Bipartisan Security Act in Senate

Monday, May 13, 2013 @ 11:05 AM gHale

A group of senior senators across both aisles proposed a new law last week to combat computer espionage and the theft of valuable commercial data from U.S. companies.

The four senators — Democrats Carl Levin and Jay Rockefeller and Republicans John McCain and Tom Coburn — joined to launch the Deter Cyber Theft Act.

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The proposed law aims to combat the theft of intellectual property from U.S. companies, which spend billions in research and development only to end up targeted by foreign firms and countries that illegally access their data and use it to compete against them.

General Keith Alexander, head of the U.S. National Security Agency and commander of the U.S. Cyber Command, called the growing problem the “greatest transfer of wealth in history.”

China stands accused of being the biggest culprit in theft attempts against U.S. companies. American lawmakers have said U.S. companies suffered estimated losses in 2012 of more than $300 billion due to trade-secret theft, much of it due to Chinese cyber espionage.

Levin, chairman of the Armed Services Committee, said the new law would help protect American businesses and innovation.

“We need to call out those who are responsible for cyber theft and empower the president to hit the thieves where it hurts most — in their wallets, by blocking imports of products or from companies that benefit from this theft,” Levin said.

McCain, a powerful voice in the Senate on armed services and foreign affairs issues, said the bill would give President Barack Obama authority to target those who try to benefit from cyber crime.

A divided U.S. Congress has not approved much legislation in recent years, given a string of partisan fiscal battles.

But with lawmakers on both sides of the aisle acknowledging cyber security is a rising concern, this bipartisan measure could draw plenty of interest.

A senior Democratic aide described cyber security as a “huge priority” for Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid.

The proposed act would require the Director of National Intelligence to compile an annual report that includes a list of nations that engage in economic or industrial espionage in cyberspace against U.S. firms or individuals. It would include a priority watch list of the worst offenders.

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