Cybersecurity bill would give president, DHS too much power, critics say

Fears about overreaching authority fuel worries

The president already has adequate measures available to respond to cyber emergencies and doesn’t need the additional tools that legislation now under consideration in the Senate would provide, according to Philip Reitinger, deputy undersecretary of the National Protection and Programs Directorate at the Homeland Security Department.

Reitinger, testifying June 16 before the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, said DHS is still reviewing the legislation and has no official position, according to a report on NextGov.com. However, he questioned its powers for the president.

“Laws already address presidential emergency authorities and Congress and the administration should work together to identify any needed adjustments, as opposed to developing overlapping legislation,” he said, as quoted at NextGov.

Sens. Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.), Susan Collins (R-Maine) and Thomas Carper (D-Del.) introduced the legislation last week, and it has gained significant support in the Senate. Named the 2010 Protecting Cyberspace as a National Asset Act (S.3480), the measure would grant the president the power to declare a national cyber emergency and issue emergency measures in the presence of a credible threat to the nation’s infrastructure.

Reitinger contended that the 1934 Communications Act already grants the president the needed authority to deal with a cyber emergency. However, Collins said the anachronistic law doesn't deal adequately with Internet concerns, even though Congress amended it in 1996 in an attempt to do so.

Phil Bond, president of the industry group TechAmerica, in an article in The Hill, expressed concern about the legislation.

“If the bill passes in its current form, it will turn the Department of Homeland Security into a significant regulatory agency,” Bond said in that article. “Regulations like these could seriously undermine the very innovation we need to stay ahead of the bad actors and prosper as a nation.”

 

About the Author

Connect with the FCW staff on Twitter @FCWnow.

Featured

  • Cybersecurity

    DHS floats 'collective defense' model for cybersecurity

    Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen wants her department to have a more direct role in defending the private sector and critical infrastructure entities from cyberthreats.

  • Defense
    Defense Secretary James Mattis testifies at an April 12 hearing of the House Armed Services Committee.

    Mattis: Cloud deal not tailored for Amazon

    On Capitol Hill, Defense Secretary Jim Mattis sought to quell "rumors" that the Pentagon's planned single-award cloud acquisition was designed with Amazon Web Services in mind.

  • Census
    shutterstock image

    2020 Census to include citizenship question

    The Department of Commerce is breaking with recent practice and restoring a question about respondent citizenship last used in 1950, despite being urged not to by former Census directors and outside experts.

Stay Connected

FCW Update

Sign up for our newsletter.

I agree to this site's Privacy Policy.