Could CISPA Prove Obama Wrong?

At the White House Correspondents Dinner Saturday night, President Obama lobbed a zinger at the Congress for its grid-locked ways.  "And that's why I want to especially thank all the members who took a break from their exhausting schedule of not passing any laws to be here tonight. Let's give them a big round of applause," he said at the outset of his pretty good performance.

But the Administration is hoping one surprisingly fast-tracked bill is given the do-nothing treatment by the Congress,  Last Thursday, the House passed by a 248-168 margin the Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act (CISPA) one day earlier than expected, a relatively rare phenomenon in Washington these days.

CISPA, aimed at allowing companies the ability to share cyber attack and threat information with government agencies, drew the support of not only Republicans but also a good handful of Democrats despite Obama's threat to veto any ultimate legislation if the Senate doesn't fix the Administration's problems with the bill.   In particular, the Administration believes, as do a number of privacy and public interest groups, that the bill poses a threat to privacy because it gives the government too much leeway to sift through private data as it investigates potential cyber crime.

The Administration is also concerned that CISPA doesn't require regulatory mandates on the nation's critical infrastructure, such as those found in the White House's own cyber security proposal as well as Senate cyber security legislation sponsored by Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-CT).  CISPA sponsors said, though, that this regulation is outside of their purview.

The House was eager to usher CISPA out the door early for a variety of reasons, not the least of which is the lack of solid corporate resistance to the bill's slimmed down provisions and the voluntary nature of the cyber threat information sharing.   But as O'Reilly Radar's Alex Howard suggests, the fast passage of CISPA seems to highlight some legislative need when it comes to cyber security.  The topic is a hot one, as it was during the last Congress, fueled by the nagging fear of an imminent cyber meltdown.  But cyber security seemed ripe for action because of its seeming bi-partisan nature -- making networks secure didn't seem like a left-right issue.

It is now though.  The bill already faced slow-going in the Senate but now with the Administration seeking big fixes on a dicey set of issues, Congress might well take a break from not passing that law.

Correction:  An earlier version of this post said that critical infrastructure, such as utilities, was excluded from CISPA. Utilities were indeed named as private sector entities that could share information with the federal government during last-minute amendments.


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