A Senate panel is "very close" to unveiling cybersecurity legislation aimed at helping and encouraging critical-infrastructure providers -- including nuclear-power plants -- to share more cyber-threat data with each other and the government, a top Republican said Tuesday, according to The Hill newspaper.
Senator Saxby Chambliss (R-Ga.), the ranking member on the Senate Intelligence Committee, said at a cybersecurity conference in Washington that his panel is finalizing a bill akin to the Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act, which the Republican-led House passed in April. Senate Democrats largely balked at that House legislation and the White House threatened to veto it, charging it would not significantly protect citizens' data privacy.
Chambliss nonetheless said he and Intelligence panel Chairwoman Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) are proceeding with their similar legislation, and currently are hashing out the final details, according to The Hill. The GOP senator said he and Feinstein have worked with Representatives Mike Rogers (R-Mich.) and Dutch Ruppersberger (D-Md.), who crafted the CISPA, in hopes of ensuring if the Senate bill passes the full chamber that it can be reconciled with the House plan.
At the cyber conference, sponsored by Politico, Chambliss indicated a sticking point members of the Senate Intelligence Committee are still debating: if and how their bill will grant immunity protection to companies that share cyber-threat data with the government, according to Politico. Chambliss further said the Senate Intelligence Committee's bill will call for establishing a government portal for the cyber-threat data coming from the private sector, which likely would be part of the Homeland Security Department. However, he said he wants the National Security Agency to have access to the private-sector information -- something that could alarm privacy advocates.
"You can't have protection from a cybersecurity standpoint without the NSA being integrally involved," Chambliss reportedly said. "I mean, they're the experts."
Chambliss and other lawmakers said at the Tuesday Newseum event lamented that the pace of cybersecurity legislation has slowed on Capitol Hill since former NSA contractor Edward Snowden leaked intelligence documents regarding the agency’s widespread surveillance activities.
Representative Jim Langevin (D-R.I.) said he suspected lawmakers would not address significant cybersecurity legislation this year. “It’s very difficult at this point,” he told Politico, “given the government shutdown and what happened as a result” of Snowden.
President Obama in February signed an executive order intended to implement some aspects of a cybersecurity bill that died in the Senate last year, which the U.S. Chamber of Commerce argued would have led to excessive regulations on companies. Obama's executive order calls for government and industry officials to craft voluntary cyber-threat standards, and an early draft of them is due Oct. 12, according to Politico.