Bill would boost info sharing

Sen. Robert Bennett (R-Utah) introduced legislation Sept. 24 to allow the federal government and industry to share information about potential threats to the nation's critical infrastructure.

The Critical Infrastructure Information Security Act, co-sponsored by Sen. Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.) is intended to make it easier to warn potential targets and analyze potential threats to both the government and private industry —an idea that had been gaining support even before terrorist attacks Sept 11.

"With more than 85 percent of critical infrastructure entities owned and operated by the private sector, voluntarily shared information leads to a more focused understanding of threats and empowers government, industry and private citizens to mitigate risk," Bennett said.

The legislation would allow a firm to voluntarily submit sensitive information to a federal agency and request that the information be protected. That means the information would not be disclosed in response to a request under the Freedom of Information Act. The legislation also protects private industry from antitrust violations.

In response, the federal government would provide information such as warnings and strategic analysis about potential threats.

"Ultimately, this bill will help assure the reliable delivery of services critical to the nation's economy and security," Bennett said.

Congress and the private sector have long been struggling with ways to share critical information without breaching confidences or violating antitrust law. Bennett's legislation would make it easier for key areas of the private sector, including the telecommunications, transportation and energy industries, to share information about potential threats.

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