Published on 06-25-2010
The Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee yesterday unanimously approved a major cybersecurity legislation that would structure how the federal government protects public and private sector cyber networks.
Crafted by Ranking Member Susan Collins and Sens. Joe Lieberman and Tom Carper, the Protecting Cyberspace as a National Asset Act of 2010 calls for the creation of a White House Office of Cyberspace Policy to spearhead federal and private sector efforts to secure critical cyber networks and assets. The office would be headed by a Senate-confirmed director who would be accountable to the public. The bill also creates a new center within the Department of Homeland Security to adopt cybersecurity policies related to federal and private sector networks.
“Catastrophic cyber attack is no longer a fantasy or a fiction,” Lieberman said. “It is a clear and present danger. This legislation would fundamentally reshape the way the federal government defends America’s cyberspace. It takes a comprehensive, risk-based, and collaborative approach to addressing critical vulnerabilities in our own defenses. We believe our bill would go a long way toward improving the security of our government and private critical infrastructure, and therefore the security of the American people.”
Collins said it is important to realize the threat of a catastrophic cyber attack is not theoretical, but very real. The sergeant at arms has reported the computer systems in executive branch agencies and in congressional agencies are now under cyber attack an average of 1.8 billion times a month, a number she called “extraordinary.”
“Cyber crime costs our national economy billions of dollars annually,” Collins said. “And intelligence officials have warned over and over again that these attacks are becoming more and more sophisticated. The fact is: We cannot fail to act. We can’t wait until there is a cyber 9/11 and say, ‘Why didn’t we act? We knew this was coming.’ The attacks are ongoing even as we meet. So we must act, and I believe we have drafted a responsible bill to do so.”
Although society has reaped enormous benefits from the use of the Internet, adversaries have identified cyberspace as an ideal 21st-century battlefield, Carper said.
“We have to take steps now to modernize our approach to protecting this valuable, but vulnerable, resource,” he said. “This legislation is a vital tool that America needs to better protect cyber space. It encourages the government and the private sector to work together to address this growing threat and provides the tools and resources for America to be successful in this critical effort.”
Senator Joe Lieberman, co-author of a bill that would give President Obama a ‘kill switch’ to shut down parts of the Internet, attempted to reassure CNN viewers that concerns about the government regulating free speech on the web were overblown, but he only stoked more alarm by citing China, a country that censors all online dissent against the state, as the model to which American should compare itself.
During an appearance on CNN’s State of the Union with Candy Crowley, Lieberman characterized concerns that his 197-page Protecting Cyberspace as a National Asset Act (PDF) legislation represents an attempt to hand Obama “absolute power” over the Internet as “total misinformation,” adding that people were “intentionally peddling misinformation”.
Lieberman again invoked “cybersecurity” as the motivation behind the bill and tried to assuage the worries of critics. “So I say to my friends on the Internet, relax. Take a look at the bill. And this is something that we need to protect our country,” said the Senator.
However, Lieberman’s choice of comparison in justifying the necessity of the bill will only serve to heighten concerns that the government is going after free speech.