U.S. Policymakers Politicize Cyber Security

WASHINGTON—Congress last week passed legislation designed to protect Americans from HealthCare.gov data breaches.

House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va) led the campaign in support of the newly drafted “Health Exchange Security and Transparency Act of 2014” (HESTA), the creation of which was inspired by a series of Congressional hearings following the HealthCare.gov debacle last year.

The act passed the house 291-122, with 67 Democrats joining the Republicans.

HESTA declares that, two days following the discovery of any security breach pertaining to the Obamacare website, the Secretary of Health and Human Services must get in contact with each and every individual whose personal information may have been compromised.  In this sense, the bill seeks to protect healthcare consumers and make the government more accountable for safeguarding people’s personal information.

HealthCare.gov, the United States’ effort to provide health insurance options to millions of uninsured Americans, became all but non-functional after its October 1st, 2013 launch due to high traffic and coding glitches.  Since December 1st, it has operated more reliably, but some worry that an untold number of potential customers have been scared away by the site’s bad press.

What is unfortunate about HESTA, however, is that, as in many situations, politics come first.

Specifically, Democrats, not to mention The White House, view the act as the Republicans’ latest attempt to challenge and ultimately repeal Obamacare.  The Obama administration, for instance, has pointed out that the federal government has measures in place not only to protect healthcare consumers’ personal information online, but also mechanisms to alert people in the event of security breaches involving federal websites.

Supporting the bill risks conceding ineptness on the part of The White House and the Democratic Party.  As a result, it is anticipated that a significant number of Democrats will oppose HESTA when it reaches the Democrat-controlled Senate.

This is a disappointing revelation, especially in the same week that defense officials named cyber attacks as the biggest threat to American national security.  Clearly, cyber security has become a serious concern in some government circles.  Yet it has failed to do so in the minds of policymakers.

HESTA, not to mention The White House’s long-overdue decision to cut ties with CGI Federal, the company which built HealthCare.gov and, after it launched a faulty website, received additional funding to fix its mistakes, reveals an important point:  the Obamacare website is first and foremost a failure of political will, responsibility, and cooperation.

As long as policymakers are willing to use or oppose issues of security for political gain, cyber security, and with it the American people’s interests, will continue to get lost in the crossfire on Capitol Hill.

Dave BissonDavid Bisson | @DMBisson

Bio: David is currently a senior at Bard College, where he is studying Political Studies and writing his senior thesis on cyberwar and cross-domain escalation.  He also works at the Hannah Arendt Center for Politics and Humanities at Bard College as an Outreach intern.  Post-graduation, David would like to leverage his extensive journalism experience as well as his interest in computer coding and social media to pursue a career in cyber security, both its practice and policy.

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