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Obama On CISPA: Another Veto Threatens Controversial Cybersecurity Bill

By Zach White , Apr 16, 2013 05:21 PM EDT
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The Obama Administration has come out, once again, against the Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act, while still expressing support for some of the intentions behind CISPA.

When CISPA was introduced in November 2011, the Obama Administration opposed the bill, with advisers recommending that President Obama veto the bill. Their main concern was the insufficient protection of privacy rights for individual Internet users within the wholesale restructuring of information-sharing between the government and private corporations.

This time around, the administration’s Statement of Administration Policy commends the members of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence for making changes to the bill, which was reintroduced in February, that fixed some of their previous problems.

“The Administration recognizes and appreciates that the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence (HPSCI) adopted several amendments to H.R. 624 in an effort to incorporate the Administration's important substantive concerns,” the statement says. “H.R. 624 appropriately requires the Federal Government to protect privacy when handling cybersecurity information. Importantly, the Committee removed the broad national security exemption, which significantly weakened the restrictions on how this information could be used by the government,” the statement reads.

But the changes still were not enough to get President Obama’s support.

“However, the Administration still seeks additional improvements and if the bill, as currently crafted, were presented to the President, his senior advisors would recommend that he veto the bill,” the statement continues. “Citizens have a right to know that corporations will be held accountable – and not granted immunity – for failing to safeguard personal information adequately. The Administration is committed to working with all stakeholders to find a workable solution to this challenge.”

President Obama is walking a fine line in his CISPA position, trying to, as usual, make as many parties as happy as possible. Unfortunately this leaves many of the parties he is trying not to offend unsatisfied.

While the public outcry that contributed to CISPA’s defeat in 2011 was largely focused on the new, more expedient ways for information to be shared between corporations and the government, the Obama Administration seems content to merely request that companies “remove irrelevant personal information when sending cybersecurity data to the government or other private sector entities.”

In trying to please the corporations, the administration promises to find a way for corporations to hand personal information to the government “in a way that is not overly onerous or cost prohibitive on the businesses sending the information.”

The statement also recommends that the “newly authorized information sharing for cybersecurity purposes from the private sector to the government should enter the government through a civilian agency, the Department of Homeland Security,” which has done a great job of making flying more inconvenient and frightening Alex Jones.

But the core of the message is the same that President Obama delivered in his State of the Union Address, that the nation’s growing digital infrastructure does need protecting, but just the right kind of protecting.

“Both government and private companies need cyber threat information to allow them to identify, prevent, and respond to malicious activity that can disrupt networks and could potentially damage critical infrastructure,” the administration said. “The Administration believes that carefully updating laws to facilitate cybersecurity information sharing is one of several legislative changes essential to protect individuals' privacy and improve the Nation's cybersecurity.”

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