House cyber bill protects privacy, civil liberties while addressing threat

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Today the U.S. House of Representatives passed H.R. 624, the Cyber Intelligence and Sharing Act (CISPA), a bipartisan effort led by House Intelligence Committee Chairman Mike Rogers and Ranking Member Dutch Ruppersberger. It addresses these dangerous cyber threats while preserving and prioritizing both privacy and security equally.

Chairman Rogers and Ranking Member Ruppersberger made clear from when they first started drafting this bill a year and a half ago that they were open to constructive ideas to improve it. As a result, privacy groups, members of Congress, and a variety of private sector companies and organizations accepted their offer, and CISPA was amended and improved through tightening the bill’s language and definitions, adding privacy protections, and including important oversight mechanisms to ensure that the bill’s authorities are always used properly.

Before it went to the floor, the committee voted unanimously to strike the government’s national security use exception from the legislation to address the concern of privacy groups who were fearful of misuse of information under the guise of national security. There was also an amendment creating a five-year expiration of the legislation to allow for adequate review of provisions in the future. Nevertheless, some continue to misunderstand CISPA, and we urge those with remaining concerns to read this important bill carefully.

Countries such as China, Russia, and Iran have already hacked the networks of American companies holding sensitive information about American customers. Hackers working for organized crime networks in Russia and Eastern Europe are working around the clock to break into networks containing Americans’ private banking information including credit card numbers and other account information. They can steal American corporate trade secrets, such as blueprints for innovative products under development, and competitive bid information for business transactions that could create new American jobs. Hackers working for Chinese Intelligence services have infiltrated American media outlets and think tanks which publish content critical of the Chinese government to determine the identity of our reporters’ sources in order to punish and imprison them. 

As CISPA advances to the Senate, we must not let misplaced fears about the bill’s authorities prevent us from addressing the severe threat posed by advanced, foreign cyber threats.

If it becomes law, CISPA will strengthen our cybersecurity, improve our ability to defend American networks and our sensitive data, and continue to protect our privacy and civil liberties. But all of this is only possible if we successfully dispel the false rumors surrounding CISPA and educate the public about the improvements this bill has undergone since its introduction. We come from two very different political parties and disagree on many issues, but we both believe this bill is critical for our nation and hope to see is become law very soon.

Peters represents California’s 52nd Congressional District. He is a member of the House Armed Services Committee and the House Science, Space and Technology Committee.

Jenkins represents Kansas’s 2nd congressional district. She is the vice chairwoman of the House Republican Conference and a member of the House Ways and Means Committee.