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Cyber Intelligence Act, CISPA, to be resurrected in the House


Protesters demonstrate against the proposed Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) and Protect IP Act (PIPA) outside the offices of U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer (D-NY) and U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) on January 18, 2012 in New York City. The controversial legislation is aimed at preventing piracy of media but those opposed believe it will support censorship.


Mario Tama

The oft-reviled Cyber Intelligence and Sharing Protection Act (CISPA) will be reintroduced in the US House of Representatives this year, according to Rep. Dutch Ruppersberger (D-Md.) who will work with House Intelligence Committee Chairman Mike Rogers on the bill.

Aiming to protect the private sector from cyberattacks, CISPA would allow government agencies to share internet traffic information with technology companies to keep private corporations better informed of looming threats against digital infrastructure.

The original form of the bill was introduced and abandoned last year, but there is no word yet on what changes will be included in this version.

The move comes as the government tries to strengthen the US’ ability to wage cyber war and defend against cyberattacks.

In a Senate hearing on Thursday, outgoing US Defense Secretary Leon Panetta discussed the looming threat of cyberattacks against the US. Panetta has stated several times that the “next Pearl Harbor” will come in the form of a cyberattack.

"We're working on some things…working with the White House to make sure that hopefully they can be more supportive of our bill than they were the last time," Ruppersberger (D-Md.) told The Hill.

Ruppersberger said talks with the White House were underway, and have been positive. The congressman may be attempting to assuage the privacy and oversight concerns expressed by the White House last year as the bill was being debated on the house floor.

More from GlobalPost: CISPA: The internet is acting like an interest group

The Obama Administration promised to veto the bill at the time, arguing that it did not provide clear legal privacy protections to citizens and lacked independent oversight, which would undermine the public’s trust in the government. 

CISPA was originally abandoned when tnternet freedom activists issued a call to arms against the bill in April of last year fresh off their victory against the Stop Online Piracy Act, another bill that critics argued would destroy online privacy and the open internet.

In a flurry of tweets, petitions, and Reddit posts, the internet began to take action against the legislation last year after Mike Masnick of Techdirt composed a blog post bringing attention to the bill. In the post Masnick articulated a pressing need to stand against the legislation before it was put to a vote on the House floor, set to take place that following month.

Masnick also drew attention to CISPA’s long list of corporate supporters that includes social media websites, telecommunications companies and government contractors.

The Electronic Frontiers Foundation came out in opposition to the bill as well, arguing that the legislation directly targeted anti-government whistleblowers.

More from GlobalPost: Anonymous hacks federal reserve computers 

“The language is so broad it could be used as a blunt instrument to attack websites like The Pirate Bay or WikiLeaks,” wrote Rainey Reitman of EFF.

Other opponents included Texas Congressman Ron Paul, the ACLU, Reporters Without Borders and internet pioneer Tim Berners-Lee.

One key difference between CISPA and its even more reviled counterpart SOPA was the private sector’s support for CISPA. Without companies like Google and Wikipedia standing shoulder to shoulder with individual activists, CISPA is less likely to face the same level of opposition brought out against SOPA.

However, whether it heralds a crackdown on free speech on the internet or just adds another layer of bloated bureaucracy remains to be seen.