Joe Lieberman's Bill Would Give President Obama an Internet Kill Switch

Posted on June 18, 2010

CNET reports that Senator Joe Lieberman is the primary sponsor of an outrageous new bill that would give President Obama a "kill switch" to deactive the Internet. The new bill, called Protecting Cyberspace as a National Asset Act (PCNAA), would require private Internet companies to comply.
On Thursday, both senators lauded Lieberman's bill, which is formally titled the Protecting Cyberspace as a National Asset Act, or PCNAA. Rockefeller said "I commend" the drafters of the PCNAA. Collins went further, signing up at a co-sponsor and saying at a press conference that "we cannot afford to wait for a cyber 9/11 before our government realizes the importance of protecting our cyber resources."

Under PCNAA, the federal government's power to force private companies to comply with emergency decrees would become unusually broad. Any company on a list created by Homeland Security that also "relies on" the Internet, the telephone system, or any other component of the U.S. "information infrastructure" would be subject to command by a new National Center for Cybersecurity and Communications (NCCC) that would be created inside Homeland Security.
CNET says Sens. Jay Rockefeller (D-W.V.) and Olympia Snowe (R-Maine) have lauded Lieberman's bill, which is just unbelievable. To give any president the right to "turn off" the Internet is a ridiculous idea. The potential abuse of power is enormous. The power could be used to quash dissent, cause untold disruptions in everything from online banking to ecommerce to communications. The idea that the government would have to the power to turn it off is appalling. The federal government already has the power to shut down an individual website or network by getting a court order from a federal judge. Under the Patriot Act, these orders can be obtained very quickly in the case of a national emergency. There is absolutely no need for a "kill switch."

TechAmerica has posted an article explaining that the bill would carry unintended consequences. Foreign nations are also concerned that the U.S President would have to the power to turn off the Internet.

A PDF file for the 197-page bill can be found here. Joe Lieberman's press release about the bill can be found here.