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GOP Filibuster Blocks Senate Cybersecurity Act

GOP Filibuster Blocks Senate Cybersecurity Act

By a vote of of 52 to 46, the US Senate has blocked the Cybersecurity Act of 2012. The bill called for establishing optional cyber security standards for the computer systems that control the US’s power grids, dams, transportation and other critical parts of its infrastructure, with the goal of encouraging businesses and the government to share information and defend the nation against malware, hackers and other cyberattacks from foreign countries.

Under the bill, which was first introduced in February, businesses were to be given legal immunity as an incentive to adopt the standards; without such, security experts said they would not upgrade their computer networks to comply with security standards,as ZDNet details.

Raising concerns that the bill impinged on citizens’ privacy, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) has been blocking it from the start. In many ways, the bill could be seen as a “surveillance bill” that was simply too vague in its language, as Mark M. Jaycox writes in the Guardian:

… it also would have granted companies the power to spy on users, share personal information of innocent users with the government, and use countermeasures, which could involve blocking or dropping packets – all in the name of protecting against vaguely defined “cybersecurity threats”. For example, under the bill, a “cybersecurity threat” existed whenever a company perceives a user impairing the availability of its networks. As a result, surveillance would be outsourced to private companies that are not governed by the fourth amendment – the constitutional amendment granting protection from unreasonable search and seizure. And when using countermeasures, companies can modify, block, or disrupt internet traffic so long as they believe the actions are allowed by the vague definitions of the bill.

While the Cybersecurity Act had bipartisan support, intense disputes arose over what amendments could be proposed to it and, on Thursday, the GOP filibustered it. The blocking of the legislation is a blow to the Obama administration which had seen the bill as one of its top security priorities to protect the US from what President Obama described as the “one of the most serious economic and national security challenges we face.” The White House has issued a statement that the “politics of obstructionism, driven by special interest groups seeking to avoid accountability” had played a part in blocking the bill.

In recent weeks, the Cybersecurity Act had been severely watered down by one of its sponsors, Senator Joe Lieberman, the independent from Connecticut who is chairman of the Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee. Senator John McCain, Republican of Arizona, and other Republican senators had strongly opposed the bill, on the grounds that it would over-burden corporations. Last week, Lieberman and McCain — friends and allies in the Senate — fell into an argument over the bill, with Lieberman saying that McCain was doing the US Chamber of Commerce’s bidding while leaving the US open to a massive cyberattack. McCain, for his part, proclaimed his record on security issues to be indisputable.

In April, over President Obama’s veto, the House passed its own cybersecurity bill under which more information can be shared between national security and intelligence agencies and businesses.

 

Related Care2 Coverage

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36 comments

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7:51PM PDT on Sep 9, 2012

It appears, that for the first time, I am siding with repubs! Not for the same reasons of course -- they want to defeat anything the president wants, but I agree with the ACLU that it infringes on our personal liberties and companies would use the bill as an excuse to spy on us, innocent civilians, and give personal information to the government that is not relevant to security. The bill needs to be more specific for government security purposes, so that innocent citizens are not roped into the mess. Not easy, I know, but necessary.

10:04PM PDT on Aug 6, 2012

Jamie, don't you ever get tired of just making things up? There are facts out there in the world, so and seek them.

9:58PM PDT on Aug 6, 2012

Congressional Republicans have made it abundantly clear that their utter contempt and hatred of President Obama and their obsessive fixation with unpopular social issues supersede the critical need for American jobs, affordable healthcare, veterans' affairs, environmental protection and national security.

1:28AM PDT on Aug 5, 2012

Jamie C- I think I owe you about 5 more green ones from this week alone... If you're ever near Knoxville let me know so I can just buy you a beer (& help the economy). This IS a terrible bill. And unfortunately, so many here are just so anti-republican, they cannot see that. Now, I'm not defending republicans either b/c they have their own control issues, but damn... Shutting this down was a good thing. But you're right- we are in dire need of another strong party.

3:16PM PDT on Aug 4, 2012

They must have something there sleeeeevvvv ------ sorry I just can`t feel right the gop !!

5:22PM PDT on Aug 3, 2012

So what else is new. We need to vote the Republicans out of office every last one we can. And then the next round we get the rest of them.

1:50PM PDT on Aug 3, 2012

Congrats GOP, you did something right!

1:49PM PDT on Aug 3, 2012

I've just sent another donation to the ACLU!

1:49PM PDT on Aug 3, 2012

I've just sent another donation to the ACLU!

1:45PM PDT on Aug 3, 2012

Why did my other longer comment not go through? This is a terrible bill. The last thing we need is more government snoopers and more power grabs and more of our civil liberties eroded. This is why I don't support Obusha.

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Kristina Chew Kristina Chew teaches ancient Greek, Latin and Classics at Saint Peter's University in New Jersey.... more
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