stakeholders from 11 participating countries gather to discuss this the contours of Pacific trade. EFF and many others are deeply concerned about TPP, because it appears to contain an intellectual property (IP) chapter that would ratchet up IP enforcement at the expense of digital rights. The TPP could turn Internet Service Providers into copyright cops, prompt ever-higher criminal and civil penalties for sharing content, and expand protections for Digital Rights Management. The Office of the US Trade Representative (USTR) has announced that they plan to complete the TPP by the fall of this year.

We say “appears to contain” because the negotiations have been carried out in secret: our understanding of the U.S. proposal is based primarily on leaked texts from February 2011. However, there have been some additional leaks, like those following the USTR announcement that the TPP would include exceptions and limitations to copyright. Despite the USTR’s effort to suggest that introducing fair use into the TPP was its idea, the leaked negotiating text made it clear that the U.S. was likely pressured into agreeing to exceptions and limitations as a concession. The leak also showed that the U.S. and Australia opposed any fair use that would extend to the “digital environment.” Thus, it appears the USTR continues to lobby for ever more stringent international IP standards without much regard for the collateral damage to the public interest.

The AFL-CIO is also concerned that TPP would have a negative impact on basic labor rights, including free association and collective bargaining:

For example, regarding labor rights, the “Outlines of the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement” released in November 2011 reads: “TPP (Trans-Pacific FTA) countries are discussing elements for a labor chapter that include commitments on labor rights protection and mechanisms to ensure cooperation, coordination, and dialogue on labor issues of mutual concern,” but fails to mention core labor standards (as determined by the International Labor Organization) or even whether the labor provisions in the final agreement will be enforceable.

Margaret Flowers, a congressional fellow with Physicians for a National Health Program and a pediatrician based in Baltimore and Kevin Zeese, activist lawyer and co-director of It’s Our Economy, discussed the agreements impact on  labor, environmental, and internet rights with Paul Jay of the Real News Network.

TransPacific Partnership Will Undermine Democracy, Empower Transnational Corporations

by Margaret Flowers and Kevin Zeese, Truthout | News Analysis

On critical issues, the massive Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) being negotiated in secret by the Obama administration will undermine democracy in the United States and around the world and further empower transnational corporations. It will circumvent protections for health care, wages, labor rights, consumers’ rights and the environment, and decrease regulation of big finance and risky investment practices.

The only way this treaty, which will be very unpopular with the American people once they are aware of it, can be approved is if the Obama administration avoids the democratic process by using an authority known as “Fast Track,” which limits the constitutional checks and balances of Congress.

If the TPP is approved, the sovereignty of the United States and other member nations will be dissipated by trade tribunals that favor corporate power and force national laws to be subservient to corporate interests.

Mar 31 2013

What We Now Know

As you know Chris Hayes will be hosting a new MSNBC show beginning April 1 at 8 PM EDT that he promises will be the same format as Up. Up’s new host Steve Carnacki takes over as the Saturday and Sunday host of the new “Up with Steve Carnacki” on April 13. This Sunday and next the best segments of the last two years will be aired.

Best of ‘Up w/ Chris Hayes’: SOPA and the future of the Internet

by Meredith Clark, Up with Chris Hayes

Before his January suicide, Aaron Swartz was a leader in the fight against the Stop Online Piracy Act, or SOPA.  The groups with which Swartz worked-Demand Progress, the Electronic Frontier Foundation, and many others-continue to fight for information transparency and reforms to the laws currently used to prosecute individuals for alleged crimes committed online.

Swartz’ death shifted debate from piracy and regulation to the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act and the government’s attitude towards what it deems cybercrime, and hackers continue to be arrested and prosecuted. On March 26, the Justice Department announced that it had arrested a Wisconsin man for his alleged involvement in a Dedicated Denial of Service attack on two websites owned by Koch Industries. This arrest comes only a week after another hacker, Andrew Auernheimer, was sentenced to more than three years in prison for exposing a security hole in AT&T’s iPad user database.

Cases like these and actions like those of Operation KnightSec, the group of hackers who leaked information about the Steubenville rape investigation are sure to become more common, which means that over the issues SOPA raised will surface again.

