Author Topic: Again, Wrangling Over Surveillance in the Cybersecurity Bill  (Read 1479 times)

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Offline Jerbar

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Again, Wrangling Over Surveillance in the Cybersecurity Bill
« on: August 01, 2012, 19:00:01 PM »
Again, Wrangling Over Surveillance in the Cybersecurity Bill

The so-called cybersecurity bill is being thrashed out on the United States Senate floor this week, a debate that is turning into a pitched battle over how easily the government can go through private data online.

The bill has already raised the ire of civil liberties groups. On Tuesday came exhortations on Twitter like this: “Online rights threat alert: high. Tweet to your Senators about the cybersecurity bill.”

The bill’s original goal was to let the government enforce minimum security standards for the computer systems that run power plants, air traffic control systems, dams and other critical infrastructure. The business lobby pushed back. The legislation now makes government oversight entirely voluntary.

Some of the most important parts of the bill now center on the sharing of information between private companies and government agencies — and therein lies the rub. There is a flurry of amendments to the bill, and a great many of them would either expand or limit the government’s powers of surveillance.

Senator John McCain, Republican of Arizona, wants language that could enable firms to share information directly with the National Security Agency.
Some Democrats, meanwhile, are seeking to tack on privacy protection measures. Senator Patrick Leahy, Democrat of Vermont, has proposed an amendment that would require the government to obtain a search warrant based on probable cause every time a law enforcement agency wanted to pry open e-mail communications by private citizens. Senator Ron Wyden, Democrat of Oregon, has said he wants to propose an amendment to require the police to obtain a warrant before extracting location data from private cellphones.

The business lobby continues to be opposed to the legislation. It is worried about any obligations to share information about security breaches, lest it open up companies to lawsuits.

By the end of the day Tuesday, there was no movement on the bill. Skeptics worried that it would take a significant cyberattack to rally Congress to unite across party lines in support of substantive security legislation.

“Most outside observers believe that we will only get effective cybersecurity legislation after there has been a crisis of some kind, and that then we are likely to overreact, trampling privacy and putting in place rigid requirements,” said James A. Lewis, a national security expert with the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington. “This is an outcome no one on the Hill wants, but it may be inevitable.”

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