White House threatens veto of cyber-intelligence-sharing bill

Josh Peterson Tech Editor
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Following public outcry over a House cyber-intelligence bill’s implications for civil liberties, the White House issued a veto threat Wednesday in anticipation that the Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act (CISPA) might end up on President Obama’s desk.

The administration’s objection appears to be rooted in the bill’s threat to remove cybersecurity authority from the Department of Homeland Security and assign it to America’s intelligence agencies.

CISPA seeks to authorize private companies and the Director of National Intelligence to share information about online threat intelligence. The House is scheduled to vote on the controversial bill Friday following a Thursday floor debate.

The White House opposes it because of what it said is a failure “to ensure that the Nation’s core critical infrastructure is protected while repealing important provisions of electronic surveillance law without instituting corresponding privacy, confidentiality, and civil liberties safeguards.”

“H.R. 3523 effectively treats domestic cybersecurity as an intelligence activity and thus, significantly departs from longstanding efforts to treat the Internet and cyberspace as civilian spheres,” said the White House in a statement Wednesday.

“The Administration believes that a civilian agency — the Department of Homeland Security — must have a central role in domestic cybersecurity, including for conducting and overseeing the exchange of cybersecurity information with the private sector and with sector-specific Federal agencies,” said the White House.

The White House also said that the bill lacked adequate civil liberties protections for companies and private individuals.

Senate Democrats have been working on their own piece of cybersecurity legislation, in close coordination with the White House, which would place DHS at the helm of the nation’s cybersecurity defense.

Senate GOP members have criticized the leading Senate bill — cosponsored by independent Sen. Joe Lieberman and Republican Senator Susan Collins, and championed by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid — for what they see as a broad expansion of Homeland Security’s regulatory authority.

The bill, they say, would authorize the agency to set cybersecurity standards for private networks.

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