By Jim Kouri
Senate Republicans recently blocked cybersecurity legislation, but the issue might be revived by the White House, a federal law enforcement official told the Law Enforcement Examiner on Monday.
The Obama administration officials haven’t forgotten the power of an executive order signed by their boss that could be used to address cybersecurity if the Senate and House of Representatives fail to pass the requested bill.
The wide-reaching legislation, if it had passed, would have given government law enforcement and security agencies power to make decisions regarding the digital defense of critical infrastructure companies against cyber attacks. The Republican senators claimed they were uneasy about giving Washington even more power over the private sector.
“Many corporate security directors believe their own businesses are better able to protect themselves from cyber attacks. If the government wishes to assist, the Obama administration can offer grant money to upgrade cybersecurity programs,” said Thomas Whelan, a former corporate security director now a business consultant during a telephone interview on Monday.
The Democrat majority needed 60 votes to advance the bill to the Senate floor for an official vote, but a motion filed by Majority leader Harry Reid to force a vote failed in a vote of 52-46.
Republican lawmakers were also opposed to the bill for fear that the government will only increase costs for companies running the country’s critical infrastructure without actually reducing the threat of cyber attacks or helping to minimize cyberspace destruction.
If President Barack Obama issues an executive order on cybersecurity, it wouldn’t be the first time that he issued an executive action to bypass Congress, according to security director William Fitzgerald.
When lawmakers in both houses of Congress could not agree on the so-called DREAM Act that would bestow legal status on students illegally living in the United State, Obama announced Immigration and Customs Enforcement and the Homeland Security Department would cease deportations of young immigrants who would have been able to remain in the U.S. had the bill passed.
“Many companies managing vital computer systems are already heavily regulated, so it would be a giant leap for the President to order government agencies to require the industries they regulate to meet his cybersecurity standards,” said Fitzgerald.