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Privacy concerns unite Montana lawmakers

During an election year, it's hard to find issues that politicians from different parties agree on.

The latest in a series of bills raising concerns about online privacy, the Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act, passed a House vote on Thursday, 248-168, though Montana's Washington representative did not support the bill.

CISPA would open relationships between government intelligence agencies and private corporations in an attempt to fight "cyber threats. "

Supporters say the new provisions are necessary to prevent intelligence leaks and situations like the Wikileaks controversy of 2010.

"The private sector owns and operates most of the networks under assault. So instead of imposing new mandates, or having government agencies monitor or police private networks, (CISPA) helps private-sector job creators defend themselves and their users," House Speaker John Boehner wrote in Investor's Business Daily.

Opponents worry about the wording being far too vague and open to abuse, granting agencies such as the FBI or National Security Agency unprecedented access to private information online. Facebook is a supporter of the bill.

Montana Rep. Denny Rehberg, R-Mont., was one of 28 Republicans to vote against the bill in Thursday's vote, breaking with the 206 who voted for it.

"After hearing from Montanans who shared their serious concerns about CISPA with me, it became very clear that, although the intention of this legislation — to protect U. S. businesses from cyber attack, exploitation and theft — is good, it is approached in a way that is a huge risk, " Rehberg said in a statement this morning.

"Folks simply don't trust the Obama administration to do the right thing when it comes to their personal liberty, and I can't say I blame them. That's why it's a risk I'm not willing to take.

"When it comes to the Constitution and our rights to privacy, it's important we err on the side of the American citizen and not on behalf of the federal government. And that's why I voted against extending the Patriot Act, and it's why I voted against this legislation today, " Rehberg said.

Sharing Rehberg's lack of trust — the Obama administration said the president would likely veto the bill if it gets to that point.

Rehberg's opponent in this fall's Senate race, Sen. Jon Tester, D-Mont., is similarly skeptical of the bill.

"Jon won't support any legislation that infringes on individuals' rights or places unnecessary regulations on the Internet, " Andrea Helling, Tester spokeswoman, said. "Jon believes it is important that we remain vigilant against cyber threats, but we must protect our civil liberties. Based on Montanans' response to the House's federal land grab bill (House Resolution 1505), it's clear we don't take kindly to federal overreach. "

Even Baucus, unfettered by election year posturing, is suspicious of the bill.

"I am carefully reviewing the legislation that will come before the Senate next month. I will not support any legislation that infringes on Montanans' privacy or encourages federal overreach. "


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