A plan about 16 months in the making to give the President powers to shut down the Internet may have just died an early death thanks to the events in Egypt. According to supporters of the bill, the purpose was to protect US interests from cyberattacks, although critics say it goes too far and could be a threat to free speech.
In Egypt, the Mubarak regime shut down the Internet in the country in an effort to curtail the organization efforts of anti-government protesters. That hasn’t worked too well, and Internet connections were restored in the country this morning. The effort seems to have shone new light on “kill switch” efforts here.
Senators behind the bill–Connecticut’s Joseph Lieberman, Maine’s Susan Collins, and Delaware’s Tom Carper–aren’t too happy with the Egypt comparisons. “We would never sign on to legislation that authorized the President, or anyone else, to shut down the Internet,” they said in a joint statement. “Emergency or no, the exercise of such broad authority would be an affront to our Constitution.”
The president already has the authority to shut down radio communications providers, but the laws are vague. The senators argue more specificity is need to prevent abuses of this power. Second, they point out that the president could only authorize such actions in the most extreme of circumstances — while still being mindful the action is not violating free speech rights.
Either way, Mubarak’s actions have put the three Senator’s efforts in a bad light. While the bill may have good intentions, I don’t see the necessity for such action. Plus if worse comes to worse, the government is going to do what it needs to do, law or not.
What are your feelings on giving the government such power? Is it a wise idea to have some type of way to shut things down in an attack, or is a case of government overreach? I’d be interested in hearing from you, and I’m sure there is going to be diversity of opinion on this one.