White House Backs Cybersecurity Bill, With Tweaks

Provides strong support, but suggests some changes of its own
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As the Senate continued to work on a compromise on moving a
cybersecurity bill to the floor for amendment, debate and a vote, the Obama
Administration issued its strong support for S. 3414, while offering a couple
of amendments of its own.

The Cybersecurity Act of 2012 is being championed by
independent Joe Lieberman and four cosponsors including the ranking member of
the Homeland Security Bureau, Susan Collins of Maine. But the other Republican
ranking members on relevant committees are not on board.

"The Administration strongly supports Senate passage of
S. 3414, the Cybersecurity Act of 2012," said OMB in a statement.
"While lacking some of the key provisions of earlier bills, the revised
legislation will provide important tools to strengthen the Nation's response to
cybersecurity risks. The legislation also reflects many of the priorities
included in the Administration's legislative proposal."

The White House signaled it would not take kindly to
amendments weakening any of the bill's privacy protections.

"The Administration particularly appreciates the bill's
strong protections for privacy and civil liberties and would not support
amendments that weaken these protections. The Administration agrees that
it is essential that the collection, use, and disclosure of such information
remain closely tied to the purposes of detecting and mitigating cybersecurity
threats, while still allowing law enforcement to investigate and prosecute
serious crimes.  All entities -- public and private -- must be accountable
for how they handle such data."

Senators on both sides suggested midday Thursday they were
still talking and negotiating, with the primarily Democratic backers of the
bill saying they had made concessions, including making cybersecurity
guidelines voluntary, and the opposition saying they were voluntary in name
only.

But the White House said it would not support amendments "(1)
reducing the Federal Government's existing roles and responsibilities in
coordinating and endorsing the outcome-based cybersecurity practices; (2)
weakening the statutory authorities of the Department of Homeland Security to
accomplish its critical infrastructure protection mission; or (3) substantially
expanding the narrowly-tailored liability protections for private sector
entities."

Republicans argue that private industry needs broad
liability protections from antitrust concerns over competitive issues arising
from sharing info with the government or each other. The White House argues
that "overly broad" industry immunity "would undermine the very
trust that the bill seeks to strengthen."

The White House does not support everything in the bill. OMB
said it had concerns about provisions "purporting to prescribe the
Executive branch's responsibilities in coordinating with foreign governments
and conducting diplomatic negotiations." OMB said that should be changed to
make it clear that the President "has exclusive constitutional authority
to conduct diplomacy." It also seeks clarification on "protection of
intelligence sources and methods, as well as information sharing and policy
coordination."

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