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03 August 2012, 15:45

US Cybersecurity Act rejected by the US Senate

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Congress seal The topic of cyber security remains controversial in the US Congress. An amended proposal for a "Cybersecurity Act" that would have the US government and businesses exchange information on cyber threats mostly on a voluntary basis failed to achieve the required two-thirds majority in the Senate on Thursday. 52 of the 100 senators voted in favour of the amended proposal. As the US Congress will go into summer recess this weekend, a new attempt is unlikely to be made before the autumn.

The chief negotiators from both parties in the Senate presented amendments to the bill last week. For example, prosecutors investigating a computer crime would only be allowed to access the collected data if there is clear indication of a criminal act. The proposed National Cybersecurity Council would not be governed by the US National Security Agency (NSA), but by the US Department of Homeland Security (DHS).

US President Barack Obama had spoken in favour of the Cybersecurity Act in a opinion article. The current Chairman of the US military's Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Martin Dempsey, also thinks that the act is necessary to protect critical infrastructures and the US national security.

However, many further amendments were proposed by senators over the week. Ultimately, many voted in line with their concerns. For instance, in a statement after the vote, Democrat Ron Wyden said that in his opinion the Cybersecurity Act in its current form does not sufficiently safeguard Internet users’ privacy and civil liberties. According to Wyden, the act would not create enough incentive to actually promote the exchange of information. Republican senators mainly explained their rejection by pointing out that, despite the amendments, companies would be made to comply with too many bureaucratic reporting requirements.

The White House regretted that the act failed to gain approval, saying that it could have protected the US from "potentially catastrophic cyber attacks". According to the White House, the proposed legislation fell victim to "the politics of obstructionism, driven by special interest groups seeking to avoid accountability". US civil rights campaigners Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), on the other hand, are celebrating a "victory over cyber spying". Although the amended bill still had big problems, it did contain new privacy protections, said the EFF. Back in April, the US House of Representatives had passed the Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act (CISPA), which had been strongly opposed by civil rights groups and internet companies. CISPA stipulates far more comprehensive monitoring responsibilities than this counterpart that has, in its current form, been rejected by the US Senate.

(Stefan Krempl / djwm)

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