Feinstein floats privacy changes to cyber bill

Senate Intelligence Committee Chairwoman Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) on Tuesday said she is prepared to make changes to her cybersecurity bill to assuage privacy concerns.

But that won’t necessarily get the legislation across the finish line this Congress, she said at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

“You know, it’s always more, more, more,” Feinstein said, declining to give specifics on the changes.

{mosads}Plus, she said the White House might push surveillance reform, rather than cyber threat sharing, as a top priority.

“I’ve heard it from the administration,” Feinstein said. “The administration wants [surveillance reform] done, that’s for sure. I think that’s where it’s coming from.”

White House Cybersecurity Coordinator Michael Daniel told reporters earlier Tuesday he is an “optimist” about the odds for passing legislation that would make it easier for businesses to share information about cyber threats.

Feinstein gave her measure “at least” a 75 percent chance of passing before year’s end, while speaking with reporters after her discussion.

Outlook has generally been bleak for the Cybersecurity Information Sharing Act (CISA), which would give protections for the government and industry to share cyber threat information.

Civil liberties advocates fear the bill would empower the NSA and warn it should not be rushed through in the lame-duck session after the elections.

Feinstein’s measure made it out of the Senate Intelligence Committee on a 12-3 vote, but has yet to reach the floor.

“I think if we could get this up on the floor, I believe we can pass it,” Feinstein said. “We’re willing to take amendments and do them on the floor, so that shouldn’t stop it.”

Over in the House, the top two Intelligence Committee members have told Feinstein that they are ready to conference “right away” to square any differences in a Senate-passed bill with an earlier House-passed measure.

The bill faces an imminent deadline, as it will soon lose one of its biggest proponents. Sen. Saxby Chambliss (R-Ga.) — bill co-author and vice chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee — is retiring at the end of 2014.

“Dianne and I are joined at the hip on this,” he said.

Chambliss has “implored” Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) telling him, “If there is one piece of legislation that needs to be concluded between now and the end of the year, it’s this one.”

Chambliss even bent President Obama’s ear during a golf game. “We were trying to focus on our game; we were more focused on cybersecurity.”

If all parties can’t meet the Dec. 31 deadline, “I fear it will be at least another year before it rises back to the level it is now,” Chambliss said.

And next Congress’s dynamics are unpredictable, Feinstein added.

“We’re going to have all the arguments people have already disposed of, but with a new cast of characters.”

House Intelligence Chairman Mike Rogers (R-Mich.) is also retiring at the end of this Congress.

While Chambliss said the White House’s cybersecurity executive order has helped clear a path for CISA, Feinstein told reporters the administration might favor Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) reform over CISA.

Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) is preparing a FISA reform bill to echo the House-passed USA Freedom Act, Feinstein said. While the White House has backed the measure, Feinstein has only given more qualified support after her own FISA reform bill died.

The moving parts and controversy make it too complex to accomplish first, Feinstein said.

“How do we get something done there?” Feinstein asked. “I don’t think it’s necessary to put the FISA bill first.”

The cyber sharing bill can’t wait until next year, Chambliss echoed.

“If we wait another year, we are really risking the economy,” he said. “Who knows where we’re going to be a year from now?”

Tags Dianne Feinstein Harry Reid Patrick Leahy Saxby Chambliss

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