Debating Sopa: January 15, 2012

Chris leads a debate on the controversial Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) with NBC Universal Executive Vice President and General council Richard Cotton; Reddit co-founder Alexis Ohanian; former Rep. Joe Sestak (D-PA); and former lobbyist Jack Abramoff.

SOPA is gone but it’s ugly twin is back. Meet the “Patriot Act of the Internet“, the Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act (CISPA) which the House is expected to vote on in mid-April:

The House is expected to vote on a set of cybersecurity-focused bills in mid-April. One of those bills would include the Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act (CISPA) by Mike Rogers (R-Mich.) and Rep. Dutch Ruppersberger (D-Md.), which is aimed at removing the legal hurdles that prevent companies from sharing information about cyber threats with the government.

The bill boasts support from a broad swath of industry sectors – including the telecommunications, banking and tech industries – but has stoked criticism from privacy and civil liberties groups.

Privacy advocates charge that CISPA lacks sufficient privacy protections for people’s personal data and would increase the pool of Americans’ electronic communications that flow to the intelligence community, including the secretive National Security Agency.

The bill passed the House last spring but went untouched in the Senate, largely because it was working on its own comprehensive measure.

CISPA’s Problem Isn’t Bad PR, It’s Bad Privacy

by  Robyn Greene, Washington Legislative Office of the ACLU

Representative Mike Rogers (R-MI) made the argument last week that the privacy community’s significant concerns with CISPA, the privacy-busting cybersecurity bill, don’t stem from actual problems with the bill language, but rather from a misunderstanding of the bill itself. Speaking on behalf of himself and his co-sponsor, Representative Dutch Ruppersberger (D-MD), he told The Hill, “We feel that the bill clearly deals with privacy, that the checks and balances are there, but [we] know there’s still a perception and we’re still trying to deal with that.”  

The ACLU, along with a coalition of 41 privacy and civil liberties groups, are very concerned about the real-world impact that the authorities proposed in CISPA could have on Americans’ privacy and civil liberties. President Obama, along with top administration officials including Department of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano, have echoed many of our concerns. CISPA, in its current form (pdf):    

  • Creates an exception to all privacy laws to allow companies to share our personal information, including internet records and the content of emails, with the government and other companies, for cybersecurity purposes;
  • Permits our private information to be shared with any government agency, like the NSA or the Department of Defense ‘s Cyber Command;
  • Fails to require the protection of Americans’ personally identifiable information (PII), despite repeated statements by the private sector that it doesn’t want or need to share PII;
  • Once shared with the government, allows our information to be used for non-cybersecurity “national security” purposes – an overbroad “catch-all” phrase that can mean almost anything;
  • Immunizes companies from criminal or civil liability, even after an egregious breach of privacy;
  • Fails to implement adequate transparency and oversight mechanisms.

In a recent article in Wired, Chris Finan, former White House director for cybersecurity, urged Congress to fix CISPA by amending the bill so as to require companies to strip their customers’ PII before sharing it with the government; restrict information sharing to civilian agencies; restrict the further dissemination and use of information to cybersecurity purposes; place reasonable limits on companies’ liability protections; and establish a non-profit to act as an “independent ‘watchdog'”  over any information sharing program to enhance oversight and transparency.

It will would be great if Congress amended CISPA to address all of our privacy concerns, but it’s hard to hold out hope for sufficient changes so long as its chief sponsor thinks that it doesn’t have a privacy problem so much as a PR problem. Everyone, from the privacy community to the president, agrees that CISPA is bad on privacy – the problem isn’t our perception.

Violating Our Privacy Is Not An Option

Sign this petition and send Congress a message that our rights are not negotiable.

For Aaron and for us.

Jan 27 2013

The Legacy of Aaron Swartz

The White House announced a National Day of Civic Hacking, June 1 – 2, 2013, as the internet continues to mourn the hacker and activist, Aaron Swartz, who died of suicide at age 26. Aaron’s partner Taren Stinebrickner-Kauffman, executive director and founder of SumofUs.org joins host Chris Hayes; Lawrence Lessig, Roy L. Furman Professor of Law at Harvard Law School; Susan Crawford, professor for the Center on Intellectual Property & Information Law Program at Carodozo School of Law; and Ta-Nehisi Coates, senior editor for The Atlantic on the Up with Chris panel to discuss the legacy of Aaron Swartz.

