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article imageThe White House threatens to veto CISPA

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By Anne Sewell     Apr 26, 2012 in Internet
Washington - The president's advisers have now said they will recommend that Obama vetoes the Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act if it is passed by Congress.
Congress is planning to vote this week on the Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act (CISPA) or H.R. 3523.
Digital Journal reported recently that President Barack Obama opposes CISPA. Now things are a little more official, as the Obama administration has said that it will advise President Obama to veto the controversial bill should it reach the White House.
Huffington Post has reported that on Wednesday, the White House released a statement officially condemning CISPA. The reasons mirror those that have caused other opponents to rally against the legislation. Specifically, the White House denounces the proposed bill for potentially giving the government cyber-spying powers. These powers would allow both private businesses and also federal authorities to access online activities and emails of private individuals, all in the name of counter-terrorism and without legal recourse.
The statement begins: “The sharing of information must be conducted in a manner that preserves Americans' privacy, data confidentiality and civil liberties and recognizes the civilian nature of cyberspace."
"Cybersecurity and privacy are not mutually exclusive. Moreover, information sharing, while an essential component of comprehensive legislation, is not alone enough to protect the nation's core critical infrastructure from cyber threats. Accordingly, the administration strongly opposes H.R. 3523, the Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act, in its current form.”
“H.R. 3523 fails to provide authorities to ensure that the nation's core critical infrastructure is protected while repealing important provisions of electronic surveillance law without instituting corresponding privacy, confidentiality and civil liberties safeguards,”
The White House adds that CISPA “would inappropriately shield companies from any suits where a company's actions are based on cyber threat information identified, obtained or shared under this bill, regardless of whether that action otherwise violated federal criminal law or results in damage or loss of life. This broad liability protection not only removes a strong incentive to improving cybersecurity, it also potentially undermines our nation's economic, national security, and public safety interests.”
Coming just two days after Congressman Ron Paul attacked CISPA in a similar fashion, President Obama states: “Without clear legal protections and independent oversight, information sharing legislation will undermine the public's trust in the government as well as in the Internet by undermining fundamental privacy, confidentiality, civil liberties and consumer protections.”
Presidential hopeful Ron Paul had made an address on Monday morning saying: “CISPA represents an alarming form of corporatism as it further intertwines governments with companies like Google and Facebook,” and permits the private sector to steal personal communications and hand them to federal authorities “without a warrant, circumventing the well-known established federal laws like the Wiretap Act and the Electronic Communications Privacy Act.”
“It also grants them broad immunity from lawsuits for doing so, leaving you for without recourse for invasion of privacy.”
The Obama administration suggests a possible remedy, saying that “the Administration believes that a civilian agency – the Department of Homeland Security – must have a central role in domestic cybersecurity, including for conducting and overseeing the exchange of cybersecurity information with the private sector and with sector-specific Federal agencies.”
This statement reflects that of Richard A. Clarke, a former cybersecurity special adviser under President George W. Bush, made earlier this month. In the New York Times, Clarke proposes that “Under Customs authority, the Department of Homeland Security could inspect what enters and exits the United States in cyberspace.”
“Customs already looks online for child pornography crossing our virtual borders. And under the Intelligence Act, the president could issue a finding that would authorize agencies to scan Internet traffic outside the United States and seize sensitive files stolen from within our borders.”
While the White House has not yet implemented plans to place authority for monitoring the Internet in the hands of the DHS, suggestions on Wednesday are that a plan should be put in place that would alleviate cyberterrorism threats while avoiding privacy concerns of CISPA opponents.
The White House states: “Legislation should address core critical infrastructure vulnerabilities without sacrificing the fundamental values of privacy and civil liberties for our citizens, especially at a time our Nation is facing challenges to our economic well-being and national security. The Administration looks forward to continuing to engage with the Congress in a bipartisan, bicameral fashion to enact cybersecurity legislation to address these critical issues. However, for the reasons stated herein, if H.R. 3523 were presented to the President, his senior advisors would recommend that he veto the bill."
Earlier in the week The Guardian reported that Alec Ross, a senior adviser to Secretary of State, Hilary Clinton, has reiterated that top officials under President Obama are pushing to keep the legislation from being signed.
Ross stated: "The Obama administration opposes CISPA. The president has called for comprehensive cybersecurity legislation. There is absolutely a need for comprehensive cybersecurity legislation.”
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