While the Internet has been increasing its opposition to CISPA over the past few weeks, the White House has been relatively quiet on the issue. The administration broke its silence last night when it announced its opposition to the controversial legislation.
The Hill reports that the administration held a briefing with all members of the House, where CISPA is currently doing the rounds, to discuss the legislation and other cybersecurity concerns. The briefing was led by Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano, FBI Director Robert Mueller, NSA Director Keith Alexander and Principal Deputy Director of National Intelligence Stephanie O'Sullivan.
After this briefing, National Security Council spokeswoman Caitlin Hayden issued a statement to The Hill saying that "any cybersecurity legislation should include strong privacy protections and should set mandatory security standards for critical infrastructure systems."
The full statement provided to The Hill details the administration's thoughts on the matter:
"The nation’s critical infrastructure cyber vulnerabilities will not be addressed by information sharing alone. Also, while information sharing legislation is an essential component of comprehensive legislation to address critical infrastructure risks, information sharing provisions must include robust safeguards to preserve the privacy and civil liberties of our citizens. Legislation without new authorities to address our nation’s critical infrastructure vulnerabilities, or legislation that would sacrifice the privacy of our citizens in the name of security, will not meet our nation's urgent needs."
The troubling part about this is that Hayden never explicitly mentioned CISPA when providing this statement. While it's pretty obvious she means CISPA since the statement is directed at privacy concerns, it's still not an outright declaration of opposition.
In other worrying news, it was also revealed that the White House is in favor of granted the government "new regulatory powers" to protect the U.S. from "devastating cyber attacks." The Hill points out that the White House currently backs Senator Joe Lieberman's cybersecurity bill that would put the power of enforcing cybersecurity into the hands of the Homeland Security department. Senator John McCain introduced a similar bill that would put that power into the hands of the NSA.
CISPA is wholly unique in that it goes above and beyond the powers listed in the previous two bills by allowing corporations to share a user's private information with the government and spy agencies without a warrant.
While it wasn't the outright opposition we wanted, it's good to know that the White House is at least aware of CISPA and the concerns that groups like the EFF have brought against it. CISPA goes up for a vote next week. We'll keep you updated if the White House voices opposition or if anything else happens.