Kate M. Growley

Proponents of the Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act (more commonly known as CISPA) won a small battle last month when the House of Representatives passed the proposed bill by a vote of 248 to 168, with 42 yays from Democrats.  Yet the war for comprehensive cybersecurity legislation is far from over, as CISPA’s next campaign – the Senate – is expected to be a tougher fight.  Even if it were to prevail there, the White House has stated that it would likely veto the bill.

Still, CISPA supporters believe that last-minute amendments may persuade some opponents into reconsidering their positions.  According to an Office of Management and Budget statement made prior to the vote, the Obama Administration’s primary concerns were that CISPA did not go far enough to protect critical infrastructure; that it repealed portions of electronic surveillance law without implementing counterbalancing privacy protections; and that it granted too much shelter to the private sector from cyber liability.  Representatives Rogers (R-MI) and Ruppersberger (D-MD), the bill’s co-sponsors, have since responded that regulating critical infrastructure is beyond the purview of the House Intelligence Committee – from whence the bill came – and that the now-approved changes to the bill narrow the government’s ability to retain and then use shared data.  The amendments have yet to scale back liability exemptions, provisions that remain popular with industry.  The White House has yet to comment on the revised bill.

In its current form, CISPA has won the support of Internet and technology companies such as Facebook and Symantec.  Notably, though, some companies have jumped ship and now oppose the legislation.  Civil rights groups, including the ACLU, also remain unconvinced.  Cyber activist group Anonymous has been particularly vociferous in its opposition, calling for a series of protests and "swift messages" against industry supporters.

CISPA is not the only cybersecurity bill to face growing scrutiny.  Members of the House and the Senate have offered at least nine other cybersecurity bills, including separate proposals from Senators Liberman (I-CT) and McCain (R-AZ).  As with CISPA, some critics believe Congress has yet to advance legislation comprehensive enough to cure the country’s growing cyber vulnerabilities while protecting the citizenr’s civil liberties – a familiar quandary in post-9/11 America.