Deadline set for Senate action on cybersecurity

The Senate needs to pass a major cybersecurity bill by August, or else the effort could be lost for the year, House Intelligence Committee Chairman Mike Rogers (R-Mich.) warned on Wednesday.

“If we don’t have something moving by August, I think it gets lost in the haze, and it will be a very long time until we actually get a bill passed that will actually have an impact,” he said at a cybersecurity forum at George Washington University.

The Senate has struggled to pass a companion measure to his Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act (CISPA), which passed the House more than a year ago. Since then, revelations from Edward Snowden about programs at the National Security Agency have derailed the effort and heightened concerns about government snooping.

The bill would allow companies to share information about possible cyber threats with each other and the government. Critics worry the law would make it easier for the NSA and other arms of government to grab people’s personal information.

Privacy groups loudly protested the House bill, and President Obama had threatened to veto it if it ever came to his desk.

Last month, Senate Intelligence Committee Chairwoman Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) and ranking member Saxby Chambliss (R-Ga.) announced that they had reached a deal on a draft bill for the upper chamber. The legislation has not yet been formally introduced, but several privacy advocates have voiced similar concerns that they had about the House bill. 

Rogers on Wednesday said he was “cautiously optimistic that we can find some agreement within the next 30 days to try to get something moving.”

If the Senate does pass a bill, “I promise you, it will be the fastest conference committee known to man, because I’ll be the chairman of it,” he added.

He said he had hoped that the massive data breach at Target late last year would help convince the public of the need for a new cyber bill, but the backing had not yet materialized. The hack might have exposed 110 million shoppers’ personal or financial data, and led the company’s chief executive to resign earlier this month. 

“We were hoping that that would be the catalyst for people to understand just how serious this is,” Rogers said.