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Controversial Cybersecurity Legislation CISPA Sails Through The House

BY Sarah Lai Stirland | Thursday, April 18 2013

A controversial bill aimed at encouraging the private sector to be more forthcoming with the sharing of potential threat information with U.S. military entities sailed through the House Thursday by a vote of 288 to 127, despite a veto threat from the White House earlier this week.

The bill, the Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act, has raised concerns among civil libertarians and digital rights groups because there's language in the legislation that seems to preempt current privacy laws. Since the Senate is controlled by Democrats, it's doubtful that it'll ultimately make it into law in its current form.

The Center for Democracy and Technology, one of the many groups opposed to the bill (and which is bankrolled by many technology companies) says that the House bill doesn't do enough to require companies to strip identifying information from customer communications, and preempts existing privacy laws that protect American citizens from unwarranted governmental intrusions.

The Obama administration has sided with the civil libertarians' approach, asserting that it's possible to create an effective piece of cybersecurity legislation without compromising citizens' privacy. One of the bill's co-sponsors, Rep. Dutch Ruppersberger (D-Md.), said Tuesday that he expected a veto from the White House. Nevertheless, House Intelligence Committee Chairman Rep. Mike Rogers (R-Mich.), its chief sponsor, told the House Rules Committee on the same day that the only people who oppose the legislation are people who don't understand it, like "people on the Internet" and "14-year-olds in the basement."

TechDirt's Mike Masnick caught the comment, and Sina Khanifar, an entrepreneur and sometime activist in San Francisco, scraped the video off Granicus, and it set off another round of derision online.

Meanwhile, Rogers has taken to his Facebook page to explain and defend the legislation.

This post has been updated. The CDT noted in a more recent e-mail out to reporters that the latest version of the legislation puts more control of the nation's cybersecurity program under civilian, rather than military jurisdiction.

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