Jan 15 2013

In Aaron’s Name, Change This Law

SOPA Reddit WarriorComputer programmer, writer, archivist, political organizer, and Internet activist, but most of all son, brother and friend, Aaron Swartz tragically took his own life last week. One of the many achievements of Aaron’s too short life was to win a battle in the war for Internet Freedom, he helped lead the fight to Stop SOPA. SOPA was the Stop Online Piracy Act bill that sought to monitor the Internet for copyright violations and would have made it easier for the U.S. government to shut down websites accused of violating copyright.

This was Aaron’s address at F2C:Freedom to Connect 2012, Washington DC on May 21 2012.

Now we have a battle to fight in Aaron’s name to reform the law that overzealous federal prosecutors used against him, the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act. Marcia Hoffman, senior staff attorney for Electronic Freedom Foundation, lays out the case for fixing this draconian law:

Problem 1: Hacking laws are too broad, and too vague

Among other things, the CFAA makes it illegal to gain access to protected computers “without authorization” or in a manner that “exceeds authorized access.”  Unfortunately, the law doesn’t clearly explain what a lack of “authorization” actually means. Creative prosecutors have taken advantage of this confusion to craft criminal charges that aren’t really about hacking a computer but instead target other behavior the prosecutors don’t like. [..]

Problem 2: Hacking laws have far too heavy-handed penalties

The penalty scheme for CFAA violations is harsh and disproportionate to the magnitude of offenses. Even first-time offenses for accessing a protected computer “without authorization” can be punishable by up to five years in prison each (ten years for repeat offenses) plus fines. It’s worth nothing that five years is a relatively light maximum penalty by CFAA standards; violations of other parts of that law are punishable by up to ten years, 20 years, and even life in prison. [..]

The Upshot

The CFAA’s vague language, broad reach, and harsh punishments combine to create a powerful weapon for overeager prosecutors to unleash on people they don’t like. Aaron was facing the possibility of decades in prison for accessing the MIT network and downloading academic papers as part of his activism work for open access to knowledge. No prosecutor should have tools to threaten to end someone’s freedom for such actions, but the CFAA helped to make that fate a realistic fear for Aaron.

In Aaron’s name please call on Congress and the White House to change this law.

Click here to send your message to your congressional representatives.

Please sign the Petition to President Barack Obama to Reform the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act to reflect the realities of computing and networks in 2013.

Do this not just in Aaron’s name but mine, yours and everyone who uses the internet.

Jan 14 2013

In Memoriam: Aaron Swartz 1986 – 2013

The brilliant mind, righteous heart of Aaron Swartz will be missed



The transcript can be read here

Lean into the pain

by Aaron Swartz

When you first begin to exercise, it’s somewhat painful. Not wildly painful, like touching a hot stove, but enough that if your only goal was to avoid pain, you certainly would stop doing it. But if you keep exercising… well, it just keeps getting more painful. When you’re done, if you’ve really pushed yourself, you often feel exhausted and sore. And the next morning it’s even worse.

If that was all that happened, you’d probably never do it. It’s not that much fun being sore. Yet we do it anyway – because we know that, in the long run, the pain will make us stronger. Next time we’ll be able to run harder and lift more before the pain starts.

And knowing this makes all the difference. Indeed, we come to see the pain as a sort of pleasure – it feels good to really push yourself, to fight through the pain and make yourself stronger. Feel the burn! It’s fun to wake up sore the next morning, because you know that’s just a sign that you’re getting stronger.

Few people realize it, but psychological pain works the same way. Most people treat psychological pain like the hot stove – if starting to think about something scares them or stresses them out, they quickly stop thinking about it and change the subject.

The problem is that the topics that are most painful also tend to be the topics that are most important for us: they’re the projects we most want to do, the relationships we care most about, the decisions that have the biggest consequences for our future, the most dangerous risks that we run. We’re scared of them because we know the stakes are so high. But if we never think about them, then we can never do anything about them. [..]

Next time you start feeling that feeling, that sense of pain from deep in your head that tells you to avoid a subject – ignore it. Lean into the pain instead. You’ll be glad you did.

