Bill Would Give The President Control Of The Internet During a "Cybersecurity Emergency"

Illustration for article titled Bill Would Give The President Control Of The Internet During a "Cybersecurity Emergency"

A revised version of a bill first introduced in the Senate this past spring would give the President power to disconnect private sector computers from the internet in the event of a "cybersecurity emergency."

The new version would allow the president to "declare a cybersecurity emergency" relating to "non-governmental" computer networks and do what's necessary to respond to the threat. Other sections of the proposal include a federal certification program for "cybersecurity professionals," and a requirement that certain computer systems and networks in the private sector be managed by people who have been awarded that license.


Section 201 of the bill also seems to imply that the government can reserve the right to regulate "critical" private networks, which could include the disclosure of information.

Probably the most controversial language begins in Section 201, which permits the president to "direct the national response to the cyber threat" if necessary for "the national defense and security." The White House is supposed to engage in "periodic mapping" of private networks deemed to be critical, and those companies "shall share" requested information with the federal government.

Naturally, there has been a lot of debate on both sides of the issue—some are calling the redraft unsettlingly "vague" while others insist that a bill of this nature is essential in order to protect our nation's digital infrastructure. What do you think? Is this crossing the line or should the government have the right to exercise its power over private networks? [CNET]



Look, I tried being civil, and even now, try not to take offense, but really, are you all paranoid idiots?. Furthermore, did you read the article?

There seem to be a few main misconceptions surrounding this bill that have many of you with you panties in a bunch. Let's go through them.

The first is that Obama himself introduced this idea and is requesting this power. There is nothing in this article that in any way indicates that he is involved with this, or even supports this. In fact, the only time he is referenced is in the picture. From this article alone, there is no basis (other than your own paranoia) to say Obama is trying to consolidate power in the Executive Branch or turn the country into scene out of 1984.

The second is that by passing this bill the president will be able to pull the plug on your internet access any time he/she wants to, thereby infringing on your Fist Amendment right to freedom of speech. Another is that this bill grants the Executive Branch the power to spy on your online activities. Again, had you read the article you would have noticed that these are not true. Your blog (unless you for some reason are posting US military secrets) is not "critical" private network, and is not in any way important to the security of the country, and as such it will not come under government control or scrutiny under this bill (although I'm sure it's a very interesting blog). Do not worry about your freedoms of speech, had Obama cared so much about people speaking out against him, he would have censored Fox News a long time ago, just as Bush would have censored, well, pretty much every major media outlet except Fox by the end of his terms.

The third, which is related to the second, is that this bill gives the president complete control over the internet, it's users, and it's information. Again, as those who read the article pointed out, this is not true. This bill proposes giving the president temporary, emergency control over select private servers in the case of an attack, similar to how the government can take emergency control of airports, TV stations, roads, cities, borders, etc., during a national security emergency (for example, the airports were closed for a week after 9/11). These are servers with information that is not government information but is deemed important to national security. Good examples would be data stored on the servers of defense contractors, financial institutions, companies who do government-sanctioned business in Iraq, or any other websites without a .gov at the end but still containing information potentially harmful in the hands of a hostile nation or group. It will not allow the president to deny you access to Gizmodo, /b/, RedTube, etc., and I honestly don't think that the government cares about restrictign your ability to post LOLcats on Facebook.

So I hope this clears a few things up. Please, stop saying Obama is "giving himself more power". This bill is sponsored by a Senator, the president has not expressed any opinion either way, and it's a long way, a long shot, and a lot of rewrites off from being a law. It won't cut off your access to the internet, unless you're tying to hack into servers filled with information pertinent to the security of the country, in which case I hope they do cut off your internet. It also won't let the government censor you or deny you access to certain websites because you disagree with them, as Twitter and YouTube tend to not be places for the storage of next-gen missile guidance systems. I'm not saying I support everything this bill entails, i still think it need a lot of clarification and specification, but generally I think it's a good idea for National Security measure in the 21st century.