Democrats seek Obama's help on cybersecurity

Plan would protect critical information technology systems from attacks.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., and six Senate committee leaders urged President Obama late Thursday to back their effort to advance legislation aimed at protecting critical information technology systems from attacks.

In a letter to Obama, the senators said they plan to produce a comprehensive cybersecurity bill, although they did not specify when it would happen.

"Executive branch leadership is key to the nation's cybersecurity and we are eager to hear your views on the optimal organizational structure, necessary updates and reforms to legislation and regulations governing communications networks and information systems, and additional authorities needed to facilitate effective government leadership and response to cyber threats and vulnerabilities," they wrote.

The letter was signed by Reid, Commerce Committee Chairman John (Jay) Rockefeller, D-W.V., Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee Chairman Joe Lieberman, I-Conn., Intelligence Committee Chairwoman Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., Armed Services Committee Chairman Carl Levin, D-Mich., Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., and Foreign Relations Committee Chairman John Kerry, D-Mass.

"We believe that there is an urgent need for action to address these vulnerabilities by the administration, by Congress and by the array of entities affected by cyber threats," they wrote.

The senators added, "We must ensure that the federal government is organized and integrated to facilitate cross-government coordination, broad situational awareness, and agile, effective responses to cyber threats."

"We must also ensure that the government has adequate authorities to protect U.S. critical infrastructure and has the institutions in place to ensure effective cooperation and information sharing with key government and private sector actors," they wrote.

The letter did not seek White House support for any particular measure or provisions. Reid wants to merge two competing cybersecurity bills that have been introduced in the Senate, and he is expected to call a meeting of key committee chairmen shortly after the Independence Day recess to begin that effort.

NEXT STORY: No Quick Fix