OVERNIGHT TECH: Bipartisan group of senators to talk cybersecurity

THE LEDE: A bipartisan group of senators will discuss pending cybersecurity legislation on Tuesday morning, according to aides.

Sens. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.), Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.), Barbara Mikulski (D-Md.) and Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) will lead the classified discussion, and all senators are invited, according to aides.

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The fact that Republican senators are apparently willing to negotiate on the legislation is a positive sign for Democrats, who are pushing a cybersecurity bill that would set mandatory standards for critical infrastructure, such as electrical grids and water treatment plants.

Democrats argue the standards are necessary to prevent a catastrophic attack, but many Republicans, including Sen. John McCain (Ariz.), have warned the standards would be ineffective and burdensome.


Blunt emphasized his support for bipartisan negotiations in a statement Monday to The Hill.

“Cyber security is one of the most complex and critical national security challenges we face today. Our response can’t and shouldn’t break down on partisan lines," he said. "It’s important that the Senate work together to find solutions that make sense for both the government and the private sector, and I’ve been keeping an open mind for a solution that can actually pass the Senate and become law.” 

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The bill favored by the Senate Democratic leadership and the White House is the Cybersecurity Act, sponsored by Sens. Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.) and Susan Collins (R-Maine). 

McCain and other Republicans have introduced an alternative bill, the Secure IT Act, which focuses on encouraging companies to share information about attacks and lacks any new regulations. 

The House passed the Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act (CISPA) last month despite a White House veto threat. Like Secure IT, CISPA focuses on information-sharing and has no security mandates.

Civil-liberties groups oppose all three bills, warning they would give the government too much access to people's personal information.

New FCC commissioners sworn in, prepare for first hearing: The two newest members of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) took office on Monday, and the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee announced that the new commissioners will join their three colleagues at an oversight hearing on Wednesday.

FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski swore in Republican Ajit Pai and Democrat Jessica Rosenworcel as commissioners, returning the five-member board to full strength.

Pai wasted no time, quickly announcing his new staffers. He tapped former FCC general counsel Matthew Berry as his chief of staff. Berry filled the commission's top legal position under former Chairman Kevin Martin.

Berry has also worked in the Justice Department's Office of Legal Policy and Office of Legal Counsel. He served as a clerk to Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas. 

Gene Fullano will serve as Pai's acting legal adviser. A long-time commission employee, Fullano was most recently associate bureau chief of the Public Safety and Homeland Security Bureau, where he worked with the Commission’s Emergency Response Interoperability Center to develop a technical and operational framework for the deployment of a nationwide interoperable public-safety broadband network.

Pai's other legal adviser will be Courtney Reinhard, who comes directly from the House Budget Committee, where she worked as counsel to Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.). Reinhard previously was communications counsel to the House Energy and Commerce Committee.

Lori Alexiou will step into a familiar role as Pai's confidential assistant. Alexiou filled the same position for Pai's predecessor, Meredith Atwell Baker, and before that for Martin, the former FCC chairman.

Both Pai and Rosenworcel issued their first statements as FCC commissioners on Monday.

Rosenworcel said she is "honored and humbled that President Obama and the United States Senate have entrusted me with the privilege and responsibility of serving as a commissioner of the Federal Communications Commission."

"I pledge to work with the administration, the Congress, my fellow commissioners, and the American people to ensure that everyone across this country has access to the best, most reliable communications in the world," she said.

Pai also said he was "honored" to be sworn in, and added, "I am grateful for the warm welcome that was extended to me by Chairman Genachowski, Commissioner [Robert] McDowell, Commissioner [Mignon] Clyburn, and members of the FCC staff." 

Pai also thanked President Obama for nominating him, and the Senate for confirming him. 

"I look forward to working with my new colleagues at the Commission to promote competition and innovation in the communications marketplace that will work for the benefit of all consumers,” he said.


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NTIA asked for comments on the planned nationwide public-safety network