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I have received many inquiries regarding the Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act (CISPA), H.R. 3523. This is a critical issue and I appreciate this opportunity to respond to your concerns.
First off, let me say that I have heard from not only you, but from many folks in the 5th District who are concerned about the potential impact of CISPA on our individual liberties. Please know that I share those exact same concerns, and looked at CISPA from precisely that perspective.
You should know there is a lot of misinformation regarding CISPA, especially with regards to our privacy, and what the government can do with our private information. For example, under CISPA the government cannot keep or use the shared information to see if we failed to pay our taxes. I have read this entire bill (Indeed, many different versions of it, as well as all the amendments.) I do not believe it does many of the things that various viral e-mails and fundraising letters from outside groups have suggested. The fact is that various critiques of the bill are, simply put, wrong.
The primary reason that CISPA was needed is that computer hackers, and even nation states such as China, are subjecting our computer systems to a daily barrage of attacks. Legally, we lack the tools necessary to combat them. This is a very, very real threat.
Without CISPA, if the government was aware of information about a computer attack that could affect the commercial sector, it is illegal for the government to tell companies like Amazon or Wal-Mart about it, due to the classified nature of the intelligence. By the same token, if Wal-Mart became aware of a cyber threat against its own networks that could affect a government or military site, it could not tell the government about it.
CISPA was drafted in direct response to that legal void. And it does so in a completely voluntary manner, without government compulsion of any sort.
Keep in mind that the Constitution places very few affirmative duties on Congress. The most fundamental is that the federal Congress is charged in Article IV, Section 4 to defend the states against invasion. While 240 years ago an "invasion" meant armies and navies, today it can mean computer hackers and cyber terrorists.
Having said all that, I recognize the possibility that I could be wrong about all of this, and that this or future Administrations might seek to abuse CISPA. For that reason, I offered two amendments to the bill, both of which passed and are part of the final product. The first requires the government to delete and not use any information that it may have received not pertaining to cyber threats. The second, and perhaps more important, would sunset the entire bill in 5 years, forcing Congress to revisit this issue so that it could address any concerns that may arise. The sunset amendment provides that the law would cease to have effect after 5 years unless it is reauthorized by Congress-a check on possible future abuse. (To our knowledge, this is the first time in the 112th Congress that a freshman legislator has had two amendments to a bill adopted on the House floor.)
I know the issue of individual freedom is important to you. Please know that it is to me as well, and that I would never vote for any piece of legislation that I believed would violate our constitutionally protected liberties.
If you would like to know more or have further questions on the bill or my vote, please call my office at 202-225-5501. My staff and I will do our best to answer your questions and address your concerns.
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