Seven GOP sen­a­tors push al­ter­na­tive cy­ber­se­cu­rity bill

The Washington Times Daily - - Politics - BY SHAUN WATERMAN

Seven Re­pub­li­can sen­a­tors pre­sented an al­ter­na­tive cy­ber­se­cu­rity bill Thurs­day, say­ing leg­is­la­tion backed by the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion would be too in­tru­sive, too ex­pen­sive and too bur­den­some on busi­nesses.

The Re­pub­li­can al­ter­na­tive would pro­vide for vol­un­tary in­for­ma­tion shar­ing be­tween the fed­eral gov­ern­ment and the pri­vate sec­tor own­ers of U.S. com­puter and telecom­mu­ni­ca­tions net­works that are the tar­get of cy­ber­at­tacks by hack­ers, spies and criminals.

“There’s no new au­tho­rized fund­ing, there are no new reg­u­la­tions, there is no grow­ing of the fed­eral gov­ern­ment, no gov­ern­ment man­dates on the pri­vate sec­tor” in the new bill, said Sen. Saxby Cham­b­liss of Ge­or­gia, the se­nior Re­pub­li­can on the Se­nate Se­lect Com­mit­tee on In­tel­li­gence. The bill would pro­vide li­a­bil­ity pro­tec­tion and amend an­titrust laws so that com­pa­nies can share with each other and the gov­ern­ment in­for­ma­tion about cy­berthreats with­out fear of be­ing sued or pros­e­cuted, said Sen. Kay Bai­ley Hutchi­son of Texas, the se­nior Re­pub­li­can on the Se­nate Com­merce Com­mit­tee.

The Strength­en­ing and En­hanc­ing Cy­ber­se­cu­rity by Us­ing Re­search, Ed­u­ca­tion, In­for­ma­tion and Tech­nol­ogy, or SE­CURE IT Act, is the lat­est ef­fort by law­mak­ers to con­front the ques­tion of how best to de­fend the vi­tal In­ter­net back­bones on which the na­tion’s mil­i­tary, com­merce and in­dus­try all rely.

Last month, a group of sen­a­tors led by Joe Lieber­man, Con­necti­cut in­de­pen­dent, and Su­san M. Collins, Maine Re­pub­li­can, pre­sented an om­nibus cy­ber­se­cu­rity bill (SB2105) that gen­er­ally is en­dorsed by the ad­min­is­tra­tion and would give the Depart­ment of Home­land Se­cu­rity au­thor­ity to set stan­dards for se­cu­rity on crit­i­cal pri­vate sec­tor com­puter net­works — such as those that run the power grid or the tele­phone sys­tem.

The Re­pub­li­can al­ter­na­tive in­stead would en­cour­age firms to deal di­rectly with an ex­ist­ing net­work of six cy­ber­se­cu­rity cen­ters across the coun­try run by the highly se­cret Na­tional Se­cu­rity Agency.

Sup­port­ers of the Collins- Lieber­man bill say a civil­ian agency should be in charge of polic­ing and pro­tect­ing civil­ian net­works. They say that the bill only gives the Home­land Se­cu­rity Depart­ment au­thor­ity to step in where ex­ist­ing fed­eral reg­u­la­tors were not do­ing the job of se­cur­ing com­puter net­works in that sec­tor.

Democrats are back­ing the Collins-lieber­man bill, and Se­nate Ma­jor­ity Leader Harry Reid, Ne­vada Demo­crat, has pledged to bring it to the floor as soon as pos­si­ble.

Sen. John Mccain of Ari­zona, the se­nior Re­pub­li­can on the Se­nate Armed Ser­vices Com­mit­tee, said Thurs­day that he and his six GOP co-spon­sors — Mr. Cham­b­liss, Mrs. Hutchi­son, Sen. Chuck Grass­ley of Iowa, Sen. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, Sen. Daniel Coats of In­di­ana and Sen. Ron John­son of Wis­con­sin — would seek to of­fer their bill as a sub­sti­tute when the de­bate be­gins.

The four spon­sors of the Collins-lieber­man bill — Mrs. Collins, Mr. Lieber­man and Demo­cratic Sens. John D. Rockefeller IV of West Virginia and Dianne Fe­in­stein of Cal­i­for­nia — wel­comed the new pro­posal.

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