January 31st, 2011
The news of Egypt’s crackdown on Web access is raising new concerns over a
comprehensive cybersecurity bill that critics claim gives the president a “kill
switch” for the Internet.
Sens. Susan Collins (R-Maine) and Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.) recently indicated
they plan to re-introduce their bipartisan legislation,
which passed the Senate Homeland Security Committee last year only to get mired
in a standoff with Senate Commerce Committee members over which panel should
have oversight of civilian cybersecurity.
Civil rights advocates such as the ACLU also raised concerns about the bill,
which they claim gives the president the ability to shut down the Web in the
event of a catastrophic cyber-attack.
Specifically, observers are concerned the new version of the bill will
reportedly not allow for judicial review when the administration shuts down a
network under attack.
Those concerns have been heightened by the Egyptian government’s move this
week to cut off communications amid ongoing protests against the regime of
President Hosni Mubarak. Both the U.S. government and Web firms like Facebook
have criticized the move.
“Those in Congress who have proposed an ‘Internet Kill Switch’ for the U.S.
should realize the danger of their proposal now that Egyptian President Mubarak
has flipped such a switch to stifle dissent in Egypt,” said Berin Szoka,
president of the libertarian think tank TechFreedom.
“This incident also demonstrates a more subtle point: Maintaining the rule of
law in times of crisis demands judicial review for the president’s decision to
designate something a ‘critical asset’ subject to government diktat in the name
of protecting ‘cybersecurity.’ ”