- The Washington Times - Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Lawmakers are debating a cybersecurity bill that the White House has threatened to veto and that opponents say will facilitate broad government monitoring of Internet traffic.

The House will continue debate Thursday and vote on the Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act (CISPA), congressional staff said.

The bill enjoys bipartisan support in the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, which approved it last week, 18-2.

Its supporters say it would remove legal obstacles to private companies sharing cybersecurity information with the U.S. government, so that data can be used to monitor and counter online threats from hackers, criminals, spies and foreign militaries.

“We need the authority that CISPA provides to allow the voluntary sharing of cybersecurity threat information,” said Rep. James R. Langevin, Rhode Island Democrat, adding that “improvements” had been made to the bill. “Several amendments have already been adopted to alleviate many privacy concerns, and more may be adopted before we are done.”

One of the bill’s authors, Rep. Mike Rogers, Michigan Republican and chairman of the intelligence committee, found himself the target of a Twitter campaign late Tuesday, after telling a House Rules Committee hearing that opposition to the bill came from “14 year-old tweeter[s] in the basement.”

His comments were seized upon by civil liberties and privacy groups who oppose the bill. The Electronic Frontier Foundation urged its followers to tweet at Mr. Rogers and “tell him how wrong he is.”

“Thousands and thousands” had done so, said the foundation’s activism director, Rainey Reitman. “The tweets have been coming in multiple times per minute” and kept coming “all night.”

The bill is supported by the intelligence committee’s ranking Democrat, Rep. C.A. Dutch Ruppersberger of Maryland, and passed out of the committee last week on an 18-2 vote.

The Twitter campaign follows a White House threat to veto the bill, and the decision by the Rules Committee to exclude two key amendments that privacy advocates had supported.

One amendment would have required companies sharing cybersecurity information with the government to make “reasonable efforts” to remove any personal data about customers or other people from it first. The other would have ensured that an agency such as the Department of Homeland Security, rather than the National Security Agency, would lead the information-gathering effort.

Supporters of the amendments say they would have dealt with two objections that the White House has raised to the bill.

“It’s very disappointing that the House will be denied an up-or-down vote on these incredibly important amendments,” said Michelle Richardson, legislative counsel for the American Civil Liberties Union.

The Twitter campaign is the latest move by the bill’s critics to fan opposition among the so-called Internet savvy voters who last year protested and ultimately defeated two intellectual property bills that opponents argued would give companies the right to censor the Web.

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