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Lieberman's Cybersecurity Bill Moves Out of Committee

June 24, 2010 - by Donny Shaw

Joe Lieberman’s [I-CT] controversial cybersecurity bill, the Protecting Cyberspace as a National Asset Act of 2010, was approved by the Senate Committee on Homeland Security & Governmental Affairs this afternoon. Though some senators on the committee raised concerns over certain sections, today’s committee action means that the bill will now move to the Senate floor.

A variety of groups have objected to the bill because it would grant the Department of Homeland Security substantial powers over the Internet if the President declared a national cybersecurity emergency (you can read more about this aspect of the bill in last week’s post on the topic). Many critics have said that it essentially gives the executive branch an Internet kill switch, and the bill’s sponsors responded to this point today by saying that the President already has such a power under Section 706 of the Communications Act of 1934.

Other provisions in the bill are less controversial, and are generally targeted at ensuring that the systems of federal agencies are adequately secured. The newly-created Office of Cyberspace Policy and National Center for Cybersecurity and Communications (NCCC) would work with other parts of the federal government to set cybersecurity standards and requirements, and coordinate efforts within the federal government. Senator McCain [R-AZ] expressed concern that this was an unnecessary expansion of the Department of Homeland Security (which would contain the NCCC). The bill also contains provisions to help recruit students to work in cybersecurity, and requires the Secretary of Education to develop programs for K-12 students addressing the issue.

It is expected that the bill will be merged with other cybersecurity legislation, so it is unlikely to be passed without significant changes. However, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid [D-NV] has said that he would like to pass cybersecurity legislation by the end of the year. If the speed with which Lieberman’s bill moved out of committee is any indication, Reid is likely to see that happen.

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