- The Washington Times - Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Consideration of a controversial cybersecurity bill that encourages private companies to share data with the federal government is now expected to be delayed until the fall, with opponents attributing the holdup to their grassroots efforts aimed at derailing the act.

Lawmakers say the Cybersecurity Information Sharing Act, or CISA, will likely not be discussed until at least September notwithstanding earlier talks of voting on the bill before the Senate recesses early next month.

“I’m sad to say I don’t think that’s going to happen,” Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn, Texas Republican, said Tuesday. “The timing of this is unfortunate.”

“I think we’re just running out time,” Mr. Cornyn said, The Hill reported.

The bill’s co-author, Sen. Dianne Feinstein, California Democrat, said CISA “incentivizes the sharing of cybersecurity threat information between the private sector and the government and among private sector entities.”

“It responds to the massive and growing threat to national and economic security from cyber intrusion and attack, and seeks to improve the security of public and private computer networks by increasing awareness of threats and defenses,” Ms. Feinstein said previously of her bill.

Privacy advocates have come out strongly against CISA as with similar proposals that have surfaced in years past, however, and were in the midst of a weeklong campaign geared toward curbing the bill when reports of a delay first appeared on Tuesday.

Earlier in the week, a coalition of digital rights groups and organizations including the American Civil Liberties Union and the Electronic Frontier Foundation launched a website containing details on the cyber bill and a free service in which visitors could type out their concerns and have their messages automatically routed to the fax machines in all 100 U.S. senators’ offices.

“We’d prefer that Congress had an open system for constituent communication using best practices of modern technology, but until they make improvements in that area, we’ll keep jamming their faxes and lighting up the phone lines,” said Fight for the Future, an activism group involved in the anti-CISA campaign. 

As of Wednesday morning, more than a quarter-million faxes had already been sent, the coalition said.

“Washington is a messy place, but we can have an impact,” said Nathan David White, a senior legislative manager with ACCESS, a D.C.-based digital freedom group.

“After 310,000 faxes, we’re hearing rumors that the Senate might not take up the bill this work period,” he wrote on Reddit on Wednesday, adding that any postponement could make further delays more likely down the road.

If that happens, he wrote, “the bill will be weighed down with political baggage and harder to bring up in the fall.”

“By getting really loud at the right moment, we can actually derail this,” he said.

Sen. Ron Wyden, an Oregon Democrat and opponent of CISA, told The Hill that he agreed a “tremendous grassroots effort to highlight the fact that this bill was badly flawed from a privacy standpoint” had helped sideline discussions.

• Andrew Blake can be reached at ablake@washingtontimes.com.

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