House cyber bill not a surveillance bill, says bill sponsors

Josh Peterson Tech Editor
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Sponsors of the controversial Cyber Information Sharing and Protection Act (CISPA) are working to assure civil liberties advocates that their privacy concerns are now being addressed.

CISPA, which is sponsored by House Intelligence Committee Chairman Mike Rogers and Ranking Member Dutch Ruppersberger, is an attempt by the government to remedy a cyber threat information sharing problem between the private sector and the government.

CISPA earned the ire of civil liberties and privacy advocates during the 112th Congress due to concerns that the bill did not contain enough limits on how the government monitored the private browsing information of individuals.

Even President Obama had bowed to pressure from privacy advocates and vowed to veto the bill should it have made it to his desk.

Rogers  reintroduced the bill on February 13. He and Ruppersberger told reporters during a conference call Monday that they hoped that amendments to be considered on Wednesday would make “significant improvements” to the bill.

“It’s clear when you read the bill this is not a surveillance bill, that’s another common misperception. It just is not,” said Rogers.

“It does not allow the NSA, or any government agency, to plug in to domestic networks and listen in. That does not happen,” he said.

Rogers went on to say that the bill’s authors would continue to take suggestions, and that they planned to add additional provisions to reassure the public that “nothing in this bill will do anything to sacrifice” privacy or civil liberties.

CISPA was first introduced in the House in November 2011, and passed the House on April 12, 2012 with strong bipartisan support.

The House Intelligence Committee is scheduled to vote on amendments and edit, or “markup,” the bill during a closed meeting on Wednesday. The full House is expected to vote on the bill next week.

President Obama signed a long-anticipated cybersecurity executive order in February that established a two-year timeline for the federal government to devise security standards for the nation’s cyber security infrastructure.

The ACLU and Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) hosted a joint Reddit AMA — a question and answer forum on Reddit — Monday in anticipation of Wednesday’s markup of CISPA.

Michelle Richardson, legislative counsel for the ACLU, said in the AMA that she expects that the ACLU and EFF can generate opposition to the bill more effectively than they did last year.

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