CAPITOL HILL: The dynamic duo who run the House Intelligence Committee unveiled an interesting bill today designed to curb the wholesale online theft of America’s ideas and inventions by China, Russia and other countries.
Gen. Keith Alexander, head of Cyber Command and the National Security Agency, has estimated that the U.S. has lost $1 trillion in intellectual property in what he calls the “largest wealth transfer in history” to hacking by Chinese, Russian and other nationals. The new bill, introduced today by Reps. Mike Rogers and Dutch Ruppersberger, would allow the federal government “new authority” to share classified information with “approved American companies,” according to a joint statement from the chairman and ranking member of the committee.
The proposed legislation would “enable the private sector to share information with the government on a voluntary basis,” as has the Pentagon’s pilot Defense Industrial Base project. It would also provide companies with important liability protection if they participate. The bill was largely drafted, we understand, with the DIB as a guide.
“Economic predators, including nation-states, are blatantly stealing business secrets and innovation from private companies. This cybersecurity bill goes a long way in helping American businesses better protect their networks and their intellectual property. ” Rogers said this morning. The bill has, so far, 28 co-sponsors, including the powerful chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, Rep. Peter King. While the Senate does not have its own version of the bill yet, we understand there have been discussions between the relevant aides. We also hear some lawmakers want the bill’s authorities defined more narrowly.
There is an increasingly strong push from the White House for action to better define the interagency lines governing cyber activities, something that has bedeviled efforts to ensure effective protection for America’s networks. “The president is tired of admiring this problem. He wants to do something about it,” a White House aide reportedly said recently.
In a clear nod to the fear that an enemy could cripple the nation economically and cause chaos in the opening hours of a strike, Ruppersberger said the bill was, “a good start toward helping the private sector safeguard its intellectual property and critical cyber networks, including those that power our electrical, water and banking systems.” Always conscious of fears that the federal government might overstep its legal bounds, he said that the the bill “maintains vital protections for privacy and civil liberties” without requiring new funding or imposing any dreaded unfunded mandates.
The bill would let companies and other organizations share information anonymously or set clear limits on whom they share that information with, including the government. Finally, it would require an annual unclassified report with recommendations about how to enhance privacy and civil liberties in the cyber realm.