Friday, July 21, 2017

HR 3191 Introduced – Russia Cybersecurity

Last week Rep. Boyle (D,PA) introduced HR 3191, the No Cyber Cooperation with Russia Act. The bill would disallow the expenditure of any federal funds for any joint US – Russian cybersecurity initiative. This is a response to the announcement by President Trump after he returned from the G20 Summit that he and Putin had discussed forming a joint cyber-security unit to protect against election hacking.

Section 2 of the bill says simply:

“No Federal funds may be used to establish, support, or otherwise promote, directly or indirectly, the formation of[,] or any United States participation in[,] a joint cybersecurity initiative involving the Government of Russia or any entity operating under the direction of the Government of Russia.”

There are no qualifying definitions or explanations.

Moving Forward

Boyle is a rather junior member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee to which this bill was assigned for consideration. Three of his 13 Democratic cosponsors are also members of that Committee. In normal circumstances, this could provide for the possibility of the bill being considered in Committee. In this case, party membership probably trumps committee membership, so there is very little possibility of this bill being considered in Committee.


Even assuming that this is not a completely knee-jerk reaction to a “policy” announcement by Trump (as we frequently saw from Republicans during the Obama Administration) and that there are legitimate reasons to object to the specific policy proposal, the blunt wording of this proposal contains the seeds of many potential unintended consequences.

For example, if Interpol formed a task-force to take down criminal gangs operating botnets, and that unit included police from Russia (where at least some of these botnet operations are headquartered) then this bill would prohibit US participation in the effort. I highly doubt that that is what the crafters intended.

I suspect, however, that this bill (and the two others, HR 3259 and S 1544, that have not yet been printed by the GPO) was written to provide Democrats the opportunity to proclaim that they have introduced legislation opposing Trumps inopportune proposal. Even if the bill were to somehow be considered and approved by the House and Senate, it would certainly be vetoed by the President, if the unit had been a serious policy proposal in the first place (and that is an open question since the unit was proposed in a TWEET®).

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