Obama Mulling Executive Order to Get Cybersecurity Act of 2012 Passed?

It seemed like a crucial battle was won to stop the Cybersecurity Act of 2012 for a little while, but now reports are surfacing suggesting that Obama might simply sign an executive order to have his own version of either the Cybersecurity Act of 2012 (Senate version of the legislation) or CISPA (Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act – house version of cybersecurity legislation). The news will no doubt anger Obama supporters who also believe that these bills are not compatible with their privacy rights.

Note: This is an article I wrote that was published elsewhere first. It has been republished here for archival purposes

We’ve been following the Cybersecurity Act of 2012 for a few weeks now. At the end of last month, the Cybersecurity Act of 2012 was making its way through the senate. Many amendments were filed that would have stripped out several controversial provisions such as using the guise of cybersecurity to record potential future crimes that had nothing to do with cybersecurity at all.

The bill still remained controversial with digital rights advocates who worried that the bill could get some ISPs to begin blocking anonymizing services such as TOR and VPN proxies. That point is disturbing for many who value their privacy. People who operate these services know full well that services like Tor can be valuable and life saving for people who are, say, risking their lives or livelihoods to relay sensitive, yet critical and vital information about oppressive governments to journalists for instance. I’ll leave it up to your imagination to determine which governments I am talking about as there’s more than one right answer there.

After making a rather bizarre turn into the abortion debate, the legislation died on the senate floor after it failed to gain a critical cloture vote that would allow the bill to proceed. Activists claimed victory at that moment. They knew that one of the latest threats to the American people’s privacy was thwarted for now. While everyone knew that this was one battle that was won, it’s unlikely that very many would have predicted at just how short lived the victory would be.

A report from Network World is saying that President Obama might be currently mulling signing an executive order to get a version of the cybersecurity legislation passed. From the report:

President Barack Obama is signaling that if Congress won’t act on cybersecurity legislation, he will implement the elements he considers essential by executive order.

That prospect gets mixed reviews from cybersecurity experts.

Stewart Baker, writing for The Volockh Conspiracy, said: “It is hard to fix bad laws with an executive order, but in this case I’m not sure it can’t be done.”

But David Inserra of the Heritage Foundation argues that an executive order “eschews such open debate and instead imposes the president’s will with its weaknesses unmitigated by the legislative back-and-forth.”

Depending on what could come out of this executive order remains to be seen, but the possibilities of some of the more controversial provisions in either CISPA or the Cybersecurity Act of 2012 will no doubt not sit well with privacy advocates like Demand Progress who are amongst many who have fought against the more controversial provisions for some time now.

For those that think that President Obama is a believer of human rights and would never pass anything that violates basic civil liberties need to remember that this is the same president Obama that signed a law that would allow for the indefinite detention of American citizens without trial or charge last New Years eve. The only thing that’s really stopping those laws from being used currently is a lawsuit that is seeking a permanent injunction against the indefinite detention provisions – a lawsuit that the Obama administration is vigorously fighting against right now.

Since debate could be tossed out of the picture altogether, the only thing Americans can do at this point (that I’m aware of at any rate) is to see what is to come out of this executive order should Obama actually do something like this. What could possibly be in such an executive order is pretty much anybodies guess at this stage.

Drew Wilson on Twitter: @icecube85 and Google+.

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