Updated 9:30 am ET, Wednesday, April 25
Ahead of a looming vote in the House, lawmakers on Tuesday proposed four new amendments to the controversial cybersecurity bill known as CISPA. Prominent CISPA critic Rep. Ron Paul (R-TX) will be supporting two of the amendments, according to House staffers.
Paul released a lengthy statement online slamming CISPA, or the Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act, on Monday, calling it “the latest assault on internet freedom” and an “alarming form of corporatism,” and “Big Brother writ large.”
Paul’s language echoed the criticisms of Web advocacy groups that launched online protests against the bill in early April, arguing that its language was too broad and could result in companies and the government sharing personally identifiable Web user information with each other without proper oversight or legal recourse.
CISPA seeks to allow the government and private companies such as internet service providers and websites like Facebook to share more information related to “cybersecurity threats” with each other than they do currently, in an effort to identify and repel common threats from hackers and malware.
The protests have only intensified in recent days in anticipation of the House vote, which will likely occur Friday, staffers told TPM. No precise date for the vote has yet been set. Even if it does pass the House, the bill will still have to pass the Senate and be signed into law by the president.
But now, staunch critic Paul appears to be ready to support two amendments to the bill, House staffers told TPM.
One of the amendments Paul is ready to support came from his Democratic colleague Rep. Bennie Thompson (MS) on Tuesday. The proposed amendment, which also counts Rep. Justin Amash (R-MI) as a supporter, would add a whole new section to CISPA designed to protect “privacy and civil liberties” of Web users.
Thompson’s amendment seeks to offer Web users protection by making the Secretary of Homeland Security and Director of National Intelligence coordinate with privacy and civil liberties groups develop policies to “minimize the impact on privacy and civil liberties,” and to “reasonably limit the acquisition” and sharing of personally identifiable information. The U.S. Attorney General would then approve these policies.
Another amendment supported by Paul and also proposed by Thompson, seeks to reign in just which agencies and companies can share cyberthreat information, limiting it to only the Department of Homeland Security. The latest version of the bill leaves the door wide open to any intelligence agency to get its hands on the information, referring only to “the Federal Government” writ large (see section (b)(1)(ii)).
The third proposed amendment to CISPA introduced came from by Rep. Dan Lungren (R-CA). It would essentially rewrite the entire bill to make it more like his alternative bill, the PRECISE Act, which was previously supported by the Center for Democracy and Technology, a prominent advocacy group criticizing CISPA.
The final amendment to CISPA proposed on Tuesday came from Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA). It too seeks to outline protections for Web users’ civil liberties and privacy, by “minimizing the collection of publicly identifiable information,” according to a press release, following along the lines of a Senate bill. Schiff’s bill would also narrow the purposes for which a Federal agency may use cybersecurity information and would adopt more specific definitions for cybersecurity threats and information, something the bills critics have also cited as problematic.
Still, even before the amendments, CISPA already enjoyed wide bipartisan support in Congress and from the private sector. The bill’s sponsor, Rep. Mike Rogers (R-MI) told TPM in an interview that he was “confident” it would pass this week.
Correction: This article originally incorrectly stated Rep. Paul’s position as being “ready to support the bill.” In fact, Paul currently supports certain amendments cited, not necessarily final passage. We have since corrected the error in copy and regret it.