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Cyber security act sponsors say bill isn’t being rushed, cite broad support

Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-CT)

The sponsors of a cyber security bill aimed at critical infrastructure providers say they’re not rushing the measure’s passage and said it already has broad industry and congressional support.

Joe Lieberman (I-CT), chairman of the Senate Homeland and Governmental Affairs Committee introduced the Cybersecurity Act of 2012, S. 2105 on Feb. 14. The bill doesn’t contain a controversial Internet “kill switch” that has plagued past cyber legislation. A “kill switch” would allow the government to shut off access to the Internet in the event of a national security crisis.

S. 2105 would task DHS with determining if certain critical infrastructure networks should be required to meet a set of risk-based security standards. DHS would also have to consolidate its Cyber security programs into a unified office called the National Center for Cybersecurity and Communications.

Lieberman said on Feb. 15 that the bill has seen growing support from high-tech companies like Cisco and Oracle, as well as information industry groups and legislators. Lieberman’s committee was set to hold a hearing on the bill the afternoon of Feb. 16.

On Feb. 14, seven Republican senators complained in a letter to in a letter to the Senate’s Democratic leader Harry Reid and Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell that the bill was being pushed too quickly.

"This is not the kind of legislation that can result in a carefully balanced solution unless the full process is afforded," said the letter signed by Sens. Saxby Chambliss,(R-GA).; Kay Bailey Hutchison, (R-TX); John McCain, (R-AZ); Lisa Murkowski, (R-AK); Jeff Sessions, (R-AL); Chuck Grassley, (R-IA); and Mike Enzi, (R-WY).

They claimed bipartisan working groups had only infrequent meetings that weren’t constructive.

In a statement on Feb. 15, Lieberman rebutted claims the bill was being rushed. “Nothing could be further from the truth,” he said, adding the bill has been in the works for three years and that outlines and multiple drafts have been shared with stakeholders and the public whose input helped shape the final version.

“More than 20 hearings on cybersecurity have been held across at least seven different Senate committees, with dozens more held on questions relating to cybersecurity,” he said, adding that markups of cyber legislation have been held in five separate committees. He said in the last congress, both the Homeland Security and Commerce Committees passed comprehensive Cyber security legislation that contains many of the ideas in the legislation.

This past August, he said, Senate majority leader Harry Reid (D-NV) consulting with minority leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), brought all the committees of jurisdiction together to form working groups that contributed to the bill introduced yesterday. According to Lieberman, the groups reached out to industry, academics, civil liberties and privacy experts, and security experts and hundreds of changes were made to the bill as a result of their input.

Lieberman also pointed to praise from a host of corporate and government homeland security experts, as well as information industry leaders. He said Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Martin Dempsey, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, and former Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff – have endorsed the bill, as have Cisco/Oracle, TechAmerica, and the Information Technology Industry Council.


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