As though dug out of Dick Cheney's playbook, Sen. Jay Rockefeller is currently in the process of revising a bill which would grant the White House unfettered powers to disconnect private sector computers from the internet in the case of a cyber emergency.
The bill, which the West Virginian senator has spent months crafting behind closed doors, would grant the Federal Government the ability to have private computers removed from the internet in the event of a cyber emergency, similar to the authority the Government has to ground all aircraft (much like President Bush did on Sept. 11th). The Bill also calls for the creation for a federal certification program for cyber professionals as well as mandate that certain computer systems and networks be managed by people whom have said certification.
When he originally proposed the bill in April, Sen. Rockefeller stated that the bill was necessary to "...protect our critical infrastructure at all costs--from our water to our electricity, to banking, traffic lights and electronic health records." It is widely believed that he dreamed up this amazing violation of our civil liberties after watching Live Free or Die Hard.
So what is the problem with the bill being proposed by the good Senator Rockefeller...?
In May, President Obama stated that the government was not prepared to handle a cyber emergency but for us not to worry as a special Cyber security guru was going to be appointed to shore up our cyber defenses. Three months later, the position remains unfilled. So for the Federal Government to be forced to take a good long look at ways of insuring the stability and safety of our cyber superhighway is maybe not the worst idea in the world.
But senior staff attorney for the Electronic Frontier Foundation, Lee Tien, has a few issues with the bill...
"As soon as you're saying that the federal government is going to be exercising this kind of power over private networks, it's going to be a really big issue... The language [in the rewritten bill] has changed but it doesn't contain any real additional limits. It simply switches the more direct and obvious language they had originally to the more ambiguous (version)...The designation of what is a critical infrastructure system or network as far as I can tell has no specific process. There's no provision for any administrative process or review. That's where the problems seem to start. And then you have the amorphous powers that go along with it."
If your company is deemed "critical," a new set of regulations kick in involving who you can hire, what information you must disclose, and when the government would exercise control over your computers or network... and there is nothing you can do about it.r
For regular Americans, this should be a spine chilling warning shot across the bow. Yet another bill, attempting to be passed under the cover of dark, puts our personal liberties in direct risk of being censored in the name of national security.
Living in a free society comes with certain risks that we, the free people, assume. The ability to do business and conduct our personal affairs without the meddling eyes of a bloated Federal Beaurocrasy intent on controlling everything it comes in contact with is guaranteed in our nation's founding documents. And moves such as this one, despite the best intentions of the law makers involved in the measure, do nothing more than place the security of our precious freedoms in direct danger of being taken from us under the guise of "security". Remember what the Democrats were screaming about when it came to Bush's security measures (the Patriot Act)... How vague, all empowering laws [such as these] are but a tyrant away from stripping us all of our freedoms??? Do we really think it is a good idea to give Federal Authorities the ability to control the internet (and any content within it they may find to be dangerous)???
It's as though we didn't learn anything from the last we didn't learn anything from the last eight years... Just because the guy running things is different, does not mean that those risks change...