Calling cyber attacks the “most important national security threat lapping at the shores of the United States,” House Intelligence Committee Chairman Mike Rogers Monday stressed the need for Congress to pass a cybersecurity bill in short order.
The Michigan Republican made the comment Monday during a conference call with reporters ahead of the panel's scheduled markup of the legislation on Wednesday. The committee's ranking Democrat, C.A. “Dutch” Ruppersberger of Maryland, was also on the call.
Their bipartisan legislation is designed to allow private-sector companies to voluntarily share information with the government and one another on a classified basis. It would also provide liability protection to companies that share information and includes provisions protecting civil liberties and privacy.
Ruppersberger cited a recent rash of denial-of-service attacks on American bank websites and media companies earlier this year as evidence of the seriousness of the threat. The Iranian and Chinese governments are believed to have been behind them.
“In the past year, the cyber threat has gotten exponentially worse,” he said, citing an estimated $400 billion in stolen intellectual property. “Congress needs to act now.”
The two lawmakers discussed several amendments that will be offered on Wednesday in an attempt to build more support for the bill and to calm concerns about the measure among privacy advocates. The amendments include a measure to ensure that shared information is only used to fight cyber threats and not for marketing purposes. Another amendment would also remove some national security language to narrow the scope of shared information.
“This is not a surveillance bill,” Rogers stressed in his call to reporters. “It does not allow the [National Security Agency] or any other government agency to plug into private networks. Nothing in this bill does anything to sacrifice your privacy or civil liberties.”
The White House issued a broad executive order in February aimed at coordinating information sharing between federal agencies and among private companies and the government.
Rogers said the executive order “puts a tremendous amount of pressure on the Senate” to produce its own bill as well. The Senate is also under pressure from the House, which passed a bipartisan cybersecurity measure last year that was never taken up the Senate.
Rogers and Ruppersberger said they have already held discussions with the White House and will meet with the members of the Senate Intelligence Committee within weeks after the House markup in an effort to get a bill through Congress as soon as possible.
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