Sep 12 2012

TPP: SOPA on Steroids

Since 2007 when George W. Bush lurked in the Oval Office, the United States has been in secret negotiations to cut a trade agreement with several Pacific rim countries called the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) Agreement. Those talks continued under President Barack Obama. I’ve written two articles, the first focused on the how TPP would affect the Internet. The second was on the content of the document leaked by Public Citizen in June of this year. That document (pdf), a work in progress, could without congressional approval  hamper free speech on the Internet, reduce access to affordable medicines, deregulate environmental laws, and harm labor rights, not only in the US but around the world. It could give vast political power to multinational corporations in global trade including power over governments to make and enforce their laws.

In other words TPP is “NAFTA on steroids” and “will broadly strip rights from ordinary citizens in favor of global financial players to an unprecedented degree:”

Today, Amnesty International called on the participating countries, which currently include the U.S., Australia, Brunei Darussalam, Chile, Malaysia, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, and Vietnam, to ensure that any new rules adhere to core principles of transparency and uphold human rights. [..]

“The Trans-Pacific Partnership trade pact has the potential to affect nearly every aspect of our lives as Americans,” said Allison Chin, President of the Sierra Club. “Alarmingly, however, is the opaque process in which the trade rules are being written. While hundreds of elite business executives have a hand in writing the rules that will affect American consumers, the public is largely left in the dark. This is a stealth affront to the principles of our democracy.”

Even the ACLU has become involved:

When asked how the TPP relates to the ACLU’s quest to fight for the protection of digital freedoms, the ACLU representatives said, “The TPP relates to the ACLU’s agenda of protecting free speech and privacy online, open government principles and ultimately protecting the Internet as the most open and innovative platform the world has seen.”

“While strong regulations are necessary to protect IP and promote innovation online, these must be crafted carefully and in a fully transparent fashion,” they continued. This is an incredibly important point which must be emphasized. In opposing CISPA, SOPA, the Protect IP Act (PIPA), ACTA, and the TPP, I am not saying that we should not protect intellectual property and online innovation.

To take such a position would be entirely nonsensical since I rely on such protections provided for my work as well.

“We are concerned that an overly broad policy to crackdown on copyright infringement would allow for the takedown of non-infringing content as well, in violation of the First Amendment, which was the same concern presented by SOPA and PIPA,” said the ACLU’s Fulton and Rottman.

“We also have strong concerns over any provision that would create legal incentives for ISPs to step up surveillance of Internet communications in search of suspected copyright infringement, which would potentially endanger the privacy of users. We also believe that whole site takedowns pose serious due process concerns,” they added.

In an article at Huffington Post Robert Naiman made this analogy about TPP’s impact on access to life saving medications:

It is reported that Stalin said, “The death of one person is a tragedy; the death of a million people is a statistic.” Today, a latter-day Stalin might say, “The death of four Yemeni civilians in a U.S. drone strike is a tragedy; the death of a million people because we let brand-name drug companies own U.S. ‘trade policy’ would be a statistic.”  [..]

What we can say with confidence is this: In an agreement that USTR hopes will eventually cover 40 percent of the world’s population, the negotiating position of USTR has reneged on previous commitments the U.S. government has made to promote the ability of governments to pursue public health goals in “trade agreements” rather than undermining the ability of governments to pursue public health goals.

And regardless of anything else, that fact alone should be a national scandal. When, at long last, you nail acknowledgement of a fundamental human right to the wall, it should stay nailed there. We shouldn’t have to fight USTR on access to essential medicines every time they negotiate a new “trade deal.” USTR should cry uncle on this for all time, no matter how much money brand-name drug companies spend on lobbying and political campaigns.

Naiman also points out that this agreement could severely hamper the ability of NGO’s to treat and contain the AIDS epidemic, putting millions at risk. He noted an article posted by  Médecins Sans Frontières/Doctors Without Borders in PLOS after the 19th International AIDS Conference that tool place August 2012 in Washington, DC>. MSF’s US Manager of the Access Campaign, Judit Rius Sanjuan related how this trade agreement threatens the prospects for an AIDS-free generation:

(To) achieve these goals, antiretroviral (ARV) drugs need to be available at affordable prices. Here’s where the contradiction comes in. The U.S. government is promoting restrictive trade policies that would make it much harder for patients, governments and treatment providers like MSF to access price-lowering generic drugs. [..]

