Congress May Sneak Through Internet ‘Kill Switch’ in Defense Bill

Sunday, August 29, 2010


Imagine a time in the near future when President Obusha is buffeted by falling poll numbers. Public criticism of his administration is wide spread. What does he do in response? How about flip a switch and shut down the entire Internet, effectively silencing his critics?

A cybersecurity bill sponsored by Sens. Thomas Carper, Joe Lieberman and Susan Collins would create what critics say would give President Obusha a “kill switch” for the Internet could be added on to a defense spending bill and passed without debate, according to a technology news report.

Sen. Thomas Carper (D-DE), one of the sponsors of the Protecting Cyberspace as a National Asset Act, told GovInfoSecurity.com that the Senate is considering attaching the bill as a rider to a defense authorization bill is likely to be approved by Congress before the mid-term elections in November.

“It’s hard to get a measure like cybersecurity legislation passed on its own,” Carper said.

Carper, along with Sens. Joe Lieberman (I-CT) and Susan Collins (R-ME), introduced the bill in June in an effort to combat cyber-crime and the threat of online warfare and terrorism. But, critics say the bill would allow the president to disconnect Internet networks and force private websites to comply with sweeping cybersecurity measures. Future U.S. presidents would have those powers renewed indefinitely.

Defenders of the proposed law claim the proposed law doesn’t amount to a “kill switch” and citing the fact that the president already has the power to shut off the Internet. Time magazine points out the Communications Act of 1934 grants the president the power to shut down wire communications during a time of war, and the Internet is now recognized as a wire communication medium.

Which begs the question, if the president already enjoys such draconian powers, why is the proposed law needed at all? Could it be the legislation authorizes the president to declare “cyber emergencies,” greatly expanding the president’s power to shut down the Internet at times when the U.S. is not technically at war?

The bill “authorizes the president to declare ‘cyber emergencies,’ without spelling out what would happen next,” according to an editorial in the Scranton-Times Tribune. “It is certain that the Internet will be a prime means of communication during an emergency. Given the history of the government over-stepping even constitutional constraints during such times, the bill’s sponsors should retool it to be more specific.”

Cryptography Research CEO Paul Kocher, a security expert describes the bill as a “Rorschach blot — on one level it’s absurd, and on others it’s impractical and frightening.”

Kocher said, “When you build something that will shut down a massively critical piece of infrastructure that people have tried to make reliable, that’s a more frightening prospect than anything that could have inspired such a defense. It’s a very blunt weapon.”

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16 Responses to Congress May Sneak Through Internet ‘Kill Switch’ in Defense Bill

  1. joost says:

    It just gets better and better.

  2. Woodcliffe says:

    Remember the days when Democrats were known as the party that expanded and protected the rights of Americans?

    Now, the Democrats are every bit as awful as the GOP.

  3. Miss Courtet says:

    The president could veto the bill but he won’t.

    After all, this is a man who voted for FISA I and FISA II and even said neither bill goes far enough. Even a centrist Democrat would have to take exception to such language.

  4. Joe in Colorado says:

    Time Magazine is right. If the 1934 Communications Act gives the Executive Branch the authority to shut down the internet in war times, there is no overriding reason for passage of this terrible bill which only expands presidential powers. The best democracy is one with a limited Executive Branch. Otherwise, you end up with tyranny. Even Bush admitted this fact.

  5. Big Hank says:

    But you know there is still a large number of O-bots who will argue this bill is necessary and we need to trust President Obama to not throw the switch unless we’re under attack.

    The problem is, do we really want so much power in the hands of any president? I know I don’t.

    This was the principle object to the so-called USA Patriot Act One and USA Patriot Act Two.

  6. Aunt Peg says:

    I have a longtime friend from Wilmington, DE who calls Sen. Tom Carper “Sen. Tom Crapper.”

    She dislikes him because he voted against a robust public option during the healthcare debate preferring a states rights approach to the public option. My friend and her husband promise to vote against Carper when his term expires. Wait until I tell her about this bill!

  7. R.J. says:

    I do not want to see this bill passed but you already know my Republictard congressman and Sen. Feinstein will vote for it anyway.

  8. fran says:

    Change I can’t believe in.

    Apparently the saying holds true:

    Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.

    Obama is a Constitutional scholar– how could he violate free speech in this way?

  9. Prairiedog says:

    I’m not familiar with Sen. Tom Carper but since the measure is an add-on to a defense spending bill, it’s unlikely it won’t become law.

    The thing that just pisses me off is, after 9/11, how come it’s the American people who keep seeing our rights and privileges taken away? The 19 hijackers who crashed those airplanes 9 years ago were Saudi Arabians — not Americans but, we keep paying the price courtesy of morons in the senate like Carper.

  10. Mike Tidmus says:

    Hey! It works in Pakistan and Iran.

    And wouldn’t you just know it would have Demo-quisling Joe Lieberman’s filthy paw prints on it?

  11. Adirondacky says:

    Barry and Joementum are buddies. Barry spent 2009 kissing Susie Q’s butt on healthcare. This Carper guy I don’t know but Aunt Peg seems to have his number. I wonder what it will take for Barry to flip the switch and shut the blogoshere down? I think you guys need to explore other options like getting off the US grid.

  12. Jolly Roger says:

    I tell you now-get a shortwave radio. If worse comes to worst, Reconstitution will take to the air. Different nights, different channels.

  13. Estacada says:

    I remember after the Branch Davidian hit ordered by Bill Clinton people discussing the “total control” goals of the Feds against ordinary citizens. This was years before before 9/11 and I dismissed the chatter as just extremist clap-trap from the far right fringe.

    The irony is, with 9/11 as their justification, the left is now indistinguishable from the right.

  14. Jolly Roger says:

    It is, in my opinion. to refer to the present President as the “left.” He wasn’t, he isn’t, and he ain’t gonna be.

    A lot of the rumors surrounding Obama are laughable bullshit. This one, not nearly so much. This isn’t the first time I’ve heard this.

  15. Jolly Roger says:

    Should have said, MISTAKEN to refer to the present President as the “left.” That guy would have been a Rushpubliscum in 1970.

  16. TOM339 says:

    I have no inside track but I have to wonder if this bill has Obama’s fingerprints on it?

    I mean, he’s a smart man — Harvard educated, and he knows if he had proposed such a power grab himself, his critics on the right would label him a Brownshirt or a fascist.

    Best to let Sens. Carper, Lieberman and Collins do the heavy lifting.

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