Monday, January 24, 2011

Why trust a politician with this sort of power?

I'm seriously concerned about the renewed push for legislation to implement a 'kill switch' for the Internet. Cnet reports:

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.

. . .

Portions of the Lieberman-Collins bill, which was not uniformly well-received when it became public in June 2010, became even more restrictive when a Senate committee approved a modified version on December 15. The full Senate did not act on the measure.

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.

The idea of creating what some critics have called an Internet "kill switch" that the president could flip in an emergency is not exactly new.

A draft Senate proposal that CNET obtained in August 2009 authorized the White House to "declare a cybersecurity emergency," and another from Sens. Jay Rockefeller (D-W.V.) and Olympia Snowe (R-Maine) would have explicitly given the government the power to "order the disconnection" of certain networks or Web sites. House Democrats have taken a similar approach in their own proposals.

Lieberman, who recently announced he would not seek re-election in 2012, said last year that enactment of his bill needed to be a top congressional priority. "For all of its 'user-friendly' allure, the Internet can also be a dangerous place with electronic pipelines that run directly into everything from our personal bank accounts to key infrastructure to government and industrial secrets," he said.

Civil libertarians and some industry representatives have repeatedly raised concerns about the various proposals to give the executive branch such broad emergency power. On the other hand, as Lieberman and Collins have highlighted before, some companies, including Microsoft, Verizon, and EMC Corporation, have said positive things about the initial version of the bill.

But last month's rewrite that bans courts from reviewing executive branch decrees has given companies new reason to worry. "Judicial review is our main concern," said Steve DelBianco, director of the NetChoice coalition, which includes eBay, Oracle, Verisign, and Yahoo as members. "A designation of critical information infrastructure brings with it huge obligations for upgrades and compliance."

In some cases, DelBianco said, a company may have a "good-faith disagreement" with the government's ruling and would want to seek court review. "The country we're seeking to protect is a country that respects the right of any individual to have their day in court," he said. "Yet this bill would deny that day in court to the owner of infrastructure."

There's more at the link. Bold print is my emphasis.

Personally, I can't think of worse legislation to secure the Internet! It seems to me that the only benefits offered by this proposal are to politicians, to secure their power by preventing the free exchange of information. I can't envisage any positive results from giving a politician - who is, almost by definition, a self-serving creature of the system, willing to do anything it takes to keep his or her office - authority over 'privately owned computer systems'. To my mind, the dangers, risks and disadvantages far outweigh any possible benefit.

I say we keep the greedy, grasping hands of politicians as far away as possible from private property! That in itself is the best security we have!



Anonymous said...

I am not a lawyer, but it seems to me that the phrase "this shall not be subject to judicial review" would be unconstitutional on its face. I agree with you that giving the executive authority to shut down the Internet is a bad idea.


Anonymous said...

I agree. I don't see how 2 branches of govt can pass a law which the 3rd branch of govt can't touch. They don't have the power to do that.


Old NFO said...

This is just NOT good, for oh so many reasons...

tpmoney said...

Oddly enough, Microsoft, Verizon and EMC are all companies that would have something to gain by the federal government having unchallenged authority to shut down parts of the Internet. No wonder they support this legislation.

It's like I keep telling people that tell me how we need government regulation to keep big corporations from influencing politics, if the government didn't have the power to make such influence worthwhile in the first place, they wouldn't spend the money.

Dad29 said...

Well, in the olden days we elected statesmen to office.

That stopped around 1800.

Moshe Ben-David said...

Article III, Section 2:
All law; any legislation passed which is subservient to the Constitution, is subject to being judged by the Supreme Court. In order for it to escape judicial revue by the SCOTUS, it would have to be an amendment to the Constitution, clearly delineating what is outside the authority of the SCOTUS.

If the people tolerate this, we deserve what we get.

DanGwrite said...

Not only is it unconstitutional, it is a stupid idea. There are ways to build networks that are not accessable via the public Internet. In fact, the Internet itself is operated over such a network, as are many other things that are deemed important enough to justify the expense.