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CISPA co-author Rep. Mike Rogers: ‘We have the votes’

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The controversial Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act (CISPA) has enough votes to pass the House of Representatives, according to CISPA co-author Rep. Mike Rogers (R-MI). The House is scheduled to begin consideration of CISPA on Thursday, with a vote on the cybersecurity bill due no later than Friday afternoon.

“The good news is, we feel very confident we have the votes for the bill,” said Rogers during a conference call with reporters this afternoon. “What we’re trying to do now is make sure that there is a comfort level and transparency about what we are trying to accomplish. So this isn’t about scrambling to make sure we have 218 votes — we are well past that.”

Rogers added that he and fellow CISPA author Rep. Dutch Ruppersberger (D-MD) want to make sure “that people have a comfort level — not just members, but the public at large — about what we’re trying to accomplish here.” He says that once people find out “about what the threat is, what we’re trying to do, and how narrow it is, we’re getting plenty of support.”

At present, CISPA, which seeks to allow for greater sharing of “cyber threat intelligence” between the government and the private sector, has broad bi-partisan support, with 113 co-sponsors in the House. That is up from 106 co-sponsors at the end of March. The increase of seven co-sponsors  has come amid a concerted campaign by a coalition of civil liberties groups, including the American Civil Liberties Union, the Electronic Frontier Foundation, and the Center for Democracy & Technology, to shut down CISPA, or force a number of changes to the bill that would better protect individual privacy. CISPA is also supported by hundreds of companies and trade groups, including Facebook, Microsoft, IBM, AT&T, Verizon, and others.

As support for CISPA has increased, so has the number of opponents. On Monday, a group of 18 congressional Democrats released a letter condemning CISPA for its lack of privacy protections, and urged Reps. Rogers and Ruppersberger to make the necessary changes to the bill. These Members were joined by a number of conservative interest groups, academics, engineers, and others, all of whom also warn of the privacy concerns they say are inherent in CISPA.

At the top of the opponents is President Barack Obama. The White House has repeatedly come out against legislation that does not properly protect privacy and civil liberties. But today, a unnamed “senior Obama official” told the Guardian that “The Obama administration opposes CISPA. The president has called for comprehensive cybersecurity legislation. There is absolutely a need for comprehensive cybersecurity legislation. [But] part of what has been communicated to congressional committees is that we want legislation to come with necessary protections for individuals.” This marks the first time the White House has called out CISPA by name.

In response to the growing opposition, Rogers and Ruppersberger said they plan to propose four additional amendments to CISPA, which they believe will satisfy most of the bill’s critics. The changes will include tighter definitions concerning how information shared under CISPA can be used, increased oversight of the used of the information, and greater limits on what portions of the federal government may access the shared data.

The congressmen said that the Center for Democracy & Technology will release a statement later today in support of the changes, and that the CDT will no longer actively oppose the legislation. Update: The CDT has released its statement on the upcoming version of CISPA, saying that “good progress has been made” in terms of “privacy improvements,” but that “the bill falls short because of the remaining concerns  – the flow of internet data directly to the NSA and the use of information for purposes unrelated to cybersecurity.”

“I am very pleased with where the bill stands today,” said Rogers in a statement. “Our bill is designed to help protect American companies from advanced foreign cyber threats, like those posed by the Chinese government. It has always been my desire to do that in manner that doesn’t sacrifice the privacy and civil liberties of Americans, and I am confident that we have achieved that goal. I appreciate all the constructive input we have received and I look forward to getting the bill passed by the House and signed into law. America will be a little safer and our economy a little better protected from foreign cyber predators once this measure is enacted.”

Check back with Digital Trends shortly for more details on the upcoming amendment proposals.

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