Specifically, the U.S. is asking countries to create new, enhanced and longer patent and data monopoly protections for multinational pharmaceutical companies so they can keep competitors out of the market and charge higher prices for longer.

For example, the U.S. government wants TPP countries to lower the bar for patentability, thereby granting pharmaceutical companies new patents on variations of old drugs with little therapeutic benefit for patients. These provisions could stifle the production of less expensive generic forms.  And, the U.S. would make it impossible to challenge a patent’s validity before it is granted – a commonly used tool that helps to prevent frivolous and unwarranted patenting and which is vital to fostering an IP system that rewards innovations benefiting patients.  The U.S. demands also extend patent monopolies beyond the traditional 20-year period and make it harder for generics to get regulatory approval, which will serve to keep generics out and prop up drug prices for longer.

With these demands, U.S. is turning its back on existing commitments to promote public health in trade agreements and is undermining the sustainability of its own global health programs such as PEPFAR and international initiatives like the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria.

President Obama promised that his administration would be transparent, yet he negotiates this agreement behind closed doors. John Nichols, at The Nation said in his article that to show his worthiness to be reelected, the president should back up his “talk”, “walk the walk” and make this trade agreement transparent:  

The secretiveness mirrors negotiations the led to the North American Free Trade Agreement and other deals that have been devastating to the American manufacturing sector. These are precisely the sort of agreements that take away the “level playing field” both Obama and Mitt Romney say they want for American workers. Yet they keep being negotiated by Republican and Democratic administrations because they are not just favored by Wall Street and the multinationals, they top priorities of the CEOs, hedge-fund managers and speculators who form the donor class of American politics. [..]

President Obama spoke in Charlotte about seeking “a future where we export more products and outsource fewer jobs.” Trade agreements play a critical role in determining that future. Good trade agreements, grounded in “fair trade” values and a commitment to aid the workers of the United States and other countries, produce good results. Bad trade agreements, grounded in “free trade” fantasies and the demands of Wall Street speculators and lobbyists for multinational corporations, produce bad results.

What Americans need to know is whether the TPP, which is being negotiated in their name but without their informed consent, is headed in a good or bad direction.

In Charlotte, President Obama declared, “You elected me to tell you the truth.”

It is time for Pres. Obama to make good on his promise about being transparent, open these negotiations to public scrutiny and tell the American people the truth.

He can start by ordering his trade representative to remove the cloak of secrecy, begin serious consultations with Congress and make TPP negotiations open and transparent.

Jun 14 2012

What We Need To Know: Trans-Pacific Partnership

Back in February of this year when we were battling ACTA, SOPA, and PIPA to protect the internet, I wrote about the Trans Pacific Partnership which would have impose even stricter provisions on copyright law and the internet than ACTA. Well, TPP hasn’t gne away and the secret negotiations by the Obama administration has raised serious questions from both sides of the Congressional aisle. The trade document (pdf), which has been a more closely guarded secret than Dick Cheney’s location, was leaked by Public Citizen a long-time critic of the administration’s trade objectives. Their analysis of the stealth policy that is being advocated by the super corporations and the Obama administration is, in a word, frightening.

A leak today of one of the most controversial chapters of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) reveals that extreme provisions have been agreed to by U.S. officials, providing a stark warning about the dangers of “trade” negotiations occurring under conditions of extreme secrecy without press, public or policymaker oversight, Public Citizen said.

“The outrageous stuff in this leaked text may well be why U.S. trade officials have been so extremely secretive about these past two years of TPP negotiations,” said Lori Wallach, director of Public Citizen’s Global Trade Watch. “Via closed-door negotiations, U.S. officials are rewriting swaths of U.S. law that have nothing to do with trade and in a move that will infuriate left and right alike have agreed to submit the U.S. government to the jurisdiction of foreign tribunals that can order unlimited payments of our tax dollars to foreign corporations that don’t want to comply with the same laws our domestic firms do.”  [..]

The TPP may well be the last trade agreement that the U.S. negotiates. This is because TPP, if completed, would have a new feature relative to past U.S. trade pacts: It would remain open for any other country to join later. Last month, USTR Kirk said that he “would love nothing more” than to have China join TPP.

