Week ahead: Path clear for cyber sharing talks

A conference to bring together cybersecurity bills in the House and Senate could begin as soon as next week, according to multiple people tracking the discussions.

Lawmakers are hoping to have the whole process wrapped up by the end of the year and shortly after send a bill to the president’s desk. The measure would encourage businesses to share more data on hackers with the government.

“I’m pleased with where we are,” Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Richard BurrRichard Mauze BurrTrump moves to boost Ted Budd in North Carolina Senate race Texas Democrat Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson announces retirement at end of term On The Money — IRS chief calls for reinforcements MORE (R-N.C.) told The Hill on Thursday. Burr is a main co-sponsor of the Cybersecurity Information Sharing Act (CISA), the upper chamber’s recently passed bill.

"We have every reason to believe that no later than the first of the year we’ll have a proposal out there that has pretty good support on both sides,” he added.

But several people with knowledge of the negotiations cautioned that several stumbling blocks could prevent negotiators from wrapping up on such a short timeline.

CISA passed in October, six months after the House passed its two complementary measures, one from the Intelligence Committee and another from the Homeland Security Committee.

Since CISA was approved, several issues have held up the start of an official conference, including the terror attacks in Paris and Congress’s work on an intelligence authorization bill.

But the path appears to be finally clearing, several people involved in the negotiations confirmed, citing a recent boost in meetings to prepare for the conference.

Elsewhere, the FBI could come under scrutiny Wednesday for its relationship with the controversial Italian surveillance firm Hacking Team.

The Senate Judiciary Committee on Wednesday will hold a hearing on oversight of the agency, which has faced scrutiny from Committee Chairman Chuck GrassleyChuck GrassleyFormer Sen. Bob Dole dies at 98 Alarm grows over smash-and-grab robberies amid holiday season GOP blocks bill to expand gun background checks after Michigan school shooting MORE (R-Iowa) over concerns that it may have violated the law.

Over the summer, hackers broke into Hacking Team's networks, dumping troves of internal documents, contracts and emails with clients. The leaked documents revealed long-standing ties with the U.S. government along with deals between the company and oppressive governments across the Middle East, Africa and Eastern Europe.

"It is troubling that the leaked documents also revealed Hacking Team's business relationships with a number of repressive regimes around the world, including Sudan," Grassley said in a July letter to the agency.

Grassley singled out Sudan because of a 2007 law that forbids the U.S. government from doing business with companies conducting restricted business with Sudan, such as selling "military equipment."

“While it is vital that U.S. law enforcement and our military have the technological tools needed to investigate terrorists and criminals in order to keep the public safe, it is also important that we acquire those tools from responsible, ethical sources who are acting in accordance with the law,” Grassley wrote.

Another possible topic: The so-called going dark debate, which has a newfound political urgency in the wake of unconfirmed reports that terrorists planned the deadly Paris strikes using encrypted devices.

Grassley has expressed concerns that criminal suspects are using commercially available, unbreakable encryption to shield themselves from law enforcement, known as “going dark.” FBI Director James Comey, who is testifying on Wednesday, has been a vocal critic of such technology.

In September, Grassley pressed the Justice Department for an update on how it is handling recent legal developments in the debate over whether law enforcement should have guaranteed access to encrypted communications.

“The only way we’re going to reach a resolution on encryption that protects national security and privacy is to have an open and honest conversation. That includes keeping Congress informed about what’s going on,” Grassley said in September.

Off the Hill, the Atlantic Council will host a panel on Wednesday discussing trending threats going into the new year. Luke Dembosky, deputy assistant attorney general for national security at the Justice Department, will speak.


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Privacy advocates are pushing back against arguments from the intelligence community that more surveillance powers would have prevented the deadly Paris terrorist attacks: http://bit.ly/1Tq9kqA