A new bill in the US Senate would, if passed, create a "kill switch," allowing for the government to shut down or control parts of the internet. There's no way this can go wrong!
The legislation, sponsored by human-skinned lizard Joe Lieberman, is formally called the Protecting Cyberspace as a National Asset Act, or PCNAA. It states that any ISP, search engine or software firm that the government selects "shall immediately comply with any emergency measure or action developed" by the Department of Homeland Security.
Under PCNAA, the Federal Government's power to force private companies to comply with emergency decrees would become unusually broad. Any company on a list created by Homeland Security that also "relies on" the internet, the telephone system or any other component of the US "information infrastructure" would be subject to command by a new National Center for Cybersecurity and Communications (NCCC) that would be created inside Homeland Security.
The only obvious limitation on the NCCC's emergency power is one paragraph in the Lieberman Bill that appears to have grown out of the Bush-era flap over wiretapping without a warrant. That limitation says that the NCCC cannot order broadband providers or other companies to "conduct surveillance" of Americans unless it's otherwise legally authorised.