As the controversial national cybersecurity bill known as CISPA nears a vote on the House floor on Friday, the White House has sharpened its opposition, with Alec Ross, the senior advisor of innovation to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton telling the Guardian candidly on Tuesday that: “The Obama Administration opposes CISPA.”
That’s a big problem for the bill’s backers, as the President’s signature is needed to make the bill into law — after and if it passes the House and Senate first.
But one of the bill’s original drafters, Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA), late on Tuesday proposed an amendment that House staffers told TPM had been worked on in conjunction with administration officials, to move CISPA to a place where the President would be able to sign it into law.
Schiff’s amendment seeks to “minimize” the type and amount of personally identifiable information private companies and the government would be allowed to collect on Web users and share with each other under CISPA.
Specifically, the amendment would introduce a whole section on “privacy and civil liberties,” that requires the government and companies to “reasonably limit” what information they collect, to ensure its “confidentiality” and to delete such information in a “timely” fashion if it is found to not be useful to protect a network from hackers, malware or other cyber attacks.
Schiff’s amendment also subjects companies and government agencies that share information to review by the Attorney General, and shifts the oversight of the information sharing away from the Director of National Intelligence to the Secretary of Homeland Security, thus putting it back under civilian control. It also narrows the definitions of “cybersecurity threat” and other language in line with a Senate bill, but the terms remain somewhat ambiguous.
Also, problematically, the House Intelligence Committee, on which Schiff sits and which is run by Rep. Mike Rogers (R-MI), CISPA’s primary sponsor, has agreed to accept four amendments to CISPA, but none of them are Schiff’s exact language.
Plus, Schiff’s bill is but one of a host that have been proposed in recent days by other members of the House.
Still, Schiff is confident his amendment is something that everyone in Congress and the administration can get behind.
“There’s a real need to move forward with this legislation, and I think we can strike a better balance in protecting the country and the privacy interests of individuals,” Schiff told TPM in a telephone interview.
“I think the bill has continued to improve, but I’d still like to see it move forward with this amendment,” Schiff added.
Schiff said that he thought since the bill’s original introduction in the House in November 2011, he and the other members of the House Intelligence Committee had “time to digest input from the public, as well as from the [Obama] administration and industry.”
“I think the bill is likely to pass the House,” Schiff told TPM, echoing the words of primary CISPA sponsor Rogers, “I hope that it passes in a form I can support it.”
The House is expected to vote on the bill on Friday, April 27.