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Big news: Obama threatens to veto CISPA [Updated]

Stop CISPA

This just in: The Obama administration has threatened to veto the Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act, better known CISPA. The White House has repeatedly said that it opposes CISPA due to its lack of privacy protections, as well as any mandate that adds specific protections to national infrastructure, like the electrical grid and water supplies. But this is the first time the president has said that the administration would veto the bill.

Here is the Obama administration’s full statement below:

April 25, 2012
(House Rules)
 
STATEMENT OF ADMINISTRATION POLICY
 
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 Homeland Security.  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. 

(Emphasis ours)

All of that said, it is next to impossible that CISPA will pass the House in its current form, let alone the Senate. The bill currently faces more than 40 separate amendments, many of which would address the president’s concerns about the bill. If CISPA passes the House, it will face increased scrutiny in the Senate, where it will likely change further. In other words: There is very little chance that President Obama will have a chance to wield his veto powers — but that doesn’t make this declaration any less encouraging to the anti-CISPA crowd.

Moreover, as some critics have already noted, Obama has threatened veto in the past, specifically with the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA). In the end, Obama signed that bill, despite its serious problems.

The House is scheduled to vote on CISPA by Friday afternoon. The bill is expected to pass in the House.

UPDATE: CISPA co-authors Reps. Mike Rogers (R-MI) and Dutch Ruppersberger (D-MD) have issued the following statement in response to the Obama administration’s formal veto threat:

The basis for the Administration’s view is mostly based on the lack of critical infrastructure regulation, something outside of our jurisdiction.  We would also draw the White House’s attention to the substantial package of privacy and civil liberties improvement announced yesterday which will be added to the bill on the floor. The SAP was limited to the bill in “its current form” – however, as the bipartisan managers of the bill announced yesterday – they have agreed to a package of amendments that address nearly every single one of the criticisms leveled by the Administration, particularly those regarding privacy and civil liberties of Americans. Congress must lead on this critical issue and we hope the White House will join us.

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