CISPA cybersecurity bill gets veto threat from Obama

The White House came out strongly Wednesday against a bipartisan but controversial House bill designed to protect the country's infrastructure from cyberattack, warning that President Barack Obama would veto if it passes in its current form over civil liberties concerns and other worries.

"The Administration strongly opposes H.R. 3523, the Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act, in its current form," Obama's Office of Management and Budget said in a statement. "If H.R. 3523 were presented to the President, his senior advisors would recommend that he veto the bill."

OMB said that the administration was "committed to increasing public-private sharing of information about cybersecurity threats" but said the process "must be conducted in a manner that preserves Americans' privacy, data confidentiality, and civil liberties and recognizes the civilian nature of cyberspace."

Morever, it said, the legislation "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." OMB specifically cautioned that, in its current form, the measure fails to set up "requirements for both industry and the government to minimize and protect personally identifiable information."

"Citizens have a right to know that corporations will be held legally accountable for failing to safeguard personal information adequately," OMB said, adding that the legislation "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."

The bill's chief authors--House Intelligence Committee Chairman Mike Rogers and the panel's top Democrat, Rep. C.A. Dutch Ruppersberger--unveiled a raft of amendments on Tuesday aimed at defusing the privacy concerns.

The two lawmakers issued a joint statement Wednesday saying that "the basis for the administration's view is mostly based on the lack of critical infrastructure regulation, something outside of our jurisdiction."

"We would also draw the White House's attention to the substantial package of privacy and civil liberties improvement announced yesterday which will be added to the bill on the floor," they said, stressing that key lawmakers guiding the measure to a vote in the House "have agreed to a package of amendments that address nearly every single one of the criticisms leveled by the administration, particularly those regarding privacy and civil liberties of Americans. Congress must lead on this critical issue and we hope the White House will join us."

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