Sen. Harry Reid says he will bring up cybersecurity
legislation in the lame duck session.
In response to a speech by Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta
last week saying that legislation was needed to prevent a potential 9/11-like
cyberattack, Reed seconded that warning.
"A cyberattack could cripple our economy and
infrastructure, sow chaos and cost lives," he said in a statement.
"Secretary Panetta's warnings are consistent with the message that the
national security community has been delivering to the Senate for months. We
know what tools our national security community needs -- but in sadly
predictable fashion, Senate Republicans are blocking a comprehensive
cybersecurity bill that would make those tools available."
A primarily Democrat-backed version of cybersecurity
Cybersecurity Act of 2012, focuses on establishing minimum standards for
critical infrastructure protection, while a Republican version, the
SECURE IT Act, focuses on information sharing. One of the main stumbling
blocks for Republicans in the Democratic version was the fear that those
standards would morph from guidelines to mandates that would deny companies the
flexibility to move quickly to respond to evolving threats.
The two sides agree there is a cyberthreat from nation
states, hackers and hacktivists, but could not agree on a compromise between
the two bills.
President Obama is considering implementing minimum
standards via executive order, and Reid did not suggest that effort should be
superseded by a lame duck attempt to pass a bill, though, like Panetta, he said
that legislation was the best answer.
"Some of my colleagues have suggested that the president
should delay further action to protect America from this threat until Congress
can pass legislation," he said. "Secretary Panetta has made clear that
inaction is not an option. I will bring cybersecurity legislation back to the
Senate floor when Congress returns in November. My colleagues who profess to
understand the urgency of the threat will have one more chance to back their
words with action, and work with us to pass this bill. Cybersecurity is an
issue that should be handled by Congress, but with Republicans engaging in Tea
Party-motivated obstruction, I believe that President Obama is right to examine
all means at his disposal for confronting this urgent national security