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What is CISPA and Why Would the President Veto It?

The Obama administration has threatened to veto H.R. 3523, the Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act (CISPA), because it “fails to provide authorities 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.”  The statement went on to say that “The American people expect their Government to enhance security without undermining their privacy and civil liberties.” Scroll down for the complete White House statement.

The bill is designed to supersede other laws and allow private companies and the federal government to share information among one another. The goal is to protect websites and network infrastructure from hackers, whether they be private individuals or organizations (like Anonymous) or individuals or foreign governments, like China. It would protect private companies from lawsuits that might arise from their sharing personal information.

CISPA specifically says that “Notwithstanding any other provision of law, a cybersecurity provider … may, for cybersecurity purposes … share such cyber threat information with any other entity designated by such protected entity, including, if specifically designated, the Federal Government.” (Full text is here)

CISPA is bi-partisan bill sponsored by Rep. Mike Rogers (R-MI) and Dutch Ruppersberger (D-MD) and co-sponsored by a cross section of representatives ranging from liberal Silicon Valley Congresswoman Anna Eshoo to conservative Minnesota Congresswoman Michele Bachmann. Several tech companies including Facebook, Microsoft and Google, have expressed support for CISPA. These same companies were opposed to the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) and the Protect Intellectual Property Act (PIPA).

Nearly 800,000 people have so-far signed an online petition urging Congress to “immediately drop the Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act (CISPA).”

In a FAQ on its site, the Electronic Frontier Foundation ( argues CISPA would allow companies to hand over customers’ personal information, including email to the government. “Under CISPA, companies can hand ‘cyber threat information’ to any government agency,” said EFF. “which then passes that information to the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). Once it’s in DHS’s hands, the bill says that DHS can then hand the information to other intelligence agencies, including the NationalSecurity Agency, at its discretion.”  The organization worries that it could “lead the companies and government to surveil citizens for a host of reasons beyond critical cybersecurity threats.”

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) claims that CISPA would give the government “unprecedented powers to snoop through people’s personal information — medical records, private emails, financial information — all without a warrant, proper oversight or limits.”

backgrounder on the bill on the site of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence said, “This important legislation would enable cyber threat sharing and provide clear authority for the private sector to defend its own networks, all while providing strong protections for privacy and civil liberties.” The backgrounder said that the bill has been “narrowed to avoid any misunderstanding and to clarify that it is intended only to defend against attempts by advanced cyber hackers, from countries like China, to gain unauthorized access to networks, including efforts to gain such access to steal private or government information.”

CNET reported that “House of Representatives members have proposed 44 amendments in advance of a vote later this week

Here is the full statement from The Whitehouse’s PDF is here.



H.R. 3523 – Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act
(Rep. Rogers, R-MI, and 112 cosponsors)

The Administration is committed to increasing public-private sharing of information about
cybersecurity threats as an essential part of comprehensive legislation to protect the Nation’s vital information systems and critical infrastructure. The sharing of information must be conducted in a manner that preserves Americans’ privacy, data confidentiality, and civil liberties and recognizes the civilian nature of cyberspace. Cybersecurity and privacy are not mutually exclusive. Moreover, information sharing, while an essential component of comprehensive legislation, is not alone enough to protect the Nation’s core critical infrastructure from cyber threats. Accordingly, the Administration strongly opposes H.R. 3523, the Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act, in its current form.

H.R. 3523 fails to provide authorities 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. For example, the bill would allow broad sharing of information with governmental entities without establishing requirements for both industry and the Government to minimize and protect personally identifiable information. Moreover, such sharing should be accomplished in a way that permits appropriate sharing within the Government without undue restrictions imposed by private sector companies that share information.

The bill also lacks sufficient limitations on the sharing of personally identifiable information between private entities and does not contain adequate oversight or accountability measures necessary to ensure that the data is used only for appropriate purposes. Citizens have a right to know that corporations will be held legally accountable for failing to safeguard personal information adequately. The Government, rather than establishing a new antitrust exemption under this bill, should ensure that information is not shared for anti-competitive purposes.

In addition, H.R. 3523 would inappropriately shield companies from any suits where a company’s actions are based on cyber threat information identified, obtained, or shared under this bill, regardless of whether that action otherwise violated Federal criminal law or results in damage or loss of life. This broad liability protection not only removes a strong incentive to improving cybersecurity, it also potentially undermines our Nation’s economic, national security, and public safety interests.

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. 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.

The American people expect their Government to enhance security without undermining their privacy and civil liberties. Without clear legal protections and independent oversight information sharing legislation will undermine the public’s trust in the Government as well as in the Internet by undermining fundamental privacy, confidentiality, civil liberties, and consumer protections. The Administration’s draft legislation, submitted last May, provided for information sharing with clear privacy protections and strong oversight by the independent Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board.

The Administration’s proposal also provided authority for the Federal Government to ensure that the Nation’s critical infrastructure operators are taking the steps necessary to protect the American people. The Congress must also include authorities to ensure our Nation’s most vital critical infrastructure assets are properly protected by meeting minimum cybersecurity performance standards. Industry would develop these standards collaboratively with the Department of HomelandSecurity. Voluntary measures alone are insufficient responses to the growing danger of cyber threats.

Legislation should address core critical infrastructure vulnerabilities without sacrificing the fundamental values of privacy and civil liberties for our citizens, especially at a time our Nation is facing challenges to our economic well-being and national security. The Administration looks forward to continuing to engage with the Congress in a bipartisan, bicameral fashion to enact cybersecurity legislation to address these critical issues. However, for the reasons stated herein, if H.R. 3523 were presented to the President, his senior advisors would recommend that he veto the bill.


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