Omnibus delay boosts chances cyber bill is included

Omnibus delay boosts chances cyber bill is included
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The delay in releasing the text of an expected omnibus spending package has boosted the chances that major cybersecurity legislation will be included in the final bill, according to those involved in the talks.

For the last few weeks, negotiators have viewed the sweeping spending measure as a way to get their bill, which would encourage businesses and the government to share information about cyberattacks, on President Obama’s desk before the end of the year.

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But Monday night, it appeared as if the discussions might not be done in time for the omnibus, originally expected to be unveiled sometime late Monday or early Tuesday.

But lawmakers pushed back the release to at least Tuesday afternoon, and several people with knowledge of the talks said the remaining differences have been hammered out enough that the final measure could be ready for the spending bill.

Negotiators have been working on the final language since the Senate passed a version from the Intelligence Committee in October, six months after the House passed two complementary bills: one from that chamber's Intelligence panel and another from Homeland Security.

But a flurry of last-minute debates over the measures' privacy language has drawn out the talks.

Civil liberties advocates, digital rights groups and some lawmakers have also mobilized in opposition to moving the cyber bill as part of the omnibus.

They say including it in the larger package is a way to avoid a transparent debate about a bill they believe will shuttle more of Americans' personal data to the National Security Agency (NSA).

A bipartisan group of lawmakers, many industry groups and even the White House have countered that the bill is a necessary first step to fighting hackers. Many supporters point to clauses they say would ensure any personal data is removed before the information is shared with the NSA.

According to people tracking the negotiations, the completed bill is unlikely to have a restriction, championed by privacy advocates, that would bar the government from using data received under the bill for non-cybersecurity purposes.

Without this language, opponents worry, agencies could use the data they receive to conduct surveillance and prosecute people for crimes unrelated to cybersecurity.

Proponents have pointed to other restrictions and clauses that they say make it clear the bill does not authorize surveillance.