Internet rights advocacy and lobbying group the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) has an interesting article offering five reasons why the National Security Agency (NSA) shouldn't be trusted to run whatever cybersecurity oversight comes out if the Senate passes the Cybersecurity Act of 2012 and manages to reconcile it with the House's Cyber Intelligence Security Protection Act (CISPA).
While the EFF floats the idea that the NSA is known for underhanded behavior when it comes to its intelligence operations, the most interesting thing the article cites is an executive order signed by President Ronald Reagan in 1981. That order, Executive Order 12333, prohibits the cloak and dagger intelligence agency from spying on citizens – for the most part:
"No foreign intelligence collection by such elements [of the Intelligence Community] may be undertaken for the purpose of acquiring information concerning the domestic activities of United States persons."
The executive order was modified three times by President George W. Bush: in 2003 by Executive Order 13284, in 2004 by Executive Order 13355, and in 2008 by Executive Order 13470. You can read the amended order here (PDF).
The Cybersecurity Act would effectively make it so that the NSA would gain information related to "cybersecurity threat indicators," which is a pretty broad term. Under the guise of these indicators, it would have the ability to collect "vast quantities of data that could include personally identifiable information of U.S. persons on American soil," according to the EFF.
The EFF goes on to say that the NSA has a history of violating Americans’ constitutional rights, the NSA continues to be caught up in a scandal on how it uses warrantless wiretapping, how last week members of the NSA admitted to violating the Constitution, and that the data the agency collects is often kept for long periods of time and remains unknown by the American public because it is highly classified.
While changes to the bill that the Senate is trying to refine have limited the language therein, there are some senators like John McCain and Kay Bailey Hutchison (both Republicans), that think it is a good idea to let the NSA be in charge of cybersecurity systems. You can read the EFF's article here.