Internet kill switch would pose a clear and present danger to personal liberties

Senator Lieberman is pushing a bill which would give the president the power to shut down all internet traffic in the event of a potential cyber-attack. Besides this proverbial ‘kill-switch,’ the bill would grant broad authority to a new cybersecurity agency charged with monitoring the “security” of the nation’s computer networks, public and private. 

If that doesn’t sound Orwellian enough, just wait until you hear the Senator’s inspiration for such controversial legislation. “Right now China, the government, can disconnect parts of its Internet in case of war and we need to have that here too,” said Lieberman in a recent CNN interview

Charged with protecting the inalienable rights of individual Citizens, the legislators supporting the bill seem hellbent on eviscerating those freedoms. They aren’t even concerned with being discrete about this fact, as evidenced by the very title of the bill:  Protecting Cyberspace as a National Asset Act (PCNAA). The thing to be “protected” isn’t you or me, it’s a new type of commercial asset – “cyberspace”. 

In a blog post, former Libertarian presidential candidate Bob Barr summed up the statutory changes Lieberman’s proposal would make: 

     “PCNAA would greatly expand the federal cybersecurity bureaucracy, this time largely within the Department of Homeland Security. In particular, a new National Center for Cybersecurity and Communications (NCCC), would gain power to issue enforceable commands to any private company that “relies” on the internet. Any internet traffic or private internet system could be shut down under emergency powers granted in the legislation. These powers could be exercised if the government determines there is a vaguely-defined “incident” that even “potentially jeopardizes” any internet or communications network.” 

Federal interference in the private sector would not be limited to “emergencies.” As noted, for example, by privacy expert Declan McCullagh, the NCCC would be able to monitor the ‘security status’ of private websites and internet systems. 

In a second prong to this elaborate attack on the sovereignty of the internet, the FCC is now actively seeking regulatory control of what individuals and private businesses can, or cannot allow on their networks. CNS News describes the situation: 

     “The 3-2 party-line vote on Thursday at the FCC began the formal process of reclassifying the Internet as a telecommunications service instead of an information service – its current classification. This is necessary because, as an information service, the government has little power to regulate Internet networks. As a telecommunications service, such as a telephone network, the Internet would fall under a much broader regulatory scope – giving the government the power to enforce universal service requirements, making them pay into a federal universal service fund used to provide communications services to poor areas.” 

For the past decade, politically entrenched plutocrats – who could not otherwise consolidate and acquire competing interests – haven’t been shy about using the legal niceties of government acts and regulations to obtain monopolies on entire sectors of the private sphere. This bill is the latest in a long train of such abuses by the corporately dominated state. 

What we seem to be witnessing with the PCNAA is nothing more than a legal coup of the last bastion of free-enterprise. The government would love to get its regulatory hands on the internet for many reasons. It represents fertile ground for the free exchange of goods and ideas outside the money influence of Big Business and Big Brother (we hope). Freedom, consumer choice, unregulated commerce and uncensored news – all of the things the internet facilitates – are a threat to the waning TV news media/ retail shopping paradigm. 

If ever a piece of legislation was so overtly destructive of a free peoples’ rights, this appears to be it.