Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Sen. Richard Burr, R-N.C., left, talks with Director of the National Security Agency (NSA) Adm. Michael Rogers on Capitol Hill, Thursday, Sept. 24, 2015, prior to Rogers testifying before the committee.

Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Sen. Richard Burr, R-N.C., left, talks with Director of the National Security Agency (NSA) Adm. Michael Rogers on Capitol Hill, Thursday, Sept. 24, 2015, prior to Rogers testifying before the committee. AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais

Senate To Reconsider Controversial InfoSec Bill After Recess

The proposed, and long-debated, Cy­ber­threat In­form­a­tion Shar­ing Act will see the floor again.

A con­tro­ver­sial cy­ber­se­cur­ity bill that has been stalled in the Sen­ate since Au­gust will re­turn to the floor after next week’s re­cess, the bill’s co-spon­sors said Tues­day.

Be­fore the Sen­ate ad­journed for the sum­mer work peri­od, law­makers agreed to bring up the Cy­ber­threat In­form­a­tion Shar­ing Act, or CISA, after they re­turned to Wash­ing­ton in Septem­ber. The bill has been await­ing Sen­ate Ma­jor­ity Lead­er Mitch Mc­Con­nell’s green light to re­turn to the floor since then but was put aside in fa­vor of oth­er press­ing is­sues like budget ne­go­ti­ations and Pres­id­ent Obama’s nuc­le­ar deal with Ir­an.

“We have both pestered our lead­er­ship to death to make sure the bill comes up,” said Sen­ate In­tel­li­gence Com­mit­tee Chair­man Richard Burr, re­fer­ring to him­self and rank­ing mem­ber Di­anne Fein­stein, who ap­peared along­side him Tues­day at the U.S. Cham­ber of Com­merce.

Burr and Fein­stein thanked the busi­ness as­so­ci­ation for its out­spoken sup­port of their com­mit­tee’s bill. “If it wer­en’t for the Cham­ber of Com­merce, I don’t think we’d be lit­er­ally 10 days out from tak­ing up this bill on the Sen­ate floor,” Burr said.

The bill would set up in­cent­ives for the private sec­tor to share cy­ber­threat in­form­a­tion with oth­er com­pan­ies and with the gov­ern­ment, which sup­port­ers say will boost cy­ber­se­cur­ity for all in­volved. Pri­vacy ad­voc­ates have cri­ti­cized the bill, however, for what they see as lax pro­tec­tions for per­son­al data.

Burr and Fein­stein took on the at­tacks, which come both from tech ad­vocacy and civil rights groups and pri­vacy-minded sen­at­ors like Sen. Ron Wyden, a long­time CISA ant­ag­on­ist.

“People have lied about what’s in it,” Burr said. “It’s been called a sur­veil­lance bill; it’s been called a lot of things.”

Burr was likely re­fer­ring to Wyden’s state­ment when he cast the only no vote on the bill in the Sen­ate In­tel­li­gence Com­mit­tee, call­ing the le­gis­la­tion “a sur­veil­lance bill by an­oth­er name.”

A spokes­man for Mc­Con­nell said Tues­day that CISA re­mains a pri­or­ity but did not con­firm its re­turn to the floor, be­cause the week’s sched­ule has not yet been re­leased.

Burr said the only hurdle in the way of CISA is the de­fense au­thor­iz­a­tion bill, a ver­sion of which will be up for a pro­ced­ur­al vote this af­ter­noon. A Sen­ate aide con­firmed that CISA is likely to come up after the break.

But some ad­vocacy groups that have lob­bied against the bill are wary of the sen­at­ors’ claims that it will hit the floor im­min­ently, point­ing to dis­trac­tions like the House lead­er­ship race and on­go­ing fights over high­way fund­ing and the budget.

In the months since CISA first came up this year, out­side groups have in­tens­i­fied their cam­paign to turn the tech in­dustry against the pro­posed le­gis­la­tion.

Tech com­pan­ies are split: Some, like IBM, have joined the Cham­ber of Com­merce in sup­port­ing the bill. (The busi­ness group has also as­sembled about 50 tech as­so­ci­ations to back up its sup­port.) But private-sec­tor sup­port for the bill took a hit last month when a prom­in­ent as­so­ci­ation of tech com­pan­ies, BSA | The Soft­ware Al­li­ance, came out against CISA and a pair of sim­il­ar bills in the House.

“Groups are ab­so­lutely ready to go. There will be ma­jor co­ali­tion pushes at the grass­roots and in­side the Belt­way in op­pos­i­tion to CISA,” said Robyn Greene, policy coun­sel at New Amer­ica’s Open Tech­no­logy In­sti­tute, which has been in­volved in lob­by­ing against the bill.

Burr and Fein­stein told the audi­ence at the Cham­ber of Com­merce event that they had done everything they could to ad­dress the pri­vacy-is­sues op­pon­ents have raised.

“I am con­vinced today that we could put 10 more pri­vacy pro­tec­tions in, and the pri­vacy com­munity would not be sat­is­fied,” Burr said.

Fein­stein echoed the chair­man’s sen­ti­ment: “Some people you just can’t sat­is­fy no mat­ter what you do, and I think to a great ex­tent, that’s where we are.”

They called on the busi­ness com­munity to rally to their side dur­ing next week’s work peri­od, build­ing mo­mentum be­fore the bill hits the floor again. Fein­stein asked the audi­ence to “make a full-court push, call mem­bers, talk with mem­bers, tell them what I just told you.”

Be­fore break­ing for re­cess, ne­go­ti­ations over the in­form­a­tion-shar­ing bill res­ul­ted in a lineup of 22 amend­ments that were to get a vote when the bill comes up again. The amend­ments in­clude pro­posed changes to the op­er­a­tions and pri­vacy pro­tec­tions of the in­form­a­tion-shar­ing le­gis­la­tion, among oth­er tweaks.

Even if the le­gis­la­tion makes it through the Sen­ate, it still needs to be re­con­ciled with the pair of cy­ber­se­cur­ity bills the House passed earli­er this year, Fein­stein said. “We’ve got a dif­fi­cult gap to cov­er between the House and the Sen­ate with two dif­fer­ent dir­ec­tions that the House has gone.”

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