Washington, DC – As the U.S. Senate debates legislation to protect our nation from cyber attacks, U.S. Senators Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) and Barbara Mikulski (D-MD) today introduced three amendments to the bill to help ensure that law enforcement agencies have the proper tools and authorities to prevent such attacks. The bill, the Cybersecurity Act of 2012, is expected to receive a vote this week.
“As we continue working to pass legislation to protect our nation from cyber threats, it’s important to ensure that we are properly using the expertise of our law enforcement agencies, and giving them the tools they need to keep us safe,” said Whitehouse. “The amendments I am introducing with Senator Mikulski would help us reach that goal.”
“More than ever our law enforcement community, especially the FBI, is being called upon to respond to and investigate an ever-increasing number of cyber crimes,” Senator Mikulski said. “These amendments protect key law enforcement prerogatives in conducting cyber crime investigations to target savvy cyber spies and terrorists, and organized crime circuits that use cyberspace to conduct operations. They will strengthen the Cybersecurity Act of 2012 by giving law enforcement the necessary tools to identify and stop cyber threats before they strike our government, our businesses and our critical infrastructure.”
As Chairman of the Judiciary Subcommittee on Crime and Terrorism, Whitehouse held hearings during this Congress to hear testimony about the need to address cyber threats and examine specific proposals. As Chairman of the Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies Subcommittee of the Appropriations Committee, Mikulski has a long record of leadership on cybersecurity and law enforcement. The three amendments introduced today were informed by their Committee work, and by their prior work together on the Intelligence Committee.
The first Whitehouse-Mikulski amendment would commission a study to examine current cyber law enforcement resources. The study would evaluate the scale and structure of these resources to determine whether they are well-suited to address the cyber threats our nation faces. Ultimately, the study would provide Congress with an expert assessment to guide its work in the years ahead.
The second amendment offered by Whitehouse and Mikulski would ensure that existing and effective cyber law enforcement efforts are not unintentionally disrupted by the creation of a new center within the Department of Homeland Security aimed at protecting federal government networks. The amendment would clarify that the center’s responsibilities do not extend to law enforcement. In doing so, the amendment would ensure that the center’s operations do not disrupt law enforcement relationships and activities that currently are making our country safer.
The final amendment offered by Whitehouse and Mikulski would address a concern that language in Title VI of the Cybersecurity Act could be read to disrupt the productive and efficient work currently performed abroad by the Department of Justice, and limit the Department’s accountability to Congress. The amendment would help ensure that the State Department and the Justice Department collaborate productively on international law enforcement issues, and that they are subject to appropriate Congressional oversight.
Whitehouse and Mikulski chaired the Senate Intelligence Committee’s Cyber Task Force in 2010 and have been active in the efforts to draft comprehensive cybersecurity legislation. In particular, they have worked with a bipartisan group of Senators, including Jon Kyl (R-AZ), to develop a compromise on how to ensure the protection of critical infrastructure – the electric grid, the servers that process our financial transactions, etc. The current version of the bill adopts significant elements of the compromise approach developed in this work. The bill also includes Whitehouse’s Cybersecurity Public Awareness Act, legislation he introduced with Senator Kyl last year to improve public access to information on cyber attacks.