Boswell, Latham and King vote for controversial cybersecurity bill

Late last week, the U.S. House approved four bills related to cybersecurity. Only one was controversial: the Cyber Intelligence and Sharing Protection Act (CISPA), which the House passed on April 26. Depending on your point of view, CISPA is either a useful tool for cracking down on cyber threats or a huge threat to the civil liberties of internet users.

The 206 Republicans and 42 Democrats who voted for this bill included Iowans Leonard Boswell (IA-03), Tom Latham (IA-04), and Steve King (IA-05). Bruce Braley (IA-01) and Dave Loebsack (IA-02) were among the 140 Democrats who voted no, joined by 28 House Republicans (roll call). More details on this bill and on the House debate are after the jump.

Pete Kasperowicz covered the House debate over CISPA, also known as H.R. 3523, for The Hill.

CISPA would make it easier for companies to share information with the government about the threats facing their networks. Supporters – Republicans and Democrats alike – said the proposal is a reasonable compromise between the need for privacy and security.

“The intelligence community has the ability to detect these cyber threats, these malicious codes and viruses, before they are able to attack our networks,” said Intelligence Committee ranking member Dutch Ruppersberger (D-Md.). “But right now, federal law prohibits our intelligence community from sharing the classified cyber threat with the companies that will protect us that control the network, the AT&Ts, the Verizons, the Comcasts, those groups.

“We have the ability to give them the information to protect us, but yet we have to pass a law to do that.”

The bill enjoyed strong bipartisan support before the administration issued a veto threat and sided with privacy advocates who argue the bill does not do enough to protect consumers’ private information. The White House also wants regulatory mandates for critical infrastructure providers, which are not contained in CISPA.

Click here to read the April 25 statement from White House Office of Management and Budget. The document lists four specific problems with CISPA, explaining that President Barack Obama’s senior advisers would recommend that he veto the bill in its current form: “Legislation should address core critical infrastructure vulnerabilities without sacrificing the fundamental values of privacy and civil liberties for our citizens.”

Asawin Suebsaeng posted “4 Things to Know About CISPA” at the Mother Jones website, and his article is worth reading. Suebsaeng lists the “usual suspects” for the bill (major telecommunications firms, software giants, defense contractors, and business advocacy groups) and the civil liberties groups, consumer advocates, and media organizations that oppose it. Suebsaeng lays out the major worries about CISPA, although he is less alarmist than some commenters. For the more passionate case against this bill, see the Stop Cyber Spying site supported by many civil liberties and media groups. I take the privacy concerns seriously, especially in light of Google’s extensive harvesting of personal information.

Open Secrets listed the 134 clients lobbying on CISPA and posted details here on the money various corporate groups have spent lobbying for this and other internet-related bills.

Before the vote on final passage, the House approved six Republican-backed amendments designed to narrow the bill’s scope. For instance, Ben Quayle’s amendment would “limit government use of shared cyber threat information to only 5 purposes: (1) cybersecurity; (2) investigation and prosecution of cybersecurity crimes; (3) protection of individuals from the danger of death or physical injury; (4) protection of minors from physical or psychological harm; and (5) protection of the national security of the United States.” All of these amendments passed unanimously or with only a handful of no votes. Iowa’s five representatives supported them all.

The Iowans split on party lines over an amendment offered by Democrat James Langevin, which “allows entities that are not entirely privately owned, such as airports, utilities, and public transit systems, to receive vital cybersecurity information and better secure their networks against cyber threats.” Democrats Braley, Loebsack, and Boswell voted for this amendment, while Latham and King voted against it.

As I mentioned above, Boswell was one of 42 Democrats to vote for final passage of CISPA. That vote is consistent with his support for many bills backed by telecommunications giants. However, Boswell did cite privacy concerns in opposing the Stop Online Piracy Act, which was derailed in the House in January.

No one in Iowa’s House delegation sent out a press release about the CISPA vote. Early Friday morning I sought comment from all five offices about why Boswell, Latham, and King voted for this bill and why Braley and Loebsack voted against it. At this writing, no one has responded to my request for comment.

For whatever reason, Iowa’s House members do not feel like bragging about helping the government fight cyber threats, or, conversely, standing up to an attack on civil liberties. In contrast, Braley, Loebsack, Boswell, and King commented publicly on the Stop Online Piracy Act in January.

UPDATE: Braley’s staff released this statement on April 30.

“I believe securing our public and private networks from cyber threats is vitally important, but this legislation did not do enough to ensure the privacy of innocent citizens whose information could be passed to the government in the context of a perceived cyber threat. The potential for misuse is too great, and I would like to see stronger privacy protections in place on legislation like this,” said Rep. Bruce Braley (IA-01).

Shortly after passing CISPA on April 26, House members approved by unanimous consent H.R. 4257, the Federal Information Security Amendments Act, which “is aimed at updating the federal government’s responsibility to manage its information systems so as to best thwart cyber threats.”

The following morning, House members approved two more uncontroversial cybersecurity bills:

The first was H.R. 2096, the Cybersecurity Enhancement act. The bill would coordinate federal research and development on cybersecurity, and establish a program for training federal cybersecurity experts. The bill also authorizes the National Institute of Standards and Technology to set security standards for federal computer systems. […]

The second was H.R. 3834, the Advancing America’s Networking and Information Technology Research and Development act. This bill would update and modernize the High-Performance Computing Act of 1991, which established what is now a $4 billion federal research program on computing and networking systems.

The Cybersecurity Enhancement Act passed by 395 votes to 10. All five Iowans voted for that legislation. The second bill passed by voice vote.

Share any relevant thoughts in this thread.

UPDATE: First district GOP Congressional candidate Rod Blum released this statement on May 1 condemning passage of CISPA. He did not praise Braley for voting against the bill.


Dubuque, IA – On Thursday evening, the U.S. House of Representatives passed H.R. 3523, the Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act, commonly known as CISPA. The vote was 248 ayes to 168 nays, with 15 not voting. CISPA was passed with the “intention” of detecting cyber threats say proponents of the bill, however its opponents say that this bill could allow private internet providers to provide the government any amount of information, from the content of private emails to your medical, financial, and educational records online.

Republican Candidate for U.S. Congress from the First District of Iowa, Rod Blum condemned the passage of the bill, stating “The U.S. government continues to pass legislation that infringes upon the rights of everyday Americans.”

“The passage of bills that violate our privacy and civil liberties such as CISPA are simply unconstitutional,” added Mr. Blum. “The ability to peer into private activity on the Internet has no foundation in the Constitution. Far too often Americans are asked to sacrifice their liberties for the sake of ‘safety’ – I believe we can be safe AND hold dear our individual liberties.”

Mr. Blum went on to encourage conservative members of the U.S. Senate to uphold the Constitution in making their vote on CISPA. “Protect our freedom on the Internet, protect our privacy as citizens, and protect our Constitution,” he implored.

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  • Or perhaps,

    That vote is consistent with his support for many bills backed by telecommunications giants. However, Boswell did cite privacy concerns in opposing the Stop Online Piracy Act, which was derailed in the House in January.

    that’s what you get for half-price. Half a loaf.