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White House defends cybersecurity plan

The White House is pushing back against reported criticism of its cybersecurity plan by a prominent business lobbying group.

The Obama White House became the first U.S. administration to release a detailed legislative guidance on cybersecurity earlier this month, a sign of the issue's growing importance to the nation's economic and physical security. The military is planning to release portions of its first formal cyberstrategy next month.

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The White House crafted its legislation in hopes of garnering bipartisan and industry support, but a recent Wall Street Journal report cited a draft of an internal document from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce that labeled the White House plan "regulatory overreach."

The White House quickly shot back.

"Our proposal strikes a critical balance between strengthening security, preserving privacy and civil liberties protections, and fostering continued economic growth," said White House spokesman Nicholas Shapiro.

"The Chamber's draft document certainly misinterprets some of the administration's thinking and we are confident that those misinterpretations will be fixed as we continue ongoing conversations with the Chamber on this important issue," Shapiro said.

When contacted for comment, a spokesman with the Chamber didn't back away from the reported criticisms, which center on a proposal that would put the Department of Homeland Security in charge of ensuring firms deemed part of critical infrastructure meet security standards established in cooperation with industry.

"The Chamber welcomes the White House’s engagement in cybersecurity legislation. The internal discussion draft, which is in its infancy, reflects potential concerns with legislation and its impact on the business community," said spokesman J.P. Fielder.

"We’ll continue engaging with policymakers in the administration and on Capitol Hill in a productive manner," Fielder said.

Senate Democrats have indicated their willingness to work with the administration to reach a legislative compromise; the White House plan tracks closely with an ongoing legislative effort that combines bills from the Senate Homeland Security and Commerce Committees.

House Republicans, however, could prove to be the main stumbling block, as some members have already expressed similar concerns to the Chamber about DHS' ability to regulate cybersecurity.

In addition, House Homeland Security Committee Cybersecurity panel Chairman Dan Lungren (R-Calif.) has voiced reservations about the administration’s plan to require firms to submit to third-party audits to verify they meet the security standards, arguing a government-driven auditing regime would stifle innovation without improving security.