U.S. Senate bill would give Obama emergency control of Internet

123inkjets.com - Printer Ink, Toner, & More!“Internet companies and civil liberties groups were alarmed this spring when a U.S. Senate bill proposed handing the White House the power to disconnect private-sector computers from the Internet,” Declan McCullagh reports for CNET.

“They’re not much happier about a revised version that aides to Sen. Jay Rockefeller, a West Virginia Democrat, have spent months drafting behind closed doors,” McCullagh reports. “CNET News has obtained a copy of the 55-page draft of S.773, which still appears to permit the president to seize temporary control of private-sector networks during a so-called cybersecurity emergency.”

McCullagh reports, “The new version would allow the president to ‘declare a cybersecurity emergency’ relating to ‘non-governmental’ computer networks and do what’s necessary to respond to the threat. Other sections of the proposal include a federal certification program for ‘cybersecurity professionals,’ and a requirement that certain computer systems and networks in the private sector be managed by people who have been awarded that license.”

McCullagh reports, “Probably the most controversial language begins in Section 201, which permits the president to ‘direct the national response to the cyber threat’ if necessary for ‘the national defense and security.’ The White House is supposed to engage in ‘periodic mapping’ of private networks deemed to be critical, and those companies ‘shall share’ requested information with the federal government. (‘Cyber’ is defined as anything having to do with the Internet, telecommunications, computers, or computer networks.)”

McCullagh reports, “If your company is deemed ‘critical,’ a new set of regulations kick in involving who you can hire, what information you must disclose, and when the government would exercise control over your computers or network.”

Full article here.

MacDailyNews Take: Hoo boy. Remove the politics by simply plugging in whomever you consider to be the worst U.S. president (past, present, or future) and imagine him/her with an Internet kill switch. Suffice it to say, we cannot adequately express in words how vehemently opposed we are to the concept of this bill.

One additional note: Please take a look at the “Related articles” below. U.S. Department of Homeland Security says Windows is vulnerable to attack, two weeks after awarding their department’s enterprise agreement to Microsoft which they admitted they did due to a combination of laziness and cheapness. Subsequently and inevitably, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s border screening system then crashes due to Microsoft’s Windows vulnerability to attack – as predicted by, yes, you guessed it, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. Later, their computers are infiltrated multiple times via Microsoft software flaws. This is but one example. The lists of idiocy and inefficiency in government departments, practices, and programs are endless.

Regardless of the party in power, government is inherently inept.*

*Excluding the U.S. military (not including military procurement; i.e. $640 toilet seats, which, of course, only serves to further illustrate our point).

[UPDATE: August 30, 2009, 5:11pm EDT: Added U.S. military exemption note in reponse to certain readers’ feedback below.]

227 Comments

  1. Hmm… The fundamental concept is sound. It is similar to emergency powers available to the government to contain outbreaks of communicable diseases. No doubt this implementation is severely broken and massively overreaches.

  2. MDN is absolutely correct:

    Take your pick:
    – Imagine G.W. Bush with this power.
    – Imagine Obama with it.
    – Imagine Reagan with it.
    – Imagine Clinton with it.

    Don’t like what the bloggers or mainstream media are saying? Flick the switch.

    Imagine if Clinton had the power to pull the plug on the ‘Net when Drudge broke the Lewinsky story!

    Sheesh, this is too horrible for words.

    Figures a Democrat wrote it.

    West Virginia must have banned Orwell’s “1984” way back when.

  3. No doubt an “emergency” is any digitally constructed and disseminated message big brother does not approve. The next step is ridding the nation of that pesky free press and free expression nonsense. Who needs independent thought when the government is more than willing to enforce the party line?

  4. Not having read the actual bill….and…understanding that NO bill EVER emerges as LAW without serious modifications…the spirit of the idea is reasonably sound. Who would you trust to protect our national cyber infrastructure should a massive attack of some kind come from a malevolent source? The companies themselves? AOL? Comcast? Microsoft? Network Solutions?

    The idea of a sort of “internet martial law” actually has SOME merit if it serves to protect an undeniably vital form of communication for both government and business. We can’t possibly know the kind or level of attacks that the future might hold so…I think blind opposition is foolish. Any bill of this type, BEFORE it becomes law will need to pass muster with a wide array of technology companies. If the experts in those companies are persuaded that both the intent and real function of the law is to ably protect a vital national resource then I’m ok with it. Aren’t you?

Reader Feedback

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.