While watching the coverage on the current crisis in Egypt, I learned that there was a bill proposed last summer by Sens. Joseph Lieberman (I-Conn.) and Susan Collins (R-Maine) that would ultimately give the President of the United States the ability to flip the “kill switch” on internet access in an emergency situation not unlike what President Mubarak of Egypt did this past week. The bill is called “Protecting Cyberspace as a National Asset Act” and appeared to have moved effortlessly through Congress this past December but expired with the new Congress in January. Collins has vowed to bring it to the floor again in 2011.
Collins is quoted as saying “The bill is designed to protect against “significant” cyber threats before they cause damage. “My legislation would provide a mechanism for the government to work with the private sector in the event of a true cyber emergency,” Collins said in an e-mail Friday. “It would give our nation the best tools available to swiftly respond to a significant threat.” The President would be in control of this process and apparently, none of this would be subject to judicial review.
The ACLU along with several other privacy groups have formally noted their disapproval in a letter to the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Government Affairs. “It is imperative that cyber-security legislation not erode our rights,” the groups wrote last year to Congress. There is a congressional paper that addresses the myths vs. the realities of the PCNAA bill and states that our rights as citizens of the United States will not be tampered with. It also states that this bill would not give the President the rights to utilize a “kill switch” but -“ instead would bring Presidential authority to respond to a major cyber attack into the 21st century by providing a precise, targeted, and focused way for the President to defend our most sensitive infrastructure.” It does appear that kinks are still being worked out on certain aspects of this bill.
After witnessing through news coverage what transpired in Egypt the past several days, I am wondering whether you feel this bill should be passed? Should anyone in the United States have the ability to bring the internet down? Obstructing free flowing information via the internet in the United States would be economically and personally disastrous for many individuals and I am not sure if anyone truly understands the full ramifications of such a bill.
In closing, no one, not even the President of the United States, should mess with my Facebook use. 😉