In one move without congressional ratification, the agreement could:

  • offshore millions of American jobs,
  • free the banksters from oversight,
  • ban Buy America policies needed to create green jobs and rebuild our economy,
  • decrease access to medicine,
  • flood the U.S. with unsafe food and products,
  • and empower corporations to attack our environmental and health safeguards.
  • Zach Carter of Huffington Post reveals that the agreement confers on multinational corporations the ability to circumvent US laws and regulation:

    Under the agreement currently being advocated by the Obama administration, American corporations would continue to be subject to domestic laws and regulations on the environment, banking and other issues. But foreign corporations operating within the U.S. would be permitted to appeal key American legal or regulatory rulings to an international tribunal. That international tribunal would be granted the power to overrule American law and impose trade sanctions on the United States for failing to abide by its rulings. [..]

    While the current trade deal could pose a challenge to American sovereignty, large corporations headquartered in the U.S. could potentially benefit from it by using the same terms to oppose the laws of foreign governments. If one of the eight Pacific nations involved in the talks passes a new rule to which an American firm objects, that U.S. company could take the country to court directly in international tribunals.

    Public Citizen challenged the independence of these international tribunals, noting that “The tribunals would be staffed by private sector lawyers that rotate between acting as ‘judges’ and as advocates for the investors suing the governments,” according to the text of the agreement.

    Some of the other parts of the agreement would raise the cost of medications, while it would make life saving drugs inaccessible, it might as well have if they’re too expensive. Some of the other provisions would also:

  • Expand pharmaceutical patenting and create new drug monopolies, by lowering patentability standards and requiring patentability of minor variations of older, known medicines.
  • Lengthen drug monopolies by requiring countries to extend patent terms.
  • Eliminate safeguards against patent abuse, including among others the right of third parties to challenge patent applications (pre-grant opposition).
  • Risk facilitating patent abuse by requiring countries to condition marketing approval on patent status (patent linkage). Under patent linkage, even spurious patents may function as barriers to generic drug registration.
  • Expand exclusive control over clinical trial data including through an extra three years of data exclusivity for new uses of known products (in addition to five years exclusivity for first uses) and a new provision on biotech medicines.
  • Judit Rius, U.S. manager of Doctors Without Borders Access to Medicines Campaign, referring to the medication rules said, “Bush was better than Obama on this. It’s pathetic, but it is what it is. The world’s upside-down.”

    On the impact on US environmental laws, Margrete Strand Rangnes, Labor and Trade Director for the Sierra Club, an environmental group said, “Our worst fears about the investment chapter have been confirmed by this leaked text … This investment chapter would severely undermine attempts to strengthen environmental law and policy.”

    These negotiations have been going on since Obama took office. They are backed by the US Chamber of Commerce and by the Republican presidential nominee, Mitt Romney, who urged the US to finalize the deal.

    Sen Ron Wyden (D-OR) has introduced legislation for more transparency and House Oversight Committee Chairman Darrell Issa (R-CA) leaked a document from the talks on his website. (Hmm. Will Issa investigate himself?)

    So much for this promise from Obama and the DNC (pdf):

    We will not negotiate bilateral trade agreements that stop the government from protecting the environment, food safety, or the health of its citizens; give greater rights to foreign investors than to U.S. investors; require the privatization of our vital public services; or prevent developing country governments from adopting humanitarian licensing policies to improve access to life-saving medications

    And Obama supporters tell us that Romney is worse. Really? I see no difference between the them.

    May 28 2012

    The Internet Defense League

    Back in January, thousands of websites, including Wikipedia, went dark to protest legislation in Congress aimed at combating copyright infringement. Opponents of the bills, known as SOPA and PIPA, said the measures amounted to Internet censorship. And as the web protests went viral, many lawmakers retracted their support for the bills.

    Now, the organizers behind that protest have formed a new coalition aimed at harnessing the same online organizing muscle to fight other measures believed to threaten online freedoms.

    The group is likening itself to the Internet’s “bat signal.”

    The coalition, called The Internet Defense League, was recently formed by the nonprofit Fight for the Future. Tiffany Cheng, co-founder of Fight for the Future, said the coalition’s members thus far include several web companies and activists who reach millions of Internet users, including Alexis Ohanian, founder of the social news site Reddit.

