On Wednesday April 10, the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence amended the controversial Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act (CISPA), HR 624, and passed the bill out of the Committee. Unfortunately no one outside the Committee members and their staff know exactly what was discussed during the session (known as a “markup” in DC terms) because it was done completely behind closed doors.
Prior to the mark up OpenTheGovernment.org and several of our partners joined in an effort to urge the Committee to open the markup. An open markup would have allowed the public to know how Congress is conducting the people’s business. When the Committee was questioned about its decision to close the markup, however, the response was – essentially – it would be too inconvenient to hold an open markup. The Committee did, however, post the text of all of the amendments and the vote tallies the following day.
CISPA is scheduled to go to the floor of the House for a vote this week. Thus far left unaddressed by any amendments to the bill is the provision that blows a gaping hole through the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). As many of you likely know, in the interest of encouraging companies to share cyber threat information with the federal government, the bill exempts all such information from FOIA and public access. The Committee did add language to the bill that clarifies any information companies are required to make public under other laws would not be withheld under this provision, but this change does nothing to limit the wide scope of the information exempted by the provision, or make sure that the public has access to the information it needs to determine if the government has acted appropriately to protect our cyber systems. Further, it is unclear why such a provision is even necessary, given that most of the truly sensitive information companies are likely to share with the government is already protected under FOIA.
Want to get involved? Visit our Action Center to urge your Member to support a bill that a bill that protects our cyber systems and openness and accountability.