the Internet can be dangerous

Speaking of royal proclamations, a bill has been introduced which would give the president the ability to turn off the Internet:

...the point of the proposal is to assert governmental control only over those "crucial components that form our nation's critical infrastructure."

Portions of the Lieberman-Collins bill, which was not uniformly well-received when it became public in June 2010, became even more restrictive when a Senate committee approved a modified version on December 15. The full Senate did not act on the measure.

The revised version includes new language saying that the federal government's designation of vital Internet or other computer systems "shall not be subject to judicial review." Another addition expanded the definition of critical infrastructure to include "provider of information technology," and a third authorized the submission of "classified" reports on security vulnerabilities.

The idea of creating what some critics have called an Internet "kill switch" that the president could flip in an emergency is not exactly new.

A draft Senate proposal that CNET obtained in August 2009 authorized the White House to "declare a cybersecurity emergency," and another from Sens. Jay Rockefeller (D-W.V.) and Olympia Snowe (R-Maine) would have explicitly given the government the power to "order the disconnection" of certain networks or Web sites. House Democrats have taken a similar approach in their own proposals.

Lieberman, who recently announced he would not seek re-election in 2012, said last year that enactment of his bill needed to be a top congressional priority. "For all of its 'user-friendly' allure, the Internet can also be a dangerous place with electronic pipelines that run directly into everything from our personal bank accounts to key infrastructure to government and industrial secrets," he said.

Damned right the Internet can be dangerous. We all know that. But granting the president the ability to shut it down is even more dangerous.

The last time I worried publicly over whether the government could shut down the Internet, I was told by commenters that that was the sort of thing could not happen.

So I'm probably being paranoid.

So never mind!

posted by Eric on 01.24.11 at 11:01 PM


As I read this last night, they're also saying that there will be no judicial review of what they can shut down.

Erring on the side of paranoia is usually the way to bet.

Veeshir   ·  January 25, 2011 8:25 AM

It's an emergency provision, and as such, doesn't lend itself to judicial review. The ability to act fast and decisively is most critical when averting or containing a national disaster.

Given the President's oath to protect this nation and its people, he would press this button if there was supportive legislation, and he would press it if there wasn't, taking any heat after the fact. We all know that. Further, we would all expect him to act in the face of catastrophic internet-related events.

If we would all expect that, it makes sense to codify with clear parameters.

Ross   ·  January 25, 2011 6:15 PM

Why would someone need to turn off the internet?
If gov't sites are being attacked, can't they shut down their own sites?
If IBM's site is hacked, they handle it, why would the gov't need to get involved?


Just me being paranoid again.
But am I paranoid enough?

Veeshir   ·  January 27, 2011 10:26 AM

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