CISPA Passes in the House after Surprise Vote

Washington – The plan was for the debate on the controversial Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Actto take place on Thursday, with the vote the next day. As it turns out, the legislation came to a surprising vote after the debate tonight, eventually passing in the House by a vote of 248-168.

The bill’s passage, despite a veto threat from the White House Wednesday, now places the responsibility in the lap of the Senate, which has its own cybersecurity legislation in the works.

Just 28 Republicans voted against the bill, joined by 140Democrats.

CISPA is built as a mechanism to provide a greater degree of information sharing between the federal government and private companies, from Facebook to antivirus software providers, so that information regarding upcoming threats and ongoing hacking efforts can be spread through the community.

CISPA passed with a series of additional amendments, many of which have been outlined previously, including one from Rep. Ben Quayle (R-Ariz.) bringing cybersecurity crimes, the threat of harm or death to an individual and protection against child pornography under the bill’s umbrella. Those responsibilities are in addition to the sharing of cybersecurity and protecting national security. For more details on the bill, click here.

The largest sticking point with CISPA has consistently been the contention that its intentions could be used beyond its purpose of protecting the United States from malicious hacking attempts, and in doing so infringe on civil liberties, and that data given to the government by private companies could be improperly handled, resulting in a violation of privacy for those who can be tied to said data.

Several Democrats in the House brought their concerns to the floor while the bill was still up for debate. Rep. Jared Polis (D-Colo.) brought up the possibility of the bill’s purview of “national security” being applied to political activists deemed to be extremist, on either sides of the political aisle.

Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.) presented an amendment to limit the control of information obtained through CISPA to solely civilian agencies, removing the possibility of the National Security Agency’s involvement with the bill.

And Rep. Hank Johnson (D-Ga.) went so far as to say “I know it’s 2012, but it feels like 1984 in this House.”

Rep. Dutch Ruppersberger (D-Md.), the ranking member of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence and main Democratic driving force for the bill, celebrated its passage.

“This is not just a victory on the House floor. This is victory for America,” he said. “Our nation is one step closer to making a real difference protecting our country from a catastrophic cyber attack. This shows what can happen when Democrats and Republicans work together for the good of our country.”

Republican leadership has strongly been in favor of the bill, with Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) writing a letter Tuesday echoing his support and saying the White House was “in a camp all by themselves” in its opposition.