Cyber Security Industry Alliance Newsletter •  Volume 3, Number 12  • November 2007

CSIA Congressional Spotlight


Name: Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT)

Committee assignments:
Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry Committee, Appropriations Committee, Chairman of the Judiciary Committee and Chairman of the State And Foreign Operations Appropriations Subcommittee. He is co-chair of the Senate National Guard Caucus and co-chair and co-founder of the Congressional Internet Caucus.

Juris Doctoris from Georgetown University Law Center (1964)
Saint Michael's College in Colchester (1961)

Legislative/Personal Biography
Patrick Leahy of Middlesex was elected to the United States Senate in 1974 and remains the only Democrat — and, when elected at 34, the youngest person — elected to this office from Vermont. Leahy was born in Montpelier and grew up within sight of the Statehouse. He served for eight years as State's Attorney in Chittenden County and was selected (1974) as one of three outstanding prosecutors in the United States.

In his seventh term, Leahy is the seventh most senior member of the Senate, a senior member of the Agriculture and Appropriations Committees, and Chairman of both the Judiciary Committee and the State And Foreign Operations Appropriations Subcommittee. He co-authored the Northeast Interstate Dairy Compact and the Milk Income Loss Compensation program and is the father of the national organic standards and labeling program and a variety of other farm, conservation and environmental initiatives, including ongoing efforts to protect Lake Champlain.

He wrote the charter for the first-responder grant program in 2001 and the Innocence Protection Act, enacted in 2004. He wrote the first law in the world banning the export of landmines, and the Leahy War Victim's Fund is used worldwide to help landmine victims. Patrick Leahy and his wife of more than 44 years, Marcelle Pomerleau Leahy, a native of Newport, Vt., live on a tree farm in Middlesex, Vermont.

A Conversation with Senator Patrick Leahy

How did you become interested in cyber security issues?

Patrick Leahy (PL):The Internet is a powerful tool for good, but like any technology, it also attracts criminals who see new opportunities for fraud and other abuses.  In order to protect the Internet as the essential avenue it has become for commerce, education and communication, I have worked over the years to find ways to help our law enforcement officers keep pace with these threats, so they can keep cyber crime low and the users of the Internet safe.

Cyber crime issues have been a focus of mine from the beginning.  In 1984 the Senate passed the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act to criminalize conduct when carried out by means of unauthorized access to a computer.  In 1986, we passed the Electronic Communications Privacy Act (ECPA) that I sponsored, which criminalized tampering with electronic mail systems and remote data processing systems and helped protect the privacy of computer users.  In 1994, the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act included the Computer Abuse Amendments which I authored to make illegal the intentional transmission of computer viruses. 


What are your priorities as they relate to enhancing the Internet and cyber security?


As Chairman of the Judiciary Committee I've worked closely with many other members to pass bills that help bring our laws into the information age. 

PL: As Chairman of the Judiciary Committee I've worked closely with many other members to pass bills that help bring our laws into the information age.  Just recently the Senate passed the bipartisan Identity Theft Enforcement and Restitution Act.  This bill builds on the Committee's long record of promoting innovations in Internet law enforcement while making it easier for victims of identity theft and other forms of cyber fraud to recover more quickly.

In 1995 I was the second Senator to start a website and I was one of the first Senators to start a blog, More From the Floor, which monitors the daily activities on the Senate Floor.  I've organized seminars to help Vermont businesses go online, and online commerce by now has become a significant factor in our state's commerce.  From the beginning I wanted my website to provide Vermonters with quick reliable access to the issues they find most important, and I wanted that website to be safe and secure.  I was also a co-founder and remain a co-chair of the Congressional Internet Caucus, a bipartisan group of House and Senate members who seek to promote the discussion of Internet and digital issues on Capitol Hill.


Do you see cyber security issues playing a role in Vermont and the United States?

PL: The Internet is a vital tool to all Americans that is a source of constant innovation and change.  I have enjoyed watching and being a part of this evolution, but I also understand that it is vital to adapt and change our laws to keep up with the constant changes of the online community.  Cyber issues will remain an important to Vermonters and all Americans, and I will continue to advocate for an easier, safer and more accessible Internet in the future.