The public’s been mislead before, but Tom Carper (D. Del.), chairman of the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs, is convinced this time: President Obama’s “is going to proffer [an executive order on cybersecurity], we think in the second half of February,” he told The Hill.
The order is designed as a rebuttal to a Congress that can’t agree on how to address what many federal agencies say is a disturbing trend of cyberattacks on U.S. infrastructure. The creation of new cybersecurity laws is mired in partisan politics, and many privacy advocates say the only options outside of an executive order are bad (the Cybersecurity Act, already defeated twice in the Senate) and negligent (the Cyber Information Security Protection Act, or CISPA).
It’s still classified, but an earlier draft of the order indicates that it’s based on the Cybersecurity Act. Most comforting is that it would appear to satisfy Sen. Ron Wyden’s (D-Oreg.) biggest pro-privacy insistence: Any legislation should only let federal agencies freely access information on networks related to critical infrastructure and should leave social networks, like your Facebook and Google profiles, out of its reach.
Despite Carper’s comment, previous officials have made been wrong about the order’s date before. In September, a few weeks after its existence was confirmed by the White House, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano said it was “close to completion.” Then in October, then-Senator Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.) predicted it would happen by November.
Lieberman had called passing cybersecurity legislation “absolutely my top legislative priority of this last year,” but it became clear as his final Senate session drew to a close that it wouldn’t agree on such a bill. Congress convened Jan. 3.
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