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US congressmen reintroduce controversial cybersecurity bill

Two members of the US House of Representatives [official website] on Wednesday reintroduced a controversial bill that would allow private companies and the federal government to share private security information related to cyber threats. In a bipartisan effort, Michigan Republican Mike Rogers and Maryland Democrat C.A. "Dutch" Ruppersberger [official websites] brought forth the Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act (CISPA) [HR 3523 materials], a law designed to stop cyber attacks on US infrastructure as well as private companies. The bill's reintroduction comes only a day after President Barack Obama [official website] signed an executive order [text] for improving critical infrastructure cybersecurity. While Rogers, Ruppersberger, and other lawmakers have promoted the bill as a mechanism to fight terrorism and protect the country from cyber attacks around the world, the bill's detractors, including several rights groups, have voiced concerns over personal privacy freedoms. Most notably, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) [advocacy website] has long denounced CISPA [ACLU blog archive] as a law that "would create a loophole in all existing privacy laws ... without any legal oversight." In a statement on Wednesday, the ACLU declared [press release] that Obama's executive order "rightly focuses on cybersecurity solutions that don't negatively impact civil liberties," and added that its opposition to CISPA stems from the act allowing "companies to share sensitive and personal American internet data with the government." The bill will now be assigned to a congressional committee before being sent to the entire House or Senate [official website].

Last April, the US House of Representative approved CISPA [JURIST report] in a vote of 248-168. This occurred despite the high probability of a veto [BBC report] from Obama, who has asserted [press release, PDF] that the law "fails to provide authorities" to protect American's infrastructure "without instituting corresponding privacy, confidentiality, and civil liberties safeguards." Similarly, in March, Obama administration official Melanie Ann Pustay [official profile] testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee [official website] to urge congressional officials [JURIST report] to amend the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) [text] to strengthen government's ability to prevent disclosure of information related to critical infrastructure and cybersecurity.

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