Friday, February 17, 2012
A bipartisan bill designed to protect the nation's infrastructure from a devastating cyber attack is quickly making its way through Congress despite potent opposition. The Cybersecurity Act of 2012, was co-sponsored by the Chairman of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, Sen. Joe Lieberman, I-Conn.; the ranking member of that committee, Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine; Commerce Committee Chairman Jay Rockerfeller, D-W.Va.; and Select Intelligence Committee Chairman Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif.
The bill was introduced Feb. 14, 2012. The Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee held a hearing the next day. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., said, over the objections of at least 10 Senate Republicans, he will schedule the bill for Senate debate. The bill sponsors said this haste does not mean the 205-page document is being rushed, because this proposed legislation is the product of hearings, negotiations and merged bills from the last three sessions of Congress. Even the bill's critics concede the need for increased cyber security in U.S. infrastructure is critical.
The bill would require the Department of Homeland Security to do risk assessments on the nation's critical infrastructure, including finance, transportation, and energy among others. An industry would be considered critical if a disruption would cause mass death, evacuation or great damage to the nation's economy or security.
If an industry were determined to be critical to the nation's infrastructure, the owners would be required to annually certify compliance with security regulations established by the DHS. The DHS would have no authority over already regulated industries, but it could assess penalties against owners who do not meet its security requirements.
The 10 Republican senators opposing the bill are led by Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., who said the legislation is moving too quickly without proper vetting from other committees. McCain also said the legislation expands the powers of the DHS while neglecting the institutions most capable of policing cyber space – the U.S. Cybercommand and the National Security Agency. McCain also said he doesn't like "unelected bureaucrats at the DHS … [promulgating] prescriptive regulations on American business." He is concerned about the cost of the bill.
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