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New Cybersecurity Bill

August 28, 2009 - by Donny Shaw

After his first cybersecurity bill, S. 773, introduced earlier this session of Congress was widely panned as a broad power-grab of the internet for the federal government, Sen. Jay Rockefeller [D, WV] is back with a revised version of the bill. Declan McCullagh of CNET got his hands on a copy of the revised bill and, well, it doesn’t sound much better than the original:

The new version would allow the president to “declare a cybersecurity emergency” relating to “non-governmental” computer networks and do what’s necessary to respond to the threat. Other sections of the proposal include a federal certification program for “cybersecurity professionals,” and a requirement that certain computer systems and networks in the private sector be managed by people who have been awarded that license.

An excerpt (.pdf) of the revised bill has been published online so you can read the language for yourself.

The Obama Administration and the Senate are clearly looking to get this cybersecurity law update done this session of Congress. It’s going to be hard for them to get the public behind their proposals no matter how much tweaking and revising they do to this basic formulation of a bill. More than almost any other issue, people from across the political spectrum are skeptical of the government’s ability to involve itself smartly in issues involving the internet. The internet is a realm of opportunity and freedom, and people have the sense that it is that way because there is no overarching authority involved. Marc Ambiner writes: “The internet is to citizens today what guns were to civilian militias of the founding era – the trenchline against┬átyranny.”

The benefits of strong cybersecurity laws is not immediately obvious to most people. How will Obama and Congress win this one when they have so much trouble passing bills increasing government involvement when the benefits are so obvious, like healthcare and climate change?

Note the level of support for Rockefeller’s original cybersecurity bill among OpenCongres users – only 3 percent; 408 opposed, 13 in favor.

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