Congress

Cyber bill vote in sight

Legislators in both the House and Senate say privacy concerns in a cybersecurity information-sharing bill have been addressed to the point that a vote on the bill is possible before the end of the year.

Members of both chambers' intelligence committees are in ongoing talks to iron out the details -- squaring the Senate-passed Cybersecurity Information Sharing Act with a pair of corresponding bills that passed the House of Representatives in order to craft a final cybersecurity bill.

"I am hoping that we can finish the negotiations on the cyber bill today so that we can take it up this week, and I hope pass it before we conclude the session," Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.), the ranking member of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, told reporters Dec. 10. "I would hate to have to start all over next year."

The ongoing bicameral discussions include the White House, and "there's a broad agreement among all the parties on the major issues," a source close to the House intelligence committee told FCW.

"We are encouraged by the progress members are making on cybersecurity information sharing legislation, and are hopeful that the Senate and House can work together to send this legislation to the President's desk as soon as possible," an Obama administration official told FCW.

It has been a long journey for legislation designed to incentivize the sharing of cyber threat information between and among the public and private sectors. Privacy concerns raised by some lawmakers and civil liberties groups have derailed such legislation in the past, but backers of the bill hope they've done enough on privacy this go-round.

"I think we have made light years of progress from where the bill was last session," Schiff said, stressing the importance to privacy of having the civilian Department of Homeland Security be the clearinghouse for threat data.

"I think the White House is pleased with how we're proceeding," he added.

"We're still methodically going through it," Sen. Richard Burr (R-N.C.), chair of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, said of the information-sharing bill. "We've got just a couple items to finish with."

Burr and Schiff spoke to reporters after members of Congress received classified briefings on the San Bernardino terrorist attacks from top administration officials.

Burr said that so far there is no evidence the attackers used encrypted communications, but he speculated that the absence of transmissions between the attackers could mean there are "missing communications which were very likely encrypted."

FBI Director James Comey has repeatedly warned of the challenge posed to law enforcement officials by end-to-end encryption.

About the Author

Sean Lyngaas is a former FCW staff writer.

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