The U.S. House of Representatives late Thursday passed a bill aimed at protecting America's computer networks from cyber attacks, despite the threat of a veto by President Barack Obama because of privacy concerns. Even though the measure has bipartisan support in the House, the Republican-controlled House of Representatives and the Democratic-controlled Senate have very different versions of the legislation, which could make passage of a final bill difficult.
The chief sponsors of the Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act are the Republican chairman and the ranking Democratic member of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence.
Committee Chairman Mike Rogers says the threat of cyber spying and cyber attack has grown exponentially during the past five years. "It was breathtaking the amount of intellectual property that this country is losing every single day to nation states like China," he said.
Lawmakers agree on the scope and grave danger posed by cyber espionage and potential cyber threats to critical infrastructure. But they disagree on how to address the problem.
The legislation passed by the House is designed to eliminate legal barriers by allowing government intelligence agencies and private companies to voluntarily share information about cyber threats.
But President Obama has threatened to veto the bill, if it reaches his desk because he says it does not adequately protect personal information - a view also held by Democratic leaders in the Senate and civil rights organizations. The president supports a Senate measure that would put the Department of Homeland Security in charge of overseeing domestic cyber security.
Democratic Representative Bennie Thompson agrees with the president and opposes the House bill. "At the end of 'cyber security week' [this week], America will remain without a comprehensive national strategy that bears cyber security efforts in one domestic agency and protects the privacy rights of American citizens," said Thompson.
Some House Republicans say that private companies should not be forced to share data that might relate to cyber threats with the government.
Republican House Speaker John Boehner says President Obama wants the government to control the Internet.
"The White House believes the government ought to control the Internet, the government ought to set standards and the government ought to take care of everything that is needed for cyber security. They are in a camp all by themselves because whether it is private industry, whether it is other parts of the government, [they] understand that we cannot have the government in charge of our Internet," he said.
The more sweeping cyber security legislation in the Senate is seen by some Republicans as too intrusive because it would require companies to set standards for protecting their cyber infrastructure. Analysts say Democrats lack the votes to bring the bill to the Senate floor for a vote - a reflection that Republicans and Democrats have strong differences on how big a role government should play in regulating private companies.