Senate Won't Vote On CISPA, Deals Blow To Controversial Cyber Bill

04/25/2013 07:13 pm ET | Updated Apr 25, 2013
AP

The Senate will not vote on a cybersecurity bill that passed the House earlier this month, according to two Senate staffers, dealing a blow to a measure that sparked opposition from privacy advocates and the White House.

Earlier this month, the House of Representatives passed the Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act, known as CISPA, in a 288-127 vote. The bill would give businesses and the federal government legal protection to share information on cyber threats with each other to enhance the nation's cybersecurity. The bill comes at a time of increased concern over hacking threats at home and from China.

But the chances of a similar bill passing the Senate have dimmed. Key senators said they are writing their own legislation instead of voting on CISPA.

Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-W.V.), who is chairman of the Senate Commerce Committee, "believes that information sharing is a key component of cybersecurity legislation, but the Senate will not take up CISPA," a committee staffer told HuffPost.

A staffer for the Senate Intelligence Committee said the committee also is working on an information-sharing bill and will not take up CISPA.

"We are currently drafting a bipartisan information sharing bill and will proceed as soon as we come to an agreement," Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), chairwoman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, said in a statement Thursday.

CISPA's authors, Reps. Mike Rogers (R-Mich.) and Dutch Ruppersberger (D-Md.), adopted several amendments to assuage privacy and civil liberty concerns. Advocacy groups say the bill's description of which data can be shared with the government is too broad and fails to keep Internet users' data from spy agencies.

But the White House said earlier this month the amendments to CISPA did not go far enough and threatened to veto the bill.

Rogers and Ruppersberger, however, remain hopeful that the Senate will pass legislation with information-sharing measures similar to CISPA, a staffer for the House Intelligence Committee said.

The developments are similar to last year's when the House passed CISPA despite a White House veto threat, and the Senate never took up the bill. Instead, senators focused on legislation that set computer security standards for companies operating critical infrastructure like power plants. The Senate then failed to pass a cyber bill after Republicans blocked the legislation, citing costly new regulations for companies.

Since then, national concerns about cybersecurity have only intensified following several high-profile attacks linked to China and members of the hacking group Anonymous.

Many experts have warned that Congress needs to pass a cybersecurity bill because the nation's most vital computer systems are increasingly vulnerable to cyber attacks that could lead to economic loss, sustained blackouts or mass casualties. Top intelligence officials now say hackers pose a greater national security threat than terrorists.

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