Obama signs $1.1 trillion spending package for controversial cybersurveillance bill

Obama approves CISA surveillance legislation included in the spending package of a massive $1.1 trillion

A $1.1 trillion spending package was signed by the President Barack Obama on Friday, which prevents a government shutdown and funds the United States funded through September 2016. The 2,000-page budget also includes the controversial Cybersecurity Information Sharing Act (CISA).

“There’s some things in there that I don’t like, but that’s the nature of legislation and compromise, and I think the system worked,” the president said at his year-end news conference at the White House, reported the Associated Press. “It was a good win.”

House Speaker Paul Ryan, a Republican of Wisconsin, had inserted the CISA into the Omnibus Appropriations Bills in a bid to prevent lawmakers from putting a procedural hold on the CISA bill and block it from a vote.

In a surprise, the House overwhelmingly approved the measure in a 316-113 vote. The bill which was later backed by the Senate in a 65-33, was sent to President Barack Obama, who signed it into law on Friday afternoon.

The uneven House vote was also a major victory for new Speaker Ryan, as he was able to get a majority of the votes of the House GOP conference – 150 Republicans.

The White House is “pleased” that Congress included a final version of the Cybersecurity Information Sharing Act in the spending bill, said a senior administration official.

The separate versions of the bill passed by The House and Senate earlier this year aims to help prevent breaches of consumer data by offering legal protections to incentivize companies to share information about threats to their networks with the government and other businesses.

“The president has long called on Congress to pass cybersecurity information-sharing legislation that will help the private sector and government share more cyber threat information by providing for targeted liability protections while carefully safeguarding privacy, confidentiality and civil liberties,” the official says.

The spending bill includes many of the increases Obama has demanded all year, with Republicans getting a big enhancement for the military and an end to a ban on exporting US crude oil for the first time in 40 years.

The $680 million tax package includes tax breaks for college tuition, renewable energy such as solar and wind power, and breaks for low-wage earners. The bill also includes troop pay raises and forbids the transfer of Guantanamo Bay detainees to the United States.

Obama also signed into law a large cybersecurity bill, as part of the budget negotiation, which has been lashed by opponents as an expansion of government surveillance. Labeled the Cybersecurity Act of 2015, it is in fact a combination of three bills passed by Congress over the year, including the often-criticized CISA.

Senator Ron Wyden (D- Oregon), a leading opponent of CISA and government surveillance in general voted “no” on the omnibus bill.

“These unacceptable surveillance provisions are a black mark on a worthy package that contacts the biggest tax cut for working families in decades, an accomplishment I fought for in weeks of negotiations,” Wyden said in a press release.

“Unfortunately, this misguided cyber legislation does little to protect Americans’ security, and a great deal more to threaten our privacy than the flawed Senate version. Americans demand real solutions that will protect them from foreign hackers, not knee-jerk responses that allow companies to fork over huge amounts of their customers’ private data with only cursory review.”

According to Wyden said that the violations of Americans’ privacy will go unnoticed, as the latest CISA bill contains fewer oversight and reporting provisions than the Senate version did. He said that is now easy especially for the CIA to refuse to cooperate with the Board’s investigations, as the bill strips authority from the independent watchdog on government surveillance, the Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board.

“Reducing the amount of independent oversight and constricting the scope of the PCLOB’s authority sends the wrong message and will make our intelligence agencies less accountable,” Wyden said.

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