CISPA author Rogers: Snowden 'hurt our chances' for cyber bill

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Rogers, along with his committee’s ranking member, Rep. Dutch Ruppersberger (D-Md.), sponsored the Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act, or CISPA, which would make it easier for companies to share cyberthreat information with each other and the government.

CISPA passed the House earlier this year, and Senate Intelligence Committee Chairwoman Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) is working on a Senate counterpart.

Progress on these bills to allow information sharing has been somewhat derailed by Edward Snowden’s series of leaks regarding U.S. national security surveillance programs, Rogers said.

“Snowden clearly hurt our chances to have an unconfused debate about what we’re trying to accomplish,” he said. 

Rather than talking about how to best protect the U.S. economy, “we spend most of our time fighting the misinformation” and trying “to keep the doors open on important national security agencies,” he said.

Rogers called on the Chamber’s members to engage in a public education campaign about the limitations of surveillance and the need for protections against cyber threats.

“We’re ready for the next ‘Smokey the Bear,’ when it comes to cyber,” he said, joking that it could be named “Freddy the Firewall.”

The information sharing system would be used to detect and prevent threats, not spy on companies and their customers, Rogers said.

“The government really doesn’t care about what you’re talking about on your email,” Facebook or Twitter, he said. “They are looking to stop the next terrorist attack.”

If a company is facing cyberattacks “every day, the NSA might not see it” because the U.S. intelligence community does “not monitor the domestic Internet usage of Americans,” he said.

“I hope we shake ourselves out of this real soon” and get on with passing legislation that protects companies, their intellectual property and the economy as a whole, Rogers said.

Rogers is still optimistic about his bill. “I haven’t given up on CISPA,” he said. 

He said he expects to see other bills on education and information sharing around cybersecurity threats.

A public-private framework in an executive order from President Obama, which is being worked on by the Commerce Department’s National Institute of Standards and Technology, seems to be going well for the companies involved, Rogers said.

He spoke highly of a Senate cybersecurity bill backed by Commerce Committee Chairman Jay Rockefeller (D-W.Va.) and ranking member John Thune (R-S.D.) that would codify the executive order.

Rogers said he was “encouraged” by the fact that the bill takes a “light touch” rather than mandating standards.

“If we can move a piece of legislation ... that is not CISPA but it is something akin to trying to codify the executive order and [members of Congress] are working together, that’s a good sign,” he said.