Some top House and Senate Republicans are warning the President not to take unilateral action on cybersecurity, suggesting it could threaten the multistakeholder model of 'net governance both Republicans and Democrats support.
In a letter to the president, the legislators warned him not to issue an executive order on cybersecurity.
They argue that the order would send the wrong signal to countries like China, Russia, and Iran, which are proposing that the International Telecommunications Union adopt a more top-down, government governance model for the Internet when it meets for a telecom treaty conference in Dubai this December. The White House is on the record as opposing any attempts to weaken the multistakeholder governance model, as are Republicans and Democrats in the House. The legislators point out that both the House and Senate passed resolutions in this Congress supporting that multistakeholder model.
"An ill-advised executive order would undermine those important, collaborative efforts," they wrote. "While we have not seen your proposed executive order," they wrote, "multiple reports suggest that it would authorize the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to determine what constitutes critical infrastructure and then adopt certain standards for how such infrastructure is managed to guard against cyberthreats. This is the wrong approach."
John Brennan, assistant to the President for Homeland Security and Counterterrorism, confirmed to Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-W.Va.) last month that the White House is considering stepping in after it appeared no legislation would pass in this Congress.
"Following congressional inaction, the President is determined to use existing executive branch authorities to protect our nation against cyber threats," including "exploring an executive order to direct executive branch departments and agencies to secure the nation's critical infrastructure by working with the private sector," Brennan said in the letter.
After the Senate failed to vote on a cybersecurity bill, the White House drew calls from some Democrats, including Rockefeller, to step in and mandate cybersecurity protection measures given that both sides agreed attacks from hackers, hacktivists and state sponsored entities was an ongoing threat.
Signatories to Thursday's letter included Rep. Fred Upton (R-Mich.), chairman of the House Energy & Commerce Committee; Rep. Greg Walden (R-Ore.), chair of the Communications Subcommittee; subcommittee member Rep. Mary Bono Mack (R-Calif.), and Senators Jim DeMint (R-S.C.), Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), and Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah).