Cybersecurity Legislation Stalls In The Senate
BY Sarah Lai Stirland | Thursday, August 2 2012
As expected, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid failed to gain enough votes Thursday to end debate on the landmark cybersecurity legislation that the Obama Administration has been pushing for all year.
Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.) said earlier this week that he thought that his bill S.3414 would be doomed if the Senate didn't act before Congress' August recess. Among other things, the legislation's goal was to provide incentives to the private sector to improve its security practices and standards, and it would have allowed the private sector to share threat information with the government with limitations to ensure that the information would only be used for cybersecurity purposes.
The legislation's chief sponsors had spent time negotiating compromises with both the private sector and civil liberties groups. Nevertheless, it remained controversial, and Reid failed to garner the votes needed to end debate and vote to approve passage.
The Center for Democracy and Technology, a non-profit group that had been trying to negotiate a middle ground between concerned civil libertarians and government authorities all year, issued a statement Thursday saying that they are still hopeful that Congress can make progress.
Greg Nojeim, director of CDT's Project on Freedom, Security and Technology said:
"CDT continues to believe that it's possible - and desirable - to develop cybersecurity legislation that protects privacy while enhancing the security of our government and private sector networks. We were very pleased with the progress that had been made to improve the information sharing language in the Lieberman-Collins bill. We were also very pleased with the statement yesterday by General Keith Alexander that it is not necessary to have the National Security Agency the focal point of information sharing. We believe legislation should, first and foremost, empower private sector entities to share information with each other - this is the form of information sharing that would be the most effective in securing networks and pose the lowest risk to civil liberties."
Nojeim's unusual for his optimism. Many other stakeholders were unhappy with the legislation sponsored by Lieberman and Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) either because they felt that it placed too much of a burden on the private sector, or because it didn't go far enough in one way of another. Stewart Baker, former assistant secretary for policy for Homeland Security and now a lawyer back at the law firm of Steptoe & Johnson, for example, recently called the compromise legislation "The Hacker Protection Act of 2012," saying that the language in the proposed legislation would make the process of sharing information about threats more complex, and harder than ever.