Critics of Cybersecurity Bill Say it Gives Too Much Power to Bureaucrats
February 17, 2012

Critics Of Cybersecurity Bill Say It Gives Too Much Power To Bureaucrats

Jedidiah Becker for

There´s a battle raging on Capitol Hill over the details of a new bill that will attempt to mandate cybersecurity measures for a number of private-sector companies.

After a group of web security experts urged the Senate Thursday to include tighter security mandates for a number critical industries´ networks, Republican senators pushed back Friday, alleging that the legislation would arbitrarily overextend federal authority in the infrastructure of private companies.

Dubbed the Cybersecurity Act of 2012 (, the expansive bill was introduced this week by a handful of senators including Democrats John Rockefeller and Dianne Feinstein, Republican Susan Collins and independent Joseph Liebermann.

In its current form, the legislation would authorize the secretary of the Department of Homeland Security to designate certain industries as critical to the nation´s infrastructure and compel them to conform to government mandated guidelines for network security.

Sponsors of the bill have insisted that such legislation is necessary to prevent crippling attacks against the nation´s water, electric, financial and transportation infrastructures.

While Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid has urged a swift passage of the bill on the basis that most of it was worked out years ago, a number of Republican senators like John McCain have accused the bill´s sponsors of trying to rush it through without due deliberation.

Speaking at a Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee hearing, the Arizona senator criticized the overbearing role that the Department of Homeland Security would take under the bill in pushing stricter cyber practices on sometimes reluctant businesses.

Pointing to the sweeping authority that would be place in the hands of Homeland Security and the Governmental Affairs Committee, McCain stated that the bill would give “unelected bureaucrats” enormous control over the private sector and that it would inevitably hinder job creation and economic growth by inundating businesses with a deluge of petty regulations.

Senator McCain has promised to introduce his own, less intrusive version of the bill sometime this month.

Senator Lieberman said he was disappointed that the bill was encountering such resistance but insisted that Reid was not likely to postpone the bill coming to the floor.

Former Department of Homeland Security chief Tom Ridge pointed out that some companies actually support some of the bill´s measures, particularly those that allow for better exchange of information with the government.

The Chamber of Commerce, however, does not support the legislation´s provision for authorizing Homeland Security bureaucrats to create regulations for industries arbitrarily deemed critical infrastructures.

Proponents of the bill have countered by stating that it would permit the owners of those networks deemed ℠critical´ by Homeland Security to contest the designation, although it is unclear exactly how such a mechanism would play out in practice.

Republican sponsor Susan Collins contended that they needed to move quickly on the bill, alleging that some Senators were unnecessarily politicizing what she insists is a vital security measure.

“It would be irresponsible for us not to pass legislation because of turf battles,” said Collins.

The House of Representatives is currently deliberating its own version of a bill to complement the Senate´s version.


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