Just consider that for a moment. Republicans are so intent on creating another failure for the Obama administration that they're holding up what everybody is calling a critical national security bill. Because when it fails, they can point at Obama and say he didn't do anything to protect our nation's critical infrastructure from cyber attacks. Yes, they are that cynical.
Like the House CISPA bill, the Senate Cybersecurity Act sets up a system for private companies and the government to share information when they believe a national cybersecurity threat is involved. That includes information that could contain the personal data of ordinary web users. Unlike the House bill, the Senate bill contains some protection for private citizens, including requirements that personal identifying information be obscured, and data deleted after it is evaluated. The Senate bill also has at least some language suggesting that maybe it'd be a good idea if private industry would at least consider meeting some standards to protect itself.
Which the Chamber of Commerce finds absolutely unacceptable, and has apparently led Republicans to demand that the already voluntary compliance by industry of minimum security standards be left out entirely. And now, as we've been predicting, the big fight is over civil liberties and privacy; how easily government can get access to our private online data and what they can do with and whether it ends up in the hands of the military and intelligence agencies or domestic law enforcemement.
Meanwhile, Sen. John McCain is trying to weaken privacy protections, allowing private companies to share information about their customers directly with the National Security Administration. Democrats, however, are trying to strengthen civil liberty protections even more. Sen. Patrich Leahy (D-VT) has an amendment that would require the government to get a search warrant, based on probable cause, whenever it wanted access to a private citizen's email. Sen. Ron Wyden wants to offer an amendment requiring law enforcement to get a warrant before getting geolocation data from private cellphones.
At this point, with all these competing amendments, Republican obstruction could actually trump national defense. The cloture vote set for Thursday might actually fail. But, in case it doesn't, the threat of those privacy thrashing amendments, and the potential further damage that could be done to erode those protections in conference with the House still make this bill too dangerous.