Cyberintellgence bill divides U.S. Senate - KFDA - NewsChannel 10 / Amarillo News, Weather, Sports

Cyberintellgence bill divides U.S. Senate

Posted: Updated:

Amarillo, TX - Pending legislation in the U.S. Senate would give the federal government more access to online traffic in the name of national security.

The Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act, or CISPA would allow sharing of internet traffic between the federal government and certain technology and manufacturing companies to combat the growing threat of cybercrime and cyberattacks on American entities.  Several high-level security breaches in the last month were traced back to Chinese hackers.

Mac Thornberry, Chairman of the Cybersecurity Task Force, says cybercrime is a real threat to national security, saying,

"Every single day, intellectual property is stolen from American companies. So it's blueprints and plans, and all sorts of things, and when they steal that intellectual property, they're stealing jobs from us.  There have been attacks against banks that have slowed up bank websites. Now if that grows - and they've got a problem with it - if that grows, you start slowing down or affecting the financial system in the United States, you're talking about major consequences for our economy.  Even more disturbing is that you can reach through cyberspace and affect physical things, like a switch or a valve - we saw that with Stuxnet against the Iranian nuclear program."

Although compliance is voluntary, critics say CISPA would open the door to the online equivalent of warrantless wiretapping of American citizens.

This is not the first time federal oversight of communications has been a point of contention.  In 1969, then-President Richard Nixon authorized a telegraph interception program for security purposes.

Nonetheless, experts say the provisions that allow companies to file suit against the federal government for perceived violations and limit government monitoring to a very narrow target make the bill likely to pass, as web developer Josh Knapp says, "I think that in time, whether it's this bill or some other way of doing it, like through regulation, we're going to have some type of cybersecurity in the U.S. There's already been similar laws passed in most foreign countries - it's just a matter of time."

Companies like Facebook, Microsoft, Intel, Verizon, and AT&T have voiced their support for CISPA.

The Obama Administration says it would veto the bill unless stricter provisions to safeguard personal privacy were included.

For more on CISPA, follow the links attached to this story.