By Brendan Sasso and Jennifer Martinez - 07/31/12 10:11 PM EDT
The Lede: With time running out for his cybersecurity legislation, Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.) said on Tuesday that he is growing pessimistic about the bill's chances.
"I hope I’m wrong, normally I'm an optimistic person, but right now I’m a pessimist," Lieberman said in a floor speech.
Sens. Susan Collins (R-Maine) and Barbara Mikulski (D-Md.), key supporters of Lieberman's Cybersecurity Act, said on Tuesday they are willing to push the bill through over critics' objections.
"Obviously it would be better if we could come up with a compromise, but if we can't, I see no reason why we shouldn't just proceed to work through the amendments in normal order," Collins said.
But it's not clear yet that the bill's supporters have secured the 60 votes they need to overcome a GOP filibuster.
Lieberman has said he believes the bill is likely to die unless it clears the Senate before the August recess, which begins at the end of this week.
The supporters continue to negotiate with the bill's critics, led by Sens. John McCain (R-Ariz.) and Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-Texas).
"I think the differences are narrowing, but there's no doubt that there are still some pretty significant disagreements," Collins said.
Mikulski said enhancing liability protections for companies that share cyber threat information with the government is one important outstanding area of disagreement.
"Hopefully, by the end of the day we'll have a way forward which wouldn't require big battles and big discussions on amendments," Mikulski said.
"What I would prefer is that we could agree on the core elements of the bill and the rest would be fine tuning, but we're not there yet."
Alexander presses for cyber bill: The head of U.S. Cyber Command called for the Senate to pass cybersecurity legislation this week in a pair of letters sent to Senate leadership on Tuesday.
"The cyber threat facing the nation is real and demands immediate action," wrote Gen. Keith Alexander, who also serves as the director of the National Security Agency. "The time is now; we simply cannot afford further delay."
In the letters, Alexander indirectly took issue with Senate Republicans' call to pass a cybersecurity bill that focuses primarily on improving information sharing about cyber threats. The four-star general argued that cybersecurity legislation must include security standards that critical infrastructure operators would have incentives to meet, which would address security gaps in their computer networks.
"Information sharing alone, however, is insufficient to address the vulnerabilities to the nation's core critical infrastructure," Alexander wrote. "Comprehensive cybersecurity legislation also needs to ensure that this infrastructure is sufficiently hardened and resilient, as it is the storehouse of much of our economic prosperity. And, our national security depends on it."
Advocacy groups warn Senate not to water down privacy safeguards: A coalition of privacy and civil-liberties groups — including the Center for Democracy and Technology and the ACLU — came out in opposition to amendments that "would substitute the information sharing provisions of Secure IT or otherwise weaken privacy safeguards" in a letter sent to senators on Tuesday. The groups wrote that they would oppose amendments that would strike the requirement that information companies share about cyber threats be directed towards civilian agencies, among other issues.
"We believe all of these amendments would substantially and negatively affect privacy and civil liberties and will be closely following your votes if you are presented with such amendments," the groups wrote.
Safe Web Act clears House panel: The House Energy and Commerce Committee on Tuesday unanimously approved Rep. Mary Bono Mack's (R-Calif.) bill to re-authorize the Federal Trade Commission's powers to go after online fraud.
The Safe Web Act, first passed in 2006 and set to expire next year, expands the types of fraud that the FTC can pursue, gives the agency the authority to share information about cross-border fraud with foreign governments and authorizes the agency to make criminal referrals if the activity violates U.S. criminal law.
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