At press time, the House was continuing its two-day consideration of CISPA, the cybersecurity bill that allows for government industry-sharing of cyber threat info.
Proposed changes to the bill addressing Democrats' concerns about protecting privacy and civil liberties were drawing praise from some Democrats, but others said the changes did not go far enough.
While a number of Democrats said they could now support the bill, others said it still lacked key elements. But the combination of strong Republican support and backing from a number of Democrats, the bill is likely to pass Thursday, though its fate in the Senate is problematic. A similar bill also passed the House in the last session, then stalled in the Senate.
During the debate Wednesday, Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) said that without the following, which he had proposed in an amendment rejected by the Rules Committee, the bill should be defeated. First, it should make clear that the government as well as private companies need to require industry players to take reasonable efforts to protect personal information when they share it amongst themselves.
Second, the Department of Homeland Security-- not the Defense Department-- needs to be the sole intake point for domestic cybersecurity data.
Third, the immunity protections for industry should be reigned in.
Rep. Mike Rogers (R-Mich.), chairman of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence who, with ranking member C.A. Dutch Ruppersberger (D-Md.), had motormanned the bill, said he didn't want government getting in the middle of private-to-private communications. He said the bill does protect personally identifiable information while keeping government out of Internet regulation.
Rogers called a "straw man" the suggestion that the bill violates contract law. Nothing in the bill will do that, he said, nor will it hurt job growth. He said that an amendment would be added to make crystal clear what he has been saying: "This is not a surveillance bill."
Ruppersberger said that the bill protects civil liberties, adding that "there can be no security without privacy."
Schiff praised the efforts of Rogers and Ruppersberger and said that progress had been made, but not enough to secure his support.
But some other Democrats -- in addition to Ruppersberger -- said the bill has sufficient protections, and the threat is sufficiently grave, to warrant their support. Those included Rep. Gerry Connolly (D-Va.), and notably Alcee Hastings from Florida, who spoke up long and strong for the bill, saying it balances the need to strengthen cyber defense while protecting individual privacy.