DOJ officials criticize Senate-passed cyber bill

AP Photo/Andrew Harnik

Senior officials at the Department of Justice (DOJ) have knocked a Senate-passed cybersecurity bill as having “serious flaws,” criticizing it over a lack of direct reporting to the FBI.

The bill, the Strengthening American Cybersecurity Act, unanimously passed in the Senate on Tuesday night. It would require companies in critical sectors to alert the government of potential hacks or ransomware.

The legislation would require cyber incidents to be reported to the Department of Homeland Security’s Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA), though Justice Department officials argue that agencies should also report to the FBI.

Deputy Attorney General Lisa Monaco said in a statement first reported by Politico that the “bill as drafted leaves one of our best tools, the FBI, on the sidelines and makes us less safe at a time when we face unprecedented threats.”

FBI Director Christopher Wray also said in a statement to The Hill that while he applauds the intention of the legislation the bill “has some serious flaws.”

“In its current form it would make the public less safe from cyber threats – slowing aid to victims, hampering identification of other companies the same attackers are targeting, and undercutting disruption operations against cyber threats,” he said.

A spokesperson for Sen. Gary Peters (D-Mich.), the chair of the Senate Homeland Security & Governmental Affairs Committee who led the bill with ranking Republican Sen. Rob Portman (Ohio), pushed back on the criticism.

“The suggestion that passing the first requirement to report cyber-attacks on critical infrastructure would make us less safe is completely false,” Peters spokesperson Jay Bhargava told The Hill in a statement. 

“The FBI and DOJ were consulted for months, and changes were made to the bill to address their concerns,” he added.

Some of the changes included adding a provision requiring CISA to share the reports to relevant agencies including the FBI.

Portman’s spokesperson, Kylie Nolan, maintained to The Hill that the legislation will make the U.S. more secure and that “any suggestions to the contrary is grossly misleading and does the public a disservice.”

“DOJ’s and FBI’s concerns are out of sync with the rest of the country including, it seems, the Biden administration that they work for,” Nolan added.

The DOJ did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The Senate passage of the legislation comes as U.S. officials urge the private sector to remain vigilant against possible Russian cyberattacks in retaliation for economic sanctions imposed by the West over its invasion of Ukraine.

Tags Christopher Wray Gary Peters Rob Portman

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