Dear Senate: Pass Cybersecurity Bills that Promote Openness and Accountability

On May 14, more than 30 organizations joined in sending a letter to the Senate explaining how provisions in competing cybersecurity bills, S.2105 (the Lieberman bill) and S.2151 (the McCain bill) undermine public accountability by including unnecessary, overbroad and unwise exemptions to the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). We urge Senators to oppose the bills if these provisions are not dropped.

In the interest of encouraging companies to share cyber threat information with the government, S.2105 and S.2151 both cut off all public access to any information shared with the government under the bill. (A similarly expansive provision was included in the House’s recently-passed HR 3523, the Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act of 2011.) First, it should be noted that there are existing protections for sensitive business and security information. And, as we’ve said previously, exempting information from public disclosure before Congress or the public have any idea about the scope and type of information that may be shared is bad policy and could make it impossible for the public to understand whether the government is taking appropriate steps to protect our nation’s cyber-connected infrastructure.

A previous letter and several of our partners sent to Senator Lieberman and his co-sponsors on S.2105 also expressed concerns about a provision that exempts over-broadly defined "critical infrastructure information" from disclosure under FOIA, and the impact the provision could have on whistleblower protections. We understand that the next version of S. 2105 will include a much narrower definition, scope and limitation of covered "critical infrastructure information," and preserves existing whistleblower protections. We are pleased at this apparent progress and hope that this provision (found in Section 107) is so amended. It is important to note, though, that fixing this provision will not make the bill as a whole acceptable. Our opposition to Title 7 of S.2105 will remain and could lead to us opposing the entire bill.