A US Senate committee today
approved an expansive cyber security bill
that many fear could harm the Internet. The legislation can now move on to the Senate floor for a vote, where it will likely pass. Some have suggested the bill would allow the President to shut down parts of the Internet in the event of a terrorist attack. The so-called Protecting Cyberspace as a National Asset Act is backed by several Senators, but Joseph Lieberman has been perhaps its staunchest supporter.
Backers of the legislation say that there is no provision for an "Internet kill-switch" as some have warned. Instead the bill only expands existing powers of the President to close "any facility or stations for wire communication" in case of war. The main purpose of the law would be to establish a centralized White House Office for Cyberspace Policy. Through this office, network operators could be ordered to implement emergency response plans in the event of attack. We suppose that could mean shutting something down, but the bill is unclear.
The vagueness of the bill is what concerns civil libertarians and security experts so much. It's true the bill would expand executive authority over communication infrastructure, but it is not entirely clear what is covered. There may not be a straight up "Internet kill-switch" in the bill, but we can't help but feel a little fretful about it. Where do you come down?