Amid Fears of NSA Spying, Senate Panel to Vote On Cybersecurity Bill

Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Richard Burr

Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Richard Burr Jacquelyn Martin/AP

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The Cybersecurity Information Sharing Act is likely to move forward Thursday.

The Senate Intelligence Committee will hold a vote Thursday on a controversial cybersecurity measure intended to help companies stave off hacks like the one that crippled Sony Pictures late last year, a panel aide confirmed.

The bill aims to cajole businesses to share more digital data with the government and each other in order to better fend off cyberattacks.

A version of the Cybersecurity Information Sharing Act, or CISA, cleared the Intelligence panel last year on a 12-3 vote but stalled amid concerns by privacy and civil-liberties groups and some tech companies that it could bolster the National Security Agency's surveillance powers. The bill is expected to again pass out of committee.

Cybersecurity has been repeatedly identified by President Obama and leadership of both parties as one of a few policy areas where Congress can broker substantive bipartisan agreement this year. But the Senate measure and its House equivalent have routinely been a major target for Internet activists.

The bill is separate from legislation introduced last month from Sen. Thomas Carper, the top Democrat on the Senate Homeland Security Committee, which closely aligned with a White House road map for an information-sharing measure.

The Senate Intelligence Committee had hoped to move the bill earlier this month, but a vote was delayed amid concerns about the language. It is unclear whether the committee plans to make further edits.

Both CISA and Obama's proposal have encountered resistance due to fears that the measures would give the government more access to personal data of Americans, which could be collected and analyzed by the NSA and other federal departments. The language of Obama's offering has generally been regarded as more protective of privacy, though it was quickly derided as not going far enough.

Many advocates have said they cannot support any information-sharing bill before Congress passes NSA surveillance reform. So far, neither chamber of Congress has introduced NSA legislation this year. A bill to curtail the NSA's mass surveillance of U.S. call data narrowly died in the Senate last November.