Stop CISPA? Cybersecurity bill adds six new co-sponsors in two days

Since the launch on Monday of a concerted effort by Internet and civil liberty advocates to stop the Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act (CISPA) in its tracks, the bill has gained six new co-sponsors in the House of Representatives. That’s right gained, not lost.

On Monday, April 16, Reps. Steve Austria (R-OH), Henry Cuellar (D-TX), Ralph Hall (R-TX), Doug Lamborn (R-CO), and Mick Mulvaney (R-SC) signed on as co-sponsors of CISPA. The next day, Rep. Howard “Buck” McKeon (R-CA) joined in as well. These additions bring the total number of CISPA co-sponsors to 112, up from the March 29 total of 106.

In addition to the added support in the House, CISPA has enjoyed increasingly robust support from the technology industry. Facebook, Intel, and a variety of industry trade groups, including The Information Technology Industry Council, Bay Area Council, CTIA, the Internet Security Alliance, and the Telecommunications Industry Association (among many, many others) have all expressed praise of the bill this week.

Those in favor of CISPA argue that the legislation is a needed piece to the cybersecurity puzzle, giving the federal government and companies the ability to more easily share sensitive “cyber threat intelligence,” which is the short (11-page) bill’s stated purpose.

Read the full text of CISPA here. Read an updated “discussion draft” of CISPA here: PDF.

Opponents of CISPA, on the other hand, warn that CISPA would open up an entire backdoor surveillance program, as the bill effectively places no limits on the types of information that may be shared with the government; provide little to no oversight of how the information is used; could potential land private information unrelated to direct cyberthreats in the hands of the National Security Agency; and overrides all existing local, state, or federal laws that prohibit companies from sharing information about citizens with the federal government.

The organizations leading the ‘Stop Cyber Spying‘ protests against CISPA are: Access Now, American Civil Liberties Union, American Library Association, Avaaz, Canadian Internet Policy and Public Interest Clinic, Center for Democracy and Technology, The Constitution Project, Demand Progress, the Electronic Frontier Foundation, Fight for the Future, Free Press, OpenMedia.ca, Open the Government, Privacy Rights Clearinghouse, Reporters Without Borders, Reverse Robo Call, Sunlight Foundation, Techdirt, and TechFreedom.

While the increasing support for CISPA in Congress and the business community should serve as dire news to CISPA opponents, there are a few glimmers of hope for the bill’s detractors.

Late yesterday, the White House criticized CISPA (though it did not mention the legislation by name), saying that simply sharing information was an inadequate way to protect the country’s critical infrastructure, like electrical grids or water supplies. The statement, made by a spokeswoman from the Obama administration’s National Security Council, also indicated that any cybersecurity legislation that does not protect citizens’ privacy and civil liberties is inadequate.

Instead of CISPA, the White House backs the Cybersecurity Act of 2012, a Senate bill proposed by Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-CT) and Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME), which adds greater regulatory power to the Department of Homeland Security, and includes greater privacy protections than CISPA by requiring that all shared information be stripped of any personally identifiable details. (Many of the same critics that oppose CISPA also opposed the Lieberman-Collins bill, but for different reasons.)

Along with the Obama administration’s thinly veiled criticism of CISPA, it’s clear today that the anti-CISPA message is finally reaching a broader portion of the population. A quick Google News search shows that a greater breadth of publications are writing about CISPA, and reporting on the problems critics say are inherent in the bill.

The tidal wave of new and reiterated support for CISPA is obviously good for Rep. Mike Rogers (R-MI) and Rep. C.A. “Dutch” Ruppersberger (R-MD), the bill’s co-authors. But it remains to be seen whether they can maintain their momentum. All it takes is one co-sponsor, or major business backer, to drop off the list for the pendulum of political power to swing in the opposite direction. For today, however, its path appears to be running right where the pro-CISPA camp wants it.