Three U.S. senators denounced the Egyptian government for shutting down Internet services in that nation while defending their proposed cyber-security bill that would give the president authority to take over computer networks and systems.
who want to give the president power to shut down the Internet denounced
Egypt's president for essentially doing the same thing.
steps the Mubarak government took last week to shut down Internet communications
in Egypt were, and are, totally wrong," said Senators Joseph Lieberman of
Connecticut, Susan Collins of Maine, and Tom Carper of Delaware in a joint statement
on Feb. 1. "His actions were
clearly designed to limit internal criticisms of his government," the
plan to reintroduce last spring's "Protecting Cyberspace as a National Asset Act
cyber-security bill that would hand control of non-governmental computer
systems over to the president during a "national cyber-emergency."
president declares a cyber-emergency, the Department of Homeland Security could
"issue mandatory emergency measures necessary to preserve the reliable
operation of covered critical infrastructure," according to the bill's summary
prepared by the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee
which Lieberman chairs.
bill, Homeland Security would maintain the list of critical infrastructure.
Computer systems, such as servers, Website and networking routers, would be
included on the list if the disruption of the system could cause "severe
economic consequences," is a "component of the national information
infrastructure" and the national information infrastructure depends on its
"reliable operation," according to the bill.
While the term
"kill switch" does not exist in the legislation, the description of what the
president can do includes ordering critical computers, networks and Websites to
be disconnected from the Internet, according to the public version of the bill.
Previous drafts proposed in 2009 were more explicit, giving the executive
branch the power to "order the disconnection" of certain networks or Websites,
according to the Electronic Frontier Foundation
One section of
the bill reads as if the government could force the carriers to disclose
certain types of non-communications data as part of the emergency measures.
controversial language in the bill, the senators said the proposed legislation
was intended to protect the country from "external attacks" and that any
exercise of "such broad authority" to "deny U.S. citizens access to the
Internet" would be an "affront to our Constitution."
bill does not empower the president to order U.S. Internet service providers to
turn off Internet access, the senators said. The Egyptian government reportedly
called the five largest telecommunications companies in the country to shut
down Internet services on Jan. 27 in response to mass demonstrations against
President Hosni Mubarak's 30-year rule. Services were restored after five days
of Internet blackout on Feb. 2.
"already contains protections to prevent the President from denying Americans
access to the Internet," even as it protects the "most critical services that
rely on the Internet," according to the senators.
whether the Department of Homeland Security was better equipped to handle
cyber-security than companies like AT&T, Verizon, Microsoft and Google,
which already spend billions of dollars securing their systems each year,
industry watchers were more concerned the draft bill banned judicial review.
Steve DelBianco, director of the NetChoice coalition, companies would not be
able to challenge in court whether their systems should be designated as
critical information infrastructure. While the company can appeal the emergency
orders to the DHS secretary, the courts are explicitly prohibited from getting
involved under the bill.
currently has broader powers under the Communications Act of 1934 than sought
by the Internet emergency bill, according to the senators. That Act authorizes
the president to take over or shut down wire and radio communications in the
event of or the threat of war. The senators called the law a "crude
sledgehammer" and a "recipe for encroachments on privacy and civil liberties."
bill would ensure such broad authority is not used, because the measures apply
only to the "most critical infrastructure," they said. Even though the
president could act independently of the courts, the president would be
required to notify Congress of the act, and would not be able to continue the measure
beyond 120 days without Congressional approval, the senators said.
latest draft of the bill doesn't repeal the section of the 1934 law giving the
president such broad powers. In fact, the way the legislation is worded, this
bill would give the chief executive additional authority.
light of the controversy, the senators pledged to "ensure" that any future legislation
contains "explicit language prohibiting the President from doing what President