|Congress may sneak through Internet ‘kill switch’ in defense bill|
|Published on 08-29-2010||Email To Friend Print Version|
A federal cybersecurity bill that critics say creates a presidential "kill switch" for the Internet could be added on to a defense spending bill and passed without much debate, technology news sources report.
Sen. Thomas Carper (D-DE), one of the sponsors of the Protecting Cyberspace as a National Asset Act, told GovInfoSecurity.com that the Senate is considering attaching the bill as a rider to a
defense authorization bill likely to pass through Congress before the
"It's hard to get a measure like cybersecurity legislation passed on its own," Carper said.
Carper, along with Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-CT) and Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME), introduced the bill in June in an effort to combat cyber-crime and the threat of online warfare
and terrorism. Critics say the bill would allow the president to
The bill (PDF) states that Internet service providers, search engines and other
Internet-related businesses "shall immediately comply with any
But many observers point out that that doesn't necessarily amount to a "kill switch" -- and, in fact, the president already has the power
to shut off the Internet. As Time magazine points out,
Yet the proposed law authorizes the president to declare "cyber emergencies" -- potentially expanding the president's power to shut down the Internet to times when the US is not technically at war.
And even some backers of the proposed legislation argue the bill is too broad and vague, and the powers granted to the executive branch could be unpredictable as a result.
A summary (DOC) of the bill issued by Sen. Lieberman's office describes the powers granted to the president:
The bill "authorizes the president to declare 'cyber emergencies,' without spelling out what would happen next," states an editorial at the Scranton Times-Tribune. "It is certain that the Internet will be a prime means of
communication during an emergency. Given the history of the government
Security expert and Cryptography Research CEO Paul Kocher describes the bill as a "Rorschach blot -- on one level it's absurd, and on others it's impractical and frightening."
Kocher said, "When you build something that will shut down a massively critical piece of infrastructure that people have tried to
make reliable, that's a more frightening prospect than anything that
GovInfoSecurity notes that the House of Representatives passed a version of the defense authorization bill last spring that included
cyber-security measures. If the Senate follows suit, a final version of