The Cybersecurity Act of 2012 failed to achieve enough votes in the U.S. Senate to close debate and move to a final vote before Congress takes a month-long break for the summer.
Sixty votes were needed to end debate on the Act and move forward to a final vote. However, the vote was 52 in favor and 46 against and hence the motion failed. The Obama administration has called the Act critically important for protecting U.S. national security. The administration claims the Act is necessary to protect the electrical grid, water supply, and other parts of the U.S. infrastructure from cyber attacks and espionage.
The measure would have established a voluntary cybersecurity program for the owners and operators of essential infrastructure and would have allowed federal agencies and businesses to share information about cyberthreats or malicious software that can destroy computer networks.
U.S. President Barack Obama and top national security officials have warned about the potential for devastating assaults on U.S. computer networks and urged Congress to pass the legislation as soon as possible.
The bill had been amended to meet some Republican concerns. One significant revision was removal of a regulation that would have required companies operating critical infrastructure to meet cybersecurity standards dictated by Homeland Security. In the new legislation incentives are offered to businesses to participate in government-managed cybersecurity projects. Industry associations would also be involved in developing standards. However the amendments were not sufficient to gain enough votes to end debate and force a final vote. Republicans still insist that the bill would eventually lead to government-imposed mandatory regulations.
The U.S. Chamber of Commerce echoed Republican complaints about the bill leading to federal mandatory regulations or perhaps the Republicans are echoing the Chamber of Commerce! On the other side of the debate are senior national security officials. General Martin Dempsey of the Joint Chiefs of Staff has been calling for Congress to enact legislation such as the Cybersecurity Act to deal with cyber threats. Dempsey said in a letter to Senator Jay Rockefeller:"The uncomfortable reality of our world today is that bits and bytes can be as threatening as bullets and bombs"
Certainly cyber intrusions are increasing at a fast pace. Operators of critical industries report that cyber intrusions reached 200 in 2011 up from 50 in 2010 according to Senator Susan Collins and Joe Lieberman co-sponsors of the bill.
Democratic senator Al Franken and several other senators want privacy protections in the bill. The legislation allows internet providers as well as other Web businesses to spy on their customers. They can then share this information with the government. No warrant will be needed. The bill removes any right of customers to sue businesses for damages caused by these intrusions on privacy. Big Security Bill is also Big Brother Bill it seems.
The featured video also highlights the issue of access to information. The reach of the Freedom of Information Law would be limited by this new legislation. As always this would be to protect Americans and make them more secure. More secure in their ignorance of what their government is doing.
Already security cameras are ubiquitous. Drones will no doubt be watching from above before long and all communications will be monitored and anything suspicious reported to the government.
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