Jim Kouri
GOP Senators block Obama's cybersecurity act
By Jim Kouri
August 9, 2012

The Republican members of the U.S. Senate on Thursday blocked the passage of President Barack Obama's priority cyber legislation, the Cybersecurity Act of 2012. A law enforcement source in Washington, D.C., told the Law Enforcement Examiner that there was no formal vote because of several disputes over the amount of power to be given to the Executive Branch over businesses and non-government organizations.

The wide-reaching legislation, if it had passed, would have given government law enforcement and security agencies power to make decisions regarding the digital defense of critical infrastructure companies against cyber attacks. The Republican senators claimed they were uneasy about giving Washington even more power over the private sector.

"Many corporate security directors believe their own businesses are better able to protect themselves from cyber attacks. If the government wishes to assist, the Obama administration can offer grant money to upgrade cybersecurity programs," said Thomas Whelan, a former corporate security director now a business consultant.

The Democrat majority needed 60 votes to advance the bill to the Senate floor for an official vote, but a motion filed by Majority leader Harry Reid to force a vote failed in a vote of 52-46.

Republican lawmakers were also opposed to the bill for fear that the government will only increase costs for companies running the country's critical infrastructure without actually reducing the threat of cyber attacks or helping to minimize cyberspace destruction.

During Friday's White House press briefing, Obama spokesman Jay Carney, as expected, criticized the Republicans for playing party politics and echoing the complaints made by "special interest groups" seeking to avoid government oversight.

However, according to the GOP, blocking the legislation would actually protect the U.S. from devastating cyber attacks by enemies, renegade nations, terrorists and criminal hackers.

"The news media — a decidedly left-of-center group — are for anything Obama including Internet control. So they paint the GOP lawmakers as not caring about national security. It's the left who couldn't care less about national security and their goal is to gain control of the last frontier — cyberspace," said a former police captain now a security director for a large government contractor.

Over the course of several months, Pentagon officials have been warning about threats to national and homeland security in cyberspace — threats on critical infrastructure networks that control the electrical power grid, water plants, and transportation systems.

Last July, President Barack Obama demanded that U.S. Senators pass the cybersecurity bill to prevent cyber attacks, warning the lawmakers such attacks could practically shutdown the nation's public and private sectors.

The Cybersecurity Act, which was first proposed in February 2012, if passed would create a National Cybersecurity Council, to be chaired by the Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano, or her successors, to coordinate defensive measures in dealing with cyber attacks.

But GOP lawmakers and business organizations, such as the Chamber of Commerce, have repeatedly voiced their opposition to the bill, saying that it could harm the private companies that operate the critical infrastructure networks by creating a new, huge bureaucracy and increasing the costs of doing business.

"Once the government is involved, there's nothing to stop its officials from creating numerous and costly mandates in the name of national security. It could very possibly create a whole new bureaucracy filled with government workers who have little in the way of security management knowledge and experience," noted Whelan.

© Jim Kouri


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Jim Kouri

Jim Kouri, CPP is currently fifth vice-president of the National Association of Chiefs of Police... (more)


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