Here’s The Red Button That Nukes The Commies… Here’s The Switch That Kills The Internets

Max Fisher at The Atlantic has a round-up

Megan Gibson at Time:

A proposed bill could effectively give the president an Internet “kill switch.”

Senator Joseph Lieberman has proposed the Protecting Cyberspace as a National Asset Act (PCNAA), a bill that would give the president the power to control or even shut down the Internet in emergency situations. Citing the need for cybersecurity, Lieberman said in a press release that the U.S.’s “economic security, national security and public safety are now all at risk from new kinds of enemies — cyber-warriors, cyber-spies, cyber-terrorists and cyber-criminals.”

The bill requires that U.S.-based companies such as Google and Yahoo, as well as broadband providers and software firms, comply with any and all measures that the government sees fit in an emergency.

Because there are few limits on the president’s emergency power, which can be renewed indefinitely, the densely worded 197-page bill (PDF) is likely to encounter stiff opposition.

TechAmerica, probably the largest U.S. technology lobby group, said it was concerned about “unintended consequences that would result from the legislation’s regulatory approach” and “the potential for absolute power.” And the Center for Democracy and Technology publicly worried that the Lieberman bill’s emergency powers “include authority to shut down or limit Internet traffic on private systems.”

The idea of an Internet “kill switch” that the president could flip is not new. A draft Senate proposal that CNET obtained in August allowed 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.

On Thursday, both senators lauded Lieberman’s bill, which is formally titled the Protecting Cyberspace as a National Asset Act, or PCNAA. Rockefeller said “I commend” the drafters of the PCNAA. Collins went further, signing up at a co-sponsor and saying at a press conference that “we cannot afford to wait for a cyber 9/11 before our government realizes the importance of protecting our cyber resources.”

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 U.S. “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 warrantless wiretapping. That limitation says that the NCCC cannot order broadband providers or other companies to “conduct surveillance” of Americans unless it’s otherwise legally authorized.

Michael Suen at Geekosystem:

Redditors are pissed, to say the least. A top link on Reddit, titled “From all non-US Internet users; f#%k you Joe Lieberman,” has received over a thousand upvotes as of this post’s initial publication.

The idea is nothing new. Last year, Senators John Rockefeller (D-W.Va.) and Olympia Snowe (R-Maine) drafted a bill that would allow the government to “order the disconnection” of parts of the web. During a congressional hearing last year, Rockefeller famously posed the question, “Would it had been better if we’d have never invented the Internet?” (Answer: No.), and expressed his support for Lieberman’s proposal. The last one didn’t go through, and neither will this.

Internet to Lieberman: We are too big for, yes, even the United States of America. The federal oversight required to effectively manage an Internet shutdown would be colossal. The financial consequences, including expenses for both government and business parties, unthinkable. Just think if the government shut down Wall Street, Reuters, or god forbid, 4chan: It’d be hell on earth!

You can track the bill’s progress inevitable fail on Open Congress.

Ben Domenech at New Ledger:

If you’re curious about the details of the so-called “internet killswitch,” check out this piece, where TNL’s own Bruce Henderson laid out the details last year:

Translation: the US government bureaucracy will be spending your tax dollars to figure out private networks, find choke points and places where they can control the flow of communication. Furthermore, companies (such as your ISP) are going to be required, by law, to supply the federal bureaucrats with whatever network, account, usage and history information they deem appropriate. All in the name of cyber safety, you see.

If that were not enough of an outrage, the bill also establishes federal indoctrination and certification for cyber security professionals. It would require companies that the executive branch deemed “critical” to adopt restrictions on who it could hire to work with network security to a limited pool of those who had undergone government training and certification. You might assume from this that the private sector was completely lacking in any certification or training in cyber security. In fact there is a robust and growing business (aka a “free market”) for this type of training that the government would now control and regulate.

The body of this bill continues to reflect a basic lack of understanding of the technology behind the internet. It is not just a series of “tubes” that are connected end to end. There is no good place for the government or any other body to put a spigot that will allow them to “turn it off”. Many companies and organizations are connected through multiple network channels, using independent physical network paths and independent network service providers.

Read the whole thing.


WHAT COULD GO WRONG? Internet ‘kill switch’ would give President power to shut down the web. If they shut down the Internet, I’m getting out my gun. And I think everyone should take it as a signal to do the same — because one way or the other, it means the country’s under attack.

Stewart Baker:

Suddenly the Internet is full of chatter about Senator Lieberman (and Collins and Carper) proposing an “Internet kill switch.” It’s the one issue that Huffington Post and Drudge have agreed on in months: there’s a kill switch coming and they don’t like it.

Personally, any time the left and the right get together to complain about government, I reach for my wallet. As I describe in Skating on Stilts, that’s the same civil liberties coalition that screwed up TSA’s passenger screening and then blamed TSA.

And sure enough, this is the same old antigovernment malarkey. Recycled malarkey, actually. The notion of an Internet kill switch was first circulated about an entirely different bill proposed by a different Senator from a different committee. Now it’s become a bumper sticker slogan rolled out whenever anyone proposes doing anything to fix our computer security crisis.

The fact is that our entire computerized economy is balanced on a knife edge (or, if you like, it’s skating on stilts). It could be attacked by many countries today. And there’s evidence that both the risk of attack and the scale of the damage it would cause are growing all the time. There’s an Internet kill switch all right, but it ain’t in Washington. It’s in Beijing and Moscow. And soon in Pyongyang.

The Lieberman-Collins-Carper bill, which might take the kill switch away from our foreign adversaries, will soon have bipartisan support in the House. It gives the President basic authority to respond to an attack on our power, phone, and financial systems.

Brian Donovan:

“He can cause too much damage,” said Richard Litner, State Senator from Tampa, FL, “we’ve got to be able to shut him down during an emergency.”

After Senator Joe Lieberman proposed a bill yesterday that would give the President the ability to “kill” the Internet in case of emergency, an important counter proposal began circulating the nation: a Joe Lieberman kill switch. “We’re not saying we would kill Joe,” Litner continued, “just incapacitate him so he can’t do anything stupid, like try to strip American citizenship from anyone suspected of terrorism or, you know, run for office again.”

“Basically we’re talking about a long deep nap,” detailed Sarah Kamen of Kamen Technology. “We can insert a small chip in Senator Lieberman’s brain that will shut down any activity, preventing him from worsening whatever crisis is currently occurring. After it’s over, you can wake him up again.” The technology that Kamen developed is similar to that used for the electric fences that keep dogs from leaving their owner’s property “It turns out Senator Lieberman has brain patterns very similar to a Golden Retriever, or perhaps a very dim Basset Hound.” “Also,” Kamen adds, “the chip may give Joe a small shock as he’s put into rest mode, which will act as a deterrent from future misbehavior.”

Concern over Lieberman’s reckless desires to legislate are being felt abroad as well. “I met Joe once,” remembers King Abdullah of Jordan. “He’s a crazy motherfucker. I can’t believe you people almost made him the Vice President! I think about that every night before I go to sleep. Probably why I started drinking again… ”


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