ACLU corrects Napolitano, says it does not support cybersecurity bill

The American Civil Liberties Union corrected Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano after she claimed the group supports a cybersecurity bill.

As the ACLU itself acknowledged, this bill really has done a very, very good job of incorporating those protections right from the get-go, Napolitano told the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee on Thursday. The bill really addresses the privacy concerns.

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The ACLU said Napolitano’s statement was off the mark.

The ACLU has not endorsed The Cybersecurity Act of 2012, Michelle Richardson, a legislative counsel for the ACLU, wrote to The Hill in an email.

The Homeland Security Department did not return a request for comment.

The legislation would give the Homeland Security Department regulatory authority over companies with computer systems crucial to the nation’s economic and physical security. The bill would require that the companies take adequate precautions to safeguard their systems, and would increase information-sharing about cyber threats between the private sector and the government.

Unlike previous drafts of cybersecurity legislation, the bill would not give the president emergency powers over computer networks. Critics had dubbed the provision a kill switch for the Internet.

We appreciate that the sponsors passed on giving the president a ‘kill switch’ and have included some restrictions on information sharing to protect privacy, Richardson explained. We still have fundamental concerns, however, that the bill reserves a role for the military to collect information about domestic and civilian Internet use, among other things. We look forward to working with the sponsors to amend the bill to make it even better for civil liberties.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) plans to bring the bill to the Senate floor in the coming weeks, bypassing any committee markups.

Supporters of the bill noted that Congress has been discussing cybersecurity for several years and that the legislation incorporates elements from other measures that have already been through the committee process.