The Senate Committee on Homeland Security has approved the Protecting Cyberspace as a National Asset Act (PCNAA) which gives the president authority to shut down parts of the internet during a cyber attack. An amendment has limited the president’s authority to use what has been called an internet “kill switch” to 120 days before needing Congressional approval.
Supporters of the bill claim that the president already has this authority “under a little-known clause in the Communications Act passed one month after the December 1941 attack on Pearl Harbor by the Japanese.” That is hard to believe given that no one even imagined the internet in 1941. Any such authority claimed under this 1941 law would likely be subject to legal challenges.
Senator Lieberman tried to justify the bill today on CNN talking to Candy Crowley. He made this incredible statement: “Right now, China, the government, can disconnect parts of its Internet in a case of war. We need to have that here, too.”
China interferes with access to the internet all the time, so justifying the internet “kill switch” by saying that the Chinese government has the authority is chilling to say the least.
There is the argument that the Obama administration is too incompetent to implement any censorship of the internet. Doug Powers makes this point:
I seriously doubt that anybody in government would be capable of coming up with a way to shut down Al Gore’s beloved creation to the most creative among the private sector or the most devious in the “bad-guy” realm…”
A valid point, but why risk giving so much power to the president?
Powers has a great suggestion for a better “kill switch”:
Hopefully voters use their own constitutionally provided “kill switch” on the first Tuesday this November and again two years later.