Dem warns cyber bill weakens transparency ahead of vote

Dem warns cyber bill weakens transparency ahead of vote
© The Hill

A pending cybersecurity bill would weaken government transparency, Sen. Patrick LeahyPatrick Joseph LeahyDemocrats dig in ahead of Supreme Court ruling on 'Dreamers' McConnell tees up government funding votes amid stalemate Rand Paul calls for probe of Democrats over Ukraine letter MORE (D-Vt.) warned on Monday.

A day ahead of an expected final vote on the Cybersecurity Information Sharing Act (CISA) — which would encourage companies to share more cyber threat data with the government — Leahy made a push for his amendment, which would strip the bill of what he believes are detrimental exemptions to public transparency laws.

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Under CISA, businesses sharing data on hackers with the government would receive some protections from having the details of this information revealed through a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request.

“For nearly half a century, FOIA has translated our great American values of openness and accountability into practice by guaranteeing access to government information,” Leahy said Monday. “We should not be passing legislation that weakens this critical law.”

“Instead, those Senators who talk about their pro-transparency records should support my amendment to strike the harmful FOIA provisions in the cybersecurity bill,” he added.

Government transparency and civil liberties groups have rallied behind Leahy, sending a letter to senators on Friday that urged them to vote for the Vermont Democrat’s proposal.

The coalition called CISA’s FOIA provisions “both unnecessary and harmful.”

“CISA currently contains an overly broad new FOIA exemption that would exempt from disclosure information relating to cyber threat indicators and defensive measures,” reads the letter, which was signed by 27 groups. “While we agree that the large majority of the sensitive information likely to be shared under CISA should not be subject to FOIA, this information is already protected from disclosure under existing FOIA exemptions and by other provisions in the bill."

Leahy’s CISA edit is one of several privacy-focused amendments scheduled to receive a vote Tuesday.

But despite a late lobbying push from digital rights advocates and some in the tech community to approve these edits, the entire slate of edits is expected to go down on the floor.

Leahy still pushed for a thorough debate on the floor.

“Legislation of this importance should not be hastily pushed through the Senate without a full and fair opportunity for Senators to consider the ramifications of this bill,” he said. “Unfortunately, by moving so quickly to end debate, it appears that the majority leader is trying to do just that.”  

CISA first came up last Tuesday, with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellWhite House staggers after tumultuous 48 hours The Memo: Trump's sea of troubles deepens McConnell: Trump's troop pull back in Syria a 'grave strategic mistake' MORE (R-Ky.) moving to end debate later that day.