Should the president be given emergency powers to control the Internet in a crisis? The recent Internet shut-off in Egypt has some wondering whether legislation recently introduced by Joe Lieberman and other senators hands the government a "kill switch."
Lieberman, chair of the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, released this statement along with other senators supporting his bill, the Protecting Cyberspace as a National Asset Act:
The steps the Mubarak government took last week to shut down Internet communications in Egypt were, and are, totally wrong. His actions were clearly designed to limit internal criticisms of his government.
Our cybersecurity legislation is intended to protect the U.S. from external cyber attacks. Yet, some have suggested that our legislation would empower the President to deny U.S. citizens access to the Internet. Nothing could be further from the truth.
Activists say the Lieberman bill doesn't specifically prohibit a government kill switch, Timothy Karr of the Free Press Action Fund said,
It's good to see the senators have heard the outcry from Americans troubled by this bill, but their promises that the bill won't give the president 'kill-switch' powers aren't very reassuring. The devil is always in the details, and here the details suggest that this is a dangerous bill that threatens our free speech rights.
"The last version of the bill didn't expressly create an Internet kill switch, but it didn't expressly exclude one, either. And to make matters worse, it only required that the president 'notify' Congress before taking action, and it specifically prohibited judicial review of the president's designation of 'critical infrastructure.' In our constitutional system of checks and balances, that concentrates far too much power in one branch of government.