Tuesday, January 25, 2011

The Kill Switch

A controversial bill handing President Obama power over privately owned computer systems during a "national cyberemergency," and prohibiting any review by the court system, will return this year.

Internet companies should not be alarmed by the legislation, first introduced last summer by Sens. Joseph Lieberman (I-Conn.) and Susan Collins (R-Maine), a Senate aide said last week. Lieberman, an independent who caucuses with Democrats, is chairman of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee.

...

The revised version includes new language saying that the federal government's designation of vital Internet or other computer systems "shall not be subject to judicial review." Another addition expanded the definition of critical infrastructure to include "provider of information technology," and a third authorized the submission of "classified" reports on security vulnerabilities.

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For their part, Lieberman and Collins say the president already has "nearly unchecked authority" to control Internet companies. A 1934 law (PDF) creating the Federal Communications Commission says that in wartime, or if a "state of public peril or disaster or other national emergency" exists, the president may "authorize the use or control of any...station or device."

"There is a little-known codicil in the Faber College constitution which gives the dean unlimited power to preserve order in time of campus emergency." -- Animal House

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