Monday, July 31, 2017

S 1544 Introduced – Cyber Coordination with Russia

Earlier this month Sen. Klobuchar (D,MN) introduced S 1544, the No Funds for Cyber Coordination with Russia Act of 2017. This is one of three bills (others: HR 3191 and HR 3259) written by Democrats in response to President Trump’s brief statement of support (and quickly withdrawn support) for a joint US-Russian cybersecurity unit.

Background Information

The bill includes a great deal of background information before it gets to the meat of the matter. It includes broadly written definitions of ‘cybersecurity’ and ‘cybersecurity unit’ that are, in turn based upon the following definition of ‘cyberspace’ {§2(4)}:

“The term ‘‘cyberspace’’ means the global domain within the information environment consisting of the interdependent network of information systems infrastructures (including the Internet, telecommunications networks, computer systems, and embedded processors and controllers).”

Section 3 of the bill sets forth the purpose of the bill:

“The purpose of this Act is to protect United States cybersecurity and critical infrastructure by preventing the President from establishing a cybersecurity unit in coordination with the Government of the Russian Federation, a known foreign adversary.”

Section 4 of the bill outlines a series of ‘findings of Congress’ that deal with the intelligence community’s assessment of Russian governmental involvement in a wide variety of cyber-attacks against the US, including their meddling in the 2016 US presidential election.

The Prohibition

Section 5 of the bill provides a very succinct statement of prohibition of funding, very similar to that found in the other two bills:

“No Federal funds may be used to establish a cybersecurity unit, or any variation thereof, in cooperation or connection with the Government of the Russian Federation.”

Section 7 of the bill even sets forth the conditions under which the provisions of this bill will no longer apply; the President certifies to Congress that the government of the Russian Federation has:

• Ceased ordering, controlling, or otherwise directing, supporting, or financing acts intended to undermine democracies around the world; and
• Submitted a written statement acknowledging interference in the 2016 United States Presidential election.

Moving Forward

While Klobuchar is not a member of the Senate Foreign Affairs Committee (to which this bill has been assigned for consideration), four of her 14 co-sponsors {Sen. Cardin (D,MD), Sen. Markey (D,MA), Sen. Shaheen (D,NH), and Sen. Merkley (D,OR)} are. This means that would normally be possible for the four to ensure that the bill was considered in Committee. With a bill as politically pointed as this one, however, there is little or no chance that the Republican leadership will allow the bill to be considered in Committee, and certainly not on the floor of the Senate.


Of the three bills submitted to date on this topic, this one was the most professionally written. This one shows the type of legislative crafting one expects to see in a bill worthy of consideration (if not necessarily passage). While the prohibition in paragraph 5 is as broadly worded as the similar statements in the other two bills, the remainder of the bill would provide enough evidence of specific congressional intent that most judicial reviews of the provisions would have no difficulty in separating out purely police activities of a cyber nature that might involve Russian police cooperation from the more politically charged cybersecurity joint venture proposed by Trump.

Note that Klobuchar has submitted a proposed amendment to HR 2810 (SA 655) that would attempt to accomplish the same purpose, but it is missing the background information portions of this bill. That would bring it more in line with more crassly political standards set in the two bills that were introduced in the House.

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