After the NSA’s aggressive pursuit of a greater role in civilian cybersecurity, and last week’s statement by Sen. John McCain criticizing the Lieberman-Collins bill for not including a role for the agency, some feared that the new G.O.P. cybersecurity bill would allow the military agency to gather information about U.S. citizens on U.S. soil. So, it’s refreshing to see that the bill introduced today—the SECURE IT Act of 2012—does not include NSA monitoring of Internet traffic, which would have been very troubling from a civil liberties perspective.
In fact, this new alternative goes further on privacy than the Liberman-Collins bill. It limits the type of information ISPs and other critical infrastructure providers can share with law enforcement. Without such limits, “information sharing” could become a back door for government surveillance. With these limits in place, information sharing is certainly preferable to the more regulatory route taken by the Liberman-Collins bill.
It seems to me that despite Sen. McCain’s stated preference for an NSA role, the G.O.P. alternative is looking to address the over-breadth of the Lieberman-Collins bill without introducing any new complications. The SECURE IT bill is also more in line with the approach taken by the House, so it would make reaching consensus easier.
I’ll be posting more here as I learn about the bill.
UPDATE 12:06 PM: A copy of the bill is now available. Find it after the break.
UPDATE 2:55 PM: Having now had an opportunity to take a look at the bill and not just the summary, it does appear it includes a hole through which the NSA may be able to drive a freight train. While NSA monitoring of civilian networks is not mandated, information that is shared by private entities with federal cybersecurity centers “may be disclosed to and used by”
any Federal agency or department, component, officer, employee, or agent of the Federal government for a cybersecurity purpose, a national security purpose, or in order to prevent, investigate, or prosecute any of the offenses listed in section 2516 of title 18, United States Code …
That last bit limits law enforcement’s use of shared cyber threat information to serious crimes, but the highlighted bit potentially allows sharing with the NSA or any other agency, civilian or military, for a any “national security” reasons. That is troublingly broad and a blemish on this otherwise non-regulatory bill.
Information sharing with the NSA might be fine as long as it is not mandatory and the shared information is used only for cyber security purposes.