Members of the House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology disagreed on Wednesday on whether the Cybersecurity Responsibility and Accountability Act of 2016 acted as a partisan dig against former Secretary of State and current Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton and her use of a private email server.

“This bill is nothing more than a legislative window dressing for the majority’s myriad cybersecurity investigations into agencies outside the committee’s jurisdiction. This has culminated into unprecedented investigations into practices of a current major party nominee for president,” said Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson, D-Texas. “I suspect this bill is less about improving cybersecurity, and more about bolstering the case for the chairman’s investigation into former secretary Clinton’s email practices.”

Specifically, Johnson referenced a part of Section Five of the bill, which requires agency heads to have information security training that includes “steps the agency head and agency employees should take to protect their information and information systems, including not using private messaging system software or private email servers for official communications.”

“To my knowledge it has nothing to do with former secretary Clinton, it has to do with the FDIC, but thanks for the idea,” responded Rep. Lamar Smith, R-Texas, the chairman of the committee.

Rep. Don Beyer, D-Va., contended that the chairman did know that the bill did act in response to Clinton’s email server, referencing a Sept. 20 letter that the chairman had written to FBI Director James Comey on the topic, which said: “The committee is concerned that Former Secretary Clinton’s unusual server and network arrangements call for amendments to FISMA. In fact, the committee is considering an update to FISMA, the Cybersecurity Responsibility and Accountability Act, this week during a markup scheduled for September 21, 2016.”

“So Mr. Chair, I’d just suggest that you’ve been ahead of the game in considering the connection between Secretary Clinton’s emails and this bill,” Beyer said.

Other concerns with the bill were that it stepped on already legislated responsibilities of agency heads, and that the section of the bill calling for the potential firing of an agency head in the event of a hack would be prohibitive to potential employees and do little to solve the problem that caused the hack.

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Jessie Bur
Jessie Bur
Jessie Bur is a Staff Reporter for MeriTalk covering Cybersecurity, FedRAMP, GSA, Congress, Treasury, DOJ, NIST and Cloud Computing.