    “Think of it like the Internet’s Emergency Broadcast System, or its bat signal,”

    The site will officially launch in the next two weeks.

    The story can be found here.

    Apr 29 2012

    Stop CISPA: What You Need to Know

    CISPA, the cyber-security bill which threatens individual privacy rights on the internet, has passed the House, ignoring a possible veto, and will go to the Senate:

    On a bipartisan vote of 248-168, the Republican-controlled House backed the Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act (Cispa), which would encourage companies and the federal government to share information collected on the internet to prevent electronic attacks from cybercriminals, foreign governments and terrorists.

    “This is the last bastion of things we need to do to protect this country,” Republican Mike Rogers, chairman of the House intelligence committee, said after more than five hours of debate. [..]

    The White House, along with a coalition of liberal and conservative groups and lawmakers, strongly opposed the measure, complaining that Americans’ privacy could be violated. They argued that companies could share an employee’s personal information with the government, data that could end up in the hands of officials from the National Security Agency or the defence department. They also challenged the bill’s liability waiver for private companies that disclose information, complaining it was too broad.

    “Once in government hands, this information can be used for undefined ‘national security’ purposes unrelated to cybersecurity,” a coalition that included the American Civil Liberties Union and former conservative Republican representative Bob Barr, lawmakers said on Thursday.

    CISPA Critics Warn Cybersecurity Bill Will Increase Domestic Surveillance and Violate Privacy Rights

    As it heads toward a House vote, critics say the Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act (CISPA) would allow private internet companies like Google, Facebook and Microsoft to hand over troves of confidential customer records and communications to the National Security Agency, FBI and Department of Homeland Security, effectively legalizing a secret domestic surveillance program already run by the NSA. Backers say the measure is needed to help private firms crackdown on foreign entities – including the Chinese and Russian governments – committing online economic espionage. The bill has faced widespread opposition from online privacy advocates and even the Obama administration, which has threatened a veto. “CISPA … will create an exception to all existing privacy laws so that companies can share very sensitive and personal information directly with the government, including military agencies like the National Security Agency,” says Michelle Richardson, legislative counsel for the American Civil Liberties Union. “Once the government has it, they can repurpose it and use it for a number of things, including an undefined national security use.” [includes rush transcript]

    Think Progress has a summery of what we need to know  about CISPA to fight to stop its passage:

  • CISPA’s broad language will likely give the government access to anyone’s personal information with few privacy protections: CISPA allows the government access to any “information pertaining directly to a vulnerability of, or threat to, a system or network of a government or private entity.” [..]
  • It supersedes all other provisions of the law protecting privacy: As the bill is currently written, CISPA would apply “notwithstanding any other provision of law.” [..]
  • The bill completely exempts itself from the Freedom of Information Act: Citizens and journalists have access to most things the government does via the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), a key tool for increasing transparency.
  • [..]

  • CISPA gives companies blanket immunity from future lawsuits: One of the most egregious aspects of CISPA is that it gives blanket legal immunity to any company that shares its customers’ private information.
  • [..]

  • Recent revisions don’t go nearly far enough: In an attempt to specify how the government can use the information they collect, the House passed an amendment saying the data can only be used for: “1) cybersecurity; 2) investigation and prosecution of cybersecurity crimes; 3) protection of individuals from the danger of death or physical injury; 4) protection of minors from physical or psychological harm; and 5) protection of the national security of the United States.”
  • Citizens have to trust that companies like Facebook won’t share your personal information: CISPA does not force companies share private user information with the government. {..] Companies may not be legally required to turn over information, but they “may not be in a position to say no.”
  • Companies can already inform the government and each other about incoming cybersecurity threats: {..} opponents of the bill point out that “network administrators and security researchers at private firms have shared threat information with one another for decades.”
  • The internet is fighting back: The same online activists who fought hard against SOPA are now engaged in the battle over CISPA.
  • Most Republicans support CISPA, while most Democrats oppose it: Among congressmen that voted, 88 percent of Republicans supported the bill while 77 percent of Democrats opposed it.
  • President Obama threatened to veto it: Recognizing the threat to civil liberties that CISPA poses, President Obama announced this week that he “strongly opposes” the bill and has threatened to veto if it comes to his desk.
  • Join the Fight to Stop CISPA! Sign the petition:

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