CISPA Passes House Despite White House Veto Threat

Posted by · April 26, 2012 4:21 pm

The Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act, a.k.a. CISPA, has sparked a house party of sorts on Capitol Hill. In the face of immense opposition to the bill’s current form coming from advocacy groups, industry experts and the public at large, White House advisors spoke out Wednesday evening ahead of House debates set to take place Thursday.

CISPA Veto Threatened

CISPA passesIn a policy statement, President Obama’s advisors requested that the House make a number of amendments to CIPSA before passing it through the legislature. Should the House not make the necessary changes to the bill before sending it to the President’s desk, the White House advisers warned that they will encourage the president to veto the cybersecurity bill.

Most notable among the White House’s concerns were CISPA provisions for “broad sharing of information with governmental entities without establishing requirements for both industry and the government to minimize and protect personally identifiable information.” Instead, the administration suggests that this kind of sharing “be accomplished in a way that permits appropriate sharing within the government without undue restrictions imposed by private sector companies that share information.”

Such concerns seem to fall short of those highlighted by advocacy groups. Although the protection of personal information was a concern, it was but one of several expressed by those outraged by the bill’s introduction.

In addition to informational vulnerabilities, CISPA threatens to deprive those adversely affected by the bill’s enforcement of any legal recourse whatsoever. Furthermore, CISPA’s proposed supremacy over all federal and state privacy statutes poses to leave the clandestine, generally unaccountable NSA with little to prevent it misusing such latitude—ultimately threatening the due process and free speech rights of everyone that the agency chooses to deem a cybersecurity threat.

CISPA Passes House, Sees Bumpy Road Ahead

Nevertheless, CISPA not only made it to the floor of the House on Thursday night and, after a number of proposed amendments, passed by a vote of 248 to 168.

Notable amendments included several from Rep. Mike Rogers—which the Electronic Frontier Foundation quickly decried as “not nearly enough”—as well as one dubbed the “Quayle amendment,” which is said to put constraints on how collected information can be used.

“However, the bill’s future is murky,” The Next Web’s Alex Wilhelm continued, noting the long road through the Senate and to the White House, where the President is yet to lift its earlier veto threat.

As CISPA makes its way to the Senate—where two different versions (see here and here) of the bill are being weighed—there is still much that can change before the President will have to decide whether to sign it into law. Currently, the main rift among Senators has to do with the concreteness of the “countermeasures” that CISPA grants private entities who choose to share user information.

“[W]ithout more restrictions on what sorts of countermeasures are allowed, the door is open to a host of abuses,” warns the Electronic Frontier Foundation. Furthermore, the EFF warns that “the broad definitions of threats [in both Senate bills] could immunize a whole host of monitoring activities by a huge swath of different government and non-government actors.”

That said, the passage of CISPA through the House is clearly a mixed bag. On one end, the lack of consensus on the structure of the bill threatens to bring passage to a halt long before it reaches the President’s desk. Then again, now it’s only one step away.

What will the fate of CISPA be? Do you think it will make it through the Senate? If so, do you think the President will sign it?

For more information on the ongoing CISPA matter . . .