CISPA passes the House floor, Senate crafting new cybersecurity bill

The Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act, better known as CISPA, just passed the House by a vote of 288 to 188.  Meanwhile, the Senate is working on crafting its own bill aimed at facilitating information-sharing on cyber-threats. "We are currently drafting a bipartisan information sharing bill and will proceed as soon as we come ...

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Getty Images
Getty Images

The Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act, better known as CISPA, just passed the House by a vote of 288 to 188.  Meanwhile, the Senate is working on crafting its own bill aimed at facilitating information-sharing on cyber-threats.

"We are currently drafting a bipartisan information sharing bill and will proceed as soon as we come to an agreement," Senate intelligence committee chair Dianne Feinstein wrote in an email to Killer Apps.

Remember, CISPA allows private businesses to share "cyber-threat information" with each other and government agencies, including the military. 

The Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act, better known as CISPA, just passed the House by a vote of 288 to 188.  Meanwhile, the Senate is working on crafting its own bill aimed at facilitating information-sharing on cyber-threats.

"We are currently drafting a bipartisan information sharing bill and will proceed as soon as we come to an agreement," Senate intelligence committee chair Dianne Feinstein wrote in an email to Killer Apps.

Remember, CISPA allows private businesses to share "cyber-threat information" with each other and government agencies, including the military. 

Earlier this week, the White House threatened to veto CISPA unless it was amended to require that information businesses with the government go through a civilian agency, such as the Department of Homeland Security, before being sent to any military organization, such as the National Security Agency. The White House also wants to narrow the liability protections given to businesses that improperly disclose personal information or commit antitrust violations while sharing information with each other or the government.

"The version of CISPA that just passed the House floor includes an amendment that encourages, but doesn’t require businesses to share cyber threat information with DHS instead of the military," a Hill staffer told Killer Apps.

Another amendment bans the U.S. government from using information gathered under the auspices of the bill to target a U.S. citizen for surveillance. Another one "reconfirms" that "the federal government may not use library records, book sales records, customer lists, fire arms sales records, tax returns, educational and medical records that it receives under CISPA," said the staffer.

Last week, the House intelligence committee removed language from the bill that would have allowed companies to collect and share information for "national security" purposes. Privacy advocates who oppose CISPA claimed using the broad term "national security" would allow the government to spy on people online without a warrant. The committee also added an amendment requiring that information shared with the government be scrubbed of all personal information.

Still, these amendments weren’t enough to satisfy privacy advocates such as the ACLU. Here’s what Michelle Richardson, one of the ACLU’s lawyers, said after the bill passed today.

CISPA is an extreme proposal that allows companies that hold our very sensitive information to share it with any company or government entity they choose, even directly with military agencies like the NSA, without first stripping out personally identifiable information. We will work with Congress to make sure that the next version of information sharing legislation unequivocally resolves this issue, as well as tightens immunity provisions and protects personal information. Cybersecurity can be done without sacrificing Americans’ privacy online.

The big questions that remain are whether the White House still opposes CISPA and whether the Democrat-controlled Senate will permit language included in CISPA to pass the conference process. So far, the White House has remained mum on today’s news.

Last year’s White House-backed Cyber Security Act of 2012, sponsored by former Senators Joe Lieberman and Susan Collins, failed to pass the Senate because Republicans objected to the bill’s call for minimal cyber-security standards for certain banks, energy firms, communications providers, transport companies, and other so-called critical infrastructure providers.

In February, the White House issued an executive order allowing the government to share intelligence on cyber-threats with businesses and encouraging minimal best practices for critical-infrastructure providers.

John Reed is a national security reporter for Foreign Policy. He comes to FP after editing Military.com’s publication Defense Tech and working as the associate editor of DoDBuzz. Between 2007 and 2010, he covered major trends in military aviation and the defense industry around the world for Defense News and Inside the Air Force. Before moving to Washington in August 2007, Reed worked in corporate sales and business development for a Swedish IT firm, The Meltwater Group in Mountain View CA, and Philadelphia, PA. Prior to that, he worked as a reporter at the Tracy Press and the Scotts Valley Press-Banner newspapers in California. His first story as a professional reporter involved chasing escaped emus around California’s central valley with Mexican cowboys armed with lassos and local police armed with shotguns. Luckily for the giant birds, the cowboys caught them first and the emus were ok. A New England native, Reed graduated from the University of New Hampshire with a dual degree in international affairs and history.

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