Congress' Profound Failure on Cybersecurity

Both parties in Congress agree that the question is not whether this next war will start. It's when. Yet members of both parties once again blew their best chance to get America ready. Senator Joseph Lieberman, the Independent from Connecticut, literally spent years nursing a cybersecurity bill through Congress. As originally conceived, the bill would have created security standards for computers that run the nation's critical infrastructure including transportation, water systems and the electrical grid. In addition, it gave the federal government the power to make sure those standards were met.

Lieberman's first attempt was clearly far from perfect. As my colleague Eduard Goodman, chief privacy officer of Identity Theft 911, sees it, the original bill contained some serious threats to the privacy of American citizens. Particularly troubling were provisions that could have required phone companies and Internet service providers to spy on their customers, and turn over anything that looked suspicious to government surveillance agencies.

According to Goodman, "Companies would potentially be reporting individual citizens to law enforcement without any of the checks and balances we have for traditional surveillance, though in truth, to some degree this already been happening for years."

That dog don't hunt. Our Founding Fathers fought and died to preserve and protect our freedom and liberty. Sacrificing freedom in the name of protecting it (sorry, Sheriff Joe) is akin to destroying the village to save it.

That problem could have been resolved, however, by the deliberative process for which Congress was created, but some of our esteemed lawmakers had no desire to make the legislation better. They simply wanted to kill it, but for all the wrong reasons. Conservatives and their financial backers in the Chamber of Commerce didn't even mention the cybersecurity bill's looming privacy threats. Rather, they focused on trumped-up allegations that the bill would be a burden to American corporations.

"The chamber believes [the bill] could actually impede U.S. cyber security by shifting businesses' resources away from implementing robust and effective security measures and toward meeting government mandates," Bruce Josten, chief lobbyist for the chamber, wrote in a letter to senators.

[Related Article: Payment Processor Facing More Concerns Over Recent Data Breach]

Shifting resources… Are you kidding me? U.S. Attorney Bharara has remarked on several occasions that he was approached by a board member of a major U.S. Corporation who remarked that cyber security wasn't even mentioned at meetings. Josten's argument is utterly bogus. As Joel Brenner, former counsel for the National Security Agency, repeatedly points out, American corporations' current computer safeguards present a "'glass house,' all but transparent to our adversaries."

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