Cybersecurity

Days after sanctions, House to vote again on Cyber Diplomacy Act

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Rep. Michael McCaul on Thursday said the House next week will again vote on a bipartisan bill to establish a new Office of Cyber Issues at the State Department as well as an ambassador position for cyberspace.

“I believe that setting up an ambassador at large is very important so that we have international norms and standards when it comes to cyberspace,” McCaul said at an event hosted by the McCrary Institute of Auburn University.

The bill, the Cyber Diplomacy Act, which has been passed by the House in previous years, is backed by Reps. Mike Gallagher (R-Wisc.), Adam Kinzinger (R-Ill.) and Jim Langevin (D-R.I.), who also spoke at the McCrary event.

The bill also directs the Secretary of State within a year of the law’s enactment to develop a strategy for engaging with foreign governments on “international norms with respect to responsible state behavior in cyberspace.”

Establishing international norms for cyberspace activities is a common topic of discussion for lawmakers and analysts focused on cybersecurity. However, the bill’s upcoming vote on the House floor this year will come just days after the White House formally sanctioned the Kremlin for its part in election interference, the cybersecurity breach involving SolarWinds and suspected bounties placed on U.S. soldiers serving in Afghanistan.

In a public speech following the sanctions announcement on Thursday, President Joe Biden called Russia’s hacking campaign against SolarWinds “inappropriate.”

“I was clear with President Putin that we could have gone further, but I chose not to do so, to be -- I chose to be proportionate,” he added.

A Kremlin spokesman on Thursday dismissed the accusations against the country’s foreign intelligence service, SVR, and said Russia would respond in kind to the sanctions. A roughly translated April 15 statement from the SVR’s website appears to mock the White House’s announcement and calls it “nonsense.”

During the Thursday event, Langevin said the sanctions highlight “why we need such a strong whole of government approach to malicious cyber actions.” He added that he has “no doubt that [the bill] is going to pass with strong bipartisan support.”

About the Author

Justin Katz covers cybersecurity for FCW. Previously he covered the Navy and Marine Corps for Inside Defense, focusing on weapons, vehicle acquisition and congressional oversight of the Pentagon. Prior to reporting for Inside Defense, Katz covered community news in the Baltimore and Washington D.C. areas. Connect with him on Twitter at @JustinSKatz.


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