Skip to comments.Committee Passes Plan for Internet ‘Kill Switch’ in Egypt..no.. in U.S.
Posted on 01/29/2011 11:38:27 AM PST by American Dream 246
Pending legislation that would grant the President of the United States the power to pull the plug on the countrys internet access in a declared emergency returned to the forefront this week on the same day Egyptians faced a nation-wide blackout designed to curtail widespread government protests. Egypt flipped its so-called kill switch will the U.S.?
The bipartisan bill is sponsored by Maine Sen. Susan Collins, the ranking Republican on the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee. The bill called The Protecting Cyberspace As A National Asset Act of 2010 S.3480 was approved by a Senate panel this week.
S. 3480 would create a new government agency called the National Center for Cybersecurity and Communications. The NCCC would have sweeping powers to control the Internet, including the ability to shut down the web for a 30-day period. Considering that at least 60% of Americans get their daily news fix from the Internet, this is a staggering proposal.
Blaze writer Mike Opelka also notes that groups such as the ACLU see this proposed legislation potentially giving the President a giant kill switch for the Internet. Before the bill moves to the Senate floor for a vote, the ACLU has formally noted their disapproval.
While Collins insists her bill would not grant the president the same powers as Egypts Hosni Mubarak has exercised this week, many are wondering what kinds of implications the measure would have on Americans freedom.
Many in the high-tech world join the ACLU in questioning the bill as well.
PC Magazines Dan Costa warned Friday that the United States must learn from Egypts state-sponsored denial of service attack on its citizens. The surprising thing isnt that a corrupt, authoritarian regime would launch this kind of state-sponsored denial off service attack on its own citizens. Nor that it is willing to jeopardize its economy by cutting its businesses off from world markets. No, the thing that surprises me is that the U.S. government has plans for its own Internet Kill Switch, Costa wrote.
The legislation was first introduced last summer by Sens. Joseph Lieberman (I-Conn.) and Susan Collins (R-Maine), and the former has promised to bring it to the floor again in 2011. It isnt called anything as obvious as the Internet Kill Switch, of course. It is called the Protecting Cyberspace as a National Asset Act. Who could be against that? Anyone whos watching the news on TV today, thats who.
The proposal calls for the Department of Homeland Security to establish and maintain a list of systems or assets that constitute critical cyber-infrastructure. The President would be able to be able to control those systems. He or she would have ability to turn them off. The kicker: none of this would be subject to judicial review. This is just a proposal, mind you, but it certainly warrants concern. Particularly given the heavy-handed example being provided by Egypt.
The bill, co-sponsored by Sen. Joe Liebermann, I-Conn., previously sailed through the Homeland Security Committee just before the 111th Congress ended, and will have to be reconsidered in the new 112th Congress.
Intended to protect the country against significant cyber threats, Sen. Collins says the bill would provide a mechanism for the government to work with the private sector in the event of a true cyber emergency.
It would give our nation the best tools available to swiftly respond to a significant threat, she added.
An aide to the Homeland Security committee described the bill as one that does not mandate the shuttering of the entire internet. Instead, it would authorize the president to demand turning off access to so-called critical infrastructure where necessary.
An example, the aide said, would require infrastructure connected to the system that controls the floodgates to the Hoover dam to cut its connection to the net if the government detected an imminent cyber attack.
Whats unclear, however, is how the government would have any idea when a cyber attack was imminent or why the operator wouldnt shutter itself if it detected a looming attack.
About two dozen groups, including the American Civil Liberties Union, the American Library Association, Electronic Frontier Foundation and Center for Democracy & Technology, were skeptical enough to file an open letter opposing the idea. They are concerned that the measure, if it became law, might be used to censor the internet.
It is imperative that cyber-security legislation not erode our rights, (.pdf) the groups wrote last year to Congress.
On Friday, executives with London-based Vodofone came under scrutiny after admitting they had complied with the Egyptian governments request to shut down internet and mobile phone access in Egypt. According to a report from the Wall Street Journal, Vodofone Group CEO Vittorio Cola expressed concern with the state-ordered blackout, but the company determined that the request was legitimate under Egyptian law, and therefore complied with the request.
In addition, Al Jazeera reported that protesters on Friday destroyed Vodafone stores in Cairo, among other locations tied to the ruling regime.
In the meantime, Costa insists that such a kill switch initiative could be devastating for the United States not just because of the real impact on individual liberties, but also because of widespread economic ramifications:
The U.S. telecommunication industry is much more complex and far more decentralized [than Egypt's]. To do something similar in the U.S. would require a lot more than four phone calls. There are simply too many connections inside the nation already for them to be silenced. Also, since our economy is more dependent on the Internet obstructing the free flow of information would be disastrous. Still, the push for a U.S. Internet Kill Switch is here, but no one understands the consequences.
The fact is, no one in the U.S. should ever have the right or the ability to take the Internet offline. As an editor of a purely online publication (we made the switch from print a few years ago), its very clear to me that freedom of the press relies more than ever on the Internet. No one in the U.S.or anywhereshould have the right to shut it down.
'The Elitist Protection Act'
Thank you. I’m all over that.
Thanks for the correction. You're right, of course.
If the US does get a internet kill switch...we will have nothing else to do but riot. The internet keeps us somewhat calm and occupied. Could you imagine what would happen if they just cut it off...people would freak out, all at one time and in all different directions. It would be crazy and I wouldnt want to be the one that has to tell everyone that your internet has been taken away. I think the World of Warcraft players would be freaked out the most
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