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.
Until recently, the NSA’s military access to domestic private sector records — including personally identifiable consumer information — fueled opposition to CISPA’s passage from civil liberties advocates, the White House and Senate Democrats.
Meanwhile, Republican critics of the DHS believed the department was too incompetent and inexperienced to conduct meaningful cybersecurity oversight for the nation’s critical infrastructure. Both CISPA and the Cybersecurity Act died in session last year.