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The Embarrassed Republican: Really Rodney?

Our man in Washington is playing fast and loose with our right of privacy, if we ever had any that is.

Like many Morris county Republicans I get a regular dose of Rodney Frelinghuysen’s weekly newsletter.  That’s a good thing, it lets us all know what the congressman has been doing and where he stands on various issues.  However, his stances are almost always mainstream “Republican.”  No matter which way the stream goes, Mr. Frelinghuysen is a team player.  He is a professional politician and has served the 11th district since 1994.  Rodney knows the ropes in Washington, he’s experienced, savvy, well connected and well supported.

Even though he’s the 9th richest member of the house, he doesn’t need to use his money for campaigning, contributions flow in to his war chest on a regular basis.  But it’s never much of a war, typically Mr. Frelinghuysen manages to out-spend his opponents 10 times, or more often, more than 20 to 1.   He is the incumbent’s incumbent, unassailable in his position and king of the 11th district castle.

And why not? Rodney delivers, he’s 21st in the House in Earmarks, several of which were submitted just a couple of days ago on 4/27. Earmarks are legislated provisions that direct money to specific projects or make specific exemptions from fees or taxes that benefit a very small set of individuals.  These bills (H.R. 5063 through H.R. 5072) sponsored only by Mr. Frelinghuysen, suspend the collection of import duties on various chemical compounds used by the Pharmaceutical and Defense industries, which is handy since they come all the way from China.  Three of those bills also suspend import duties on preserved artichokes (one bill for the ones in vinegar and one for those not so vinegary) and oysters.  Artichoke-ers, I understand, but who knew oyster importers had that kind of pull?

Don’t get me wrong, I don’t mind professional politicians.  Professionals get things done in Washington, or at least they used to. I agree with Rodney on a lot of the issues, but certainly not all. For instance he’s a much bigger “Hawk” than I am.  Still, I count us all as lucky  he’s a reasonable centrist on a lot of the issues.  However, I keep hearing the current Republican “Everything Obama does is wrong” line from Rodney and that disturbs me.  And then there’s some of the bills he talks about in bold and proud tones, which If I were involved, I’d rather no one knew.   Especially last week when he was extolling the virtues of the CISPA bill, which he co-sponsored with 112 other congressmen.  I wont have to tell you all how many were Republicans, will I?

CISPA (Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act of 2011) is a bill, just passed by the House and on it’s way to the Senate that provides a legal method for Government and Private companies to read your email, get lists of your facebook friends, monitor your buying habits on Amazon and follow your every tweet.  Not that they haven’t been doing it for years, but now it will be nice and legal.  CISPA also includes a “get out of jail free” card for any company that gives the government your information and an added bonus of a two year statute of limitations on suing the government for pawing through your personals.  Everyone involved is sworn to secrecy, so you probably won’t even know for two years anyway.  Oh, by the way, no judges are necessary for this beauty.  Warrants are so yesterday.

To protect us all,  the language is very strong around any companies misusing this information for “Competitive advantage”, as the sharing goes both ways (or six ways from Sunday, if they like).  Unfortunately it’s not so tough around the reasons for forking over all your records in the first place.  This is a matter of national security!   The descriptions of “Cyber threat, intelligence and crime” are cloudy enough to include things like encrypting your own email or leaving Amazon without buying everything in your cart.  You knew that was going to come back to haunt you, didn’t you?

Luckily, the bill’s sponsors were humble enough to specifically exclude certain records from the prying eyes of Government, like firearm sales records and Library cards.  Good catch, we wouldn’t want to over step the bounds of decency.  Yet another triumph for the forces of “Small government.”

While most of us recognize the changed landscape of the modern world where certain models of computers are listed on the United States Munitions list, and the very real threat of cyber crime must be dealt with on a daily basis, I doubt very much it warrants all of us getting “cyber-naked” so it’s easier for the government to look for bad guys.  I can hardly imagine a more intrusive or draconian measure, or one more likely to get completely out of control.  The very fact that the NSA is tapping the entire Internet is disturbing, creating a bill to make it “Ok,”  is almost comical, if it weren’t so frightening.

Why would you sign that, Rodney?  Was it team spirit, princely bravado or did you just not read the bill?  You know this means that all your activity will be on display as well, right?  There will be no such thing as private correspondence for individuals or businesses if this gets turned into law.  Doesn’t that bother you? 

Perhaps I’m the one who doesn’t get it.  Maybe this is actually a plot to reinvigorate the post office.  Now terrorists, housewives and everyone else will have to go back to writing letters to communicate any information they don’t want every greasy goof to know.  That is, until someone proposes a bill to subject all the mail to a giant high speed letter-steamer.

 As bills go this one is pretty short, you can read it here.....

 Here’s the everything Rodney page at open secrets.org....

 Here’s Rodney’s voting record and stance on the various issues.

 Here’s an article from Wired magazine on what the NSA is up to lately.  It’s easy to see why the Cispa bill is important to them.... 



This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

Prentiss Gray May 06, 2012 at 05:23 PM
David, thanks for commenting. I too got a response from my representative, Rodney Frelinghuysen. I have two main concerns here, first the definition of "cyber attacks" and "Cyber crime" are the "eye of the beholder" kind. Who defines extent of those terms? For this bill it's the investigators which I think is terrible policy and opens up all cyber activities to investigation. No judges involved makes this very dangerous. My second concern, and possibly the most frightening is that with this bill private companies can now have access to all your information without your permission. At this moment companies like Google, Facebook and Microsoft actively trade your information as you log in to anyone of those services. This bill allows them access to the government's information on you as well. Once the information trading begins there will be no way to track what parts of your personal data has been handed over to which companies as part of a "cyber crime" investigation. Consider this scenario: Your Facebook account gets hacked. Facebook contacts the NSA to report the incident and requests further ID information on you (social security number, tax records (for income bracket, home location, etc) health information, whatever) so they can see if you and others like you belong to a common "class" of users that are being victimized. They initially want clues as to why it was you that got hacked to protect others in the same "class." You're not a criminal, but.....
DXJ May 07, 2012 at 02:17 AM
The two changes to language that I will ask my representative to introduce in committee (when the Senate and House versions are reconciled) are: 1) Strengthen the language with regard to "appropriate" anonymization and minimization to scratch the vague term "appropriate" and instead to require that data be scrubbed to make it anonymous. The scenario you put forward above (however unlikely) would not connect data to you specifically. 2) That companies only be immune from law suits if the shared data is anonymized or if personal data is required to be released by court order (warrant). I don't like the idea of leaving companies completely immune and therefore remove all incentive to protect personal data.
Prentiss Gray May 07, 2012 at 01:11 PM
Those are both good and well thought out changes. I'd like to see a definition of "anonymization" though. These days we are just as identifiable by habit and track as we are by name and address. I also think the two year statute of limitations should be extended to at least 7 and, as you may have guessed, any data sharing should always be authorized by a court order. I think it's the same as wiretapping, and it should never be warrantless.
Prentiss Gray May 22, 2012 at 03:54 PM
Just wanted to add that Representative Frelinghuysen sent me a medium length explanation for his stance on CISPA, and it's good that's he's responsive, even with "Boiler plate." However I'm not sure I have full faith and trust in the NSA these days, as he seems to.
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