Senate goes its own way on cyber

CISPA looks unlikely to pass, but the shape of a possible compromise measure on cybersecurity is coming into focus.

U.S. Capitol at Night

The Senate won't take up a cybersecurity bill that just passed overwhelmingly in the House. But recent signals by the administration suggest that the contours of a compromise cybersecurity package may be coming into focus.

After passing by a vote of 288 to 127 in the House, the next stop for the Cyber Information Sharing and Protection Act (CISPA) is the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation, chaired by Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-W. Va.). A committee representative told U.S. News & World Report, "We're not taking [CISPA] up. Staff and senators are divvying up the issues and the key provisions everyone agrees would need to be handled if we're going to strengthen cybersecurity. They'll be drafting separate bills."

Rockefeller has expressed the concern that CISPA's privacy protections are insufficient. President Obama has signaled through a policy statement that he would veto the measure, citing privacy concerns among his objections. Among its more controversial provisions, CISPA permits information sharing on threats between the private industry and law enforcement. Privacy advocates are looking to put legislation in place that mandates the stripping out of personally identifiable information out of records shared between private firms and government.

It's possible that a path for information sharing could go through the Senate intelligence committee. Rep. Dutch Ruppersberger, (D-Md.), the ranking Democrat on the House Intelligence committee that drafted CISPA told Politico's Morning Tech newsletter that he and committee chairman Rep. Mike Rogers (R-Mich.) will be meeting with the leaders of the intelligence panel in the Senate to test the waters on a compromise measure.

Relatedly, a White House aide indicated that the administration is ready to compromise on another key cybersecurity provision – whether to have mandatory or opt-in standards for protecting networks that operate critical infrastructure. An executive order signed in February directs the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) to join with industry to craft cybersecurity standards. The White House cybersecurity coordinator Michael Daniel told the Washington Post, "The most important thing right now is making that framework truly industry-led, truly a collaborative product, and truly something that is useful to companies."

It's possible that the shift in the administration position on cybersecurity signals a path to a compromise deal, in which the administration bends on mandatory standards for critical infrastructure, and House Republicans give ground on privacy. In the same Washington Post article, an administration official speaking anonymously told the Post that the administration is hoping to work with Congress, "about the right incentives we could put in place to encourage the adoption of the framework."

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