Privacy-minded senators: Hack is ‘bad excuse’ to move cyber bill

Privacy-minded senators: Hack is ‘bad excuse’ to move cyber bill
© Greg Nash
 
Two privacy-minded Senate Democrats are pushing back against the cavalcade of lawmakers calling on Congress to pass a stalled cyber bill in the wake of the massive hack of federal employees’ data. 
 
The Office of Personnel Management (OPM) announced Thursday that digital thieves had stolen 4 million current and former federal employees’ records. 
 
The revelation immediately touched off a round of calls from lawmakers on both sides of the aisle to swiftly pass a cybersecurity bill that is stalled in the Senate. 
 
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"I want to look more at what happened at OPM, but I worry that it's always, 'Pass this law immediately, because otherwise we’re ... fill in the blank,’ ” Leahy said during an interview on C-SPAN’s “Newsmakers” program.
 
The law in question is the Cybersecurity Information Sharing Act (CISA), the upper chamber’s companion legislation to two complementary House-passed bills. 
 
The goal of the measures is to boost the public-private sharing of information on cyber threats. 
 
Backers — including industry groups, a bipartisan group of lawmakers and government officials — believe such an exchange will help the country get a better idea of what type of hacks it needs to be defending itself against. 
 
But privacy hawks like Leahy and Wyden worry the bill will simply shuttle more personal data to the National Security Agency, which would receive the hacking data under the legislation. 
 
“The so-called cybersecurity legislation in the Senate creates new ways for the government to sift through Americans’ private information without a warrant, and lacks the privacy protections necessary to safeguard private data,” Wyden said in a Friday statement.
 
Leahy and Wyden have both indicated they might try to amend the bill on the floor by adding more privacy provisions. 
 
“The United States should pull out all the stops to go after foreign hackers and foreign threats, but there’s a way to do that without threatening the privacy of millions of law-abiding Americans,” said Wyden, the only lawmaker to vote against CISA when it passed out of the Senate Intelligence Committee.
 
The OPM hack is likely to dominate the cyber chatter on Capitol Hill in the coming weeks. 
 
“Take a breather," Leahy said during his interview. “There are always going to be attacks. There is always going to be hacking.”
 
And don’t rush to conclusions, Wyden said.
 
“This is a bad excuse to try and pass a bad bill,” he said.