Speaking on the floor of the U.S. Senate on Monday evening, Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR) highlighted the "understandable fear" driving legislation like the Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act (CISPA), but cautioned that the "gross negligence" of network operators is no reason to create "a Cyber Industrial Complex" that profits on Americans' private data.

"It is a fundamental principle of cyber-security that any network whose failure could result in loss of life or significant property should be physically isolated from the Internet," he said. "Unfortunately many of our critical network operators have violated this principle in order to save money or streamline operations. This sort of gross negligence should be the first target in any cyber-security program - not the privacy of individual Americans."

CISPA, which passed the House in April thanks to party-line support by Republicans, would overwrite existing privacy laws to allow the National Security Agency (NSA) to act as an information sharing hub for corporate networks, placing a military agency in charge of Americans' private data, ostensibly for the monitoring of potential cyber-threats.

Legislation which would accomplish the same ends has been offered by Sen. John McCain (R-AZ), while a competing version that would instead impose baseline security requirements on network operators has been put forward by Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-CT).

But for Wyden, who's long been one of the Senate's greatest champions of Internet freedom, neither bill sounds appetizing.

"Congress could target this behavior with yet another rulebook and bureaucracy, creating a cyber-security contractor full-employment program, but I am not yet convinced that this is a problem that requires such a solution," he said Monday evening. "At the same time Congress should not allow our critical network operators to ignore best practices with impunity. It is vital that they understand that any liability for a preventable cyber attack is their responsibility - there will be no government bail-out after the fact."

Wyden added: "As they stand, these bills are an overreaction to a legitimate fear. The American people will respond by limiting their online activities. That's a recipe to stifle speech, innovation, job creation, and social progress. I believe these bills will encourage the development of a cyber security industry that profits from fear and whose currency is Americans private data. These bills create a Cyber Industrial Complex that has an interest in preserving the problem to which it is the solution."

He concluded that both bills represent a "false choice" between security and privacy.

"Our job is to write a cyber-security bill that protects Americans’ security and their fundamental right to privacy," Wyden said. "There is no sound policy reason to sacrifice the privacy rights of law abiding American citizens in the name of cyber-security and I will fight any legislation that asks this Senate to make that choice."

This video was published to YouTube on Monday, May 21, 2012.


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