Civil liberties advocates call Senate cybersecurity bills 'fundamentally flawed'

AP photo

Neither bill adequately protects privacy, the groups said.

Ain't nobody pleasing civil liberties groups these days.

At least not any lawmakers proposing major cybersecurity legislation on Capitol Hill. After blasting a controversial House cybersecurity information-sharing bill, then criticizing a White House-backed bill in the Senate, a group of nearly three dozen civil liberties and other advocacy groups is opposing proposals by Senate Republicans as well.

After Senate Homeland Security Committee Chairman Joe Lieberman, I-Conn., and a string of other committee leaders proposed the Cybersecurity Act of 2012 earlier this year, Senate Republicans balked at the bill's proposals to give Homeland Security officials more oversight of certain private networks.

In response, GOP committee leaders proposed their own Secure IT Act, which includes more industry-friendly provisions.

Neither bill adequately protects privacy and civil liberties, 33 groups said in a letter to members of Congress on Monday.

"In fact, both proposals are fundamentally flawed when it comes to privacy safeguards, oversight and accountability, and both bills require substantial amendments to address our concerns," Sharon Bradford Franklin, senior policy counsel at The Constitution Project, said in a statement.

Congress is considering ways to increase cybersecurity among federal agencies and private businesses. Republicans have favored voluntary and incentive-based ways to prod businesses to better protect their networks, but Democrats, led by the White House, say any meaningful legislation must give federal officials more authority to protect critical networks.

All those efforts so far have not impressed privacy advocates, who say the bills could give government and companies a license to monitor and collect private user information and communications.

Monday's letter was signed by groups that included the American Civil Liberties Union, the Center for Democracy and Technology, TechFreedom, and the Constitution Project.

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