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.”