The President is considering executive-branch action on U.S. cybersecurity, in response to Congress failing to pass cybersecurity legislation. “If the Congress is not going to act on something like this, then the president wants to make sure that we’re doing everything possible,” John Brennan, Obama’s counterterrorism adviser, said at a Council on Foreign Relations event.
According to Stewart Baker, a former assistant secretary for policy at the Department of Homeland Security, Obama could accomplish many objectives of the Lieberman-Collins bill with an executive order or other directive. Matthew Eggers,senior director of national security at the Chamber of Commerce, however, disagrees and said that “an executive order would be counterproductive and would cut short the proper legislative process, which needs to continue.”
“An executive order makes clear the administration’s intent to put a mandatory program into place to regulate businesses,” Eggers added.
Additionally, Rep. Edward Markey (D-MA) has called on Obama to issue an executive order to try to protect the nation’s electrical grid from cyberattacks. “I’m calling on President Obama to do by Executive Order what Congressional Republicans refuse to do through legislation: protect our nation from the 21st century cyber-armies preparing to wage war on our banking, health care, and defense systems by knocking out America’s electricity grid,” Markey said.
Senate Republicans blocked the Cybersecurity Act, sponsored by Sens. Joe Lieberman (I-CT) and Susan Collins (R-ME), which had the backing of the White House and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV). That bill would require private companies and the government to share information regarding cybersecurity threats. It would also give the Department of Homeland Security the authority to lead the cybersecurity team.
But, those who voted against the bill argue that the legislation would burden businesses with more unnecessary and ineffective regulations. Civil liberties groups and government transparency advocates have also come out in opposition to the proposal, saying that it would have given too much power to intelligence agencies and the Pentagon.
Only 52 Senators voted for the bill. H.R.3523 – Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act can be viewed here.
The White House has certainly been zealous in its use of executive action in the past: Current List of President Obama’s Executive Orders (There are over 130)
So, it is not surprising that regardless of Congressional rejection, Obama insists “we can’t wait,” and may issue an executive order forcing companies to implement new cybersecurity standards.
White House Press Secretary Jay Carney wrote in an e-mail to The Hill: “Moving forward, the President is determined to do absolutely everything we can to better protect our nation against today’s cyber threats and we will do that.”
Even one of the bill’s creators, Senator Collins, who has been lobbying for its support, is against the principle of implementation by force. “I’m not for doing by executive order what should be done by legislation,” Collins said.
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