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Big Brother to Control YOU on the Internet

Posted on June 17 2010 4:00 pm
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Just when you thought it couldn’t get any worse – unless you watch “Glenn Beck” every day – a bill is making its way through Congress that would give the President of the United States the authority to seize control of the world wide web in response to a “national cyber emergency.”  It would also establish new federal bureaucracies with new powers to regulate the Internet.

The bill, entitled ‘‘Protecting Cyberspace as a National Asset Act of 2010,’’ is a pet project of Connecticut Senator Joe Lieberman, with very strong support from Senator Jay Rockefeller, a West Virginia Democrat and chairman of the Senate Commerce Committee.

Who gets to declare a national cyber emergency under this bill?

The President may issue a declaration of a national cyber emergency to covered critical infrastructure (Section 249 (a)(1))

Who gets to decide what constitutes “covered critical infrastructure?” It is defined as including any component of the “national information infrastructure,” which essentially  means all portions of the Internet not already owned or licensed by the federal government, that appears on the prioritized critical infrastructure list established by the Secretary of Homeland Security. (Sections 3 and 241)

The bill would create two new Internet czars in the Executive Branch, with the titles of “Director of Cyberspace Policy” and “Director of National Center for Cybersecurity and Communications.”  The Director of Cyberspace Policy would have the authority to establish and oversee a “National Strategy” for information security and resiliency.

The Director of National Center for Cybersecurity and Communications would have the authority to regulate  the “national information infrastructure,”  which by definition means the power to regulate the private sector firms operating the Internet. For example, the Director would have the authority to require private firms to report “incidents” that “might indicate an actual or potential cyber vulnerability.” (Section 246(c))  The term “incidents” is defined broadly in Section 3 of the legislation to include, among other things, a “threat of violation of acceptable use policies applicable to information infrastructure.”

The Director of National Center for Cybersecurity and Communications would also have the authority to

assess and evaluate cybersecurity standards and guidelines issued by private sector organizations, recognized international and domestic standards setting organizations, and Federal agencies… [and] recommend changes to, the standards and guidelines…for securing the national information infrastructure (Section 247 (b)))

“Recommend” in federal government parlance is equivalent of making an offer that you cannot refuse.

Pursuant to any information that the Director of National Center for Cybersecurity and Communications receives from any source “regarding cybersecurity threats, vulnerabilities, and incidents” that may affect the private sector “national information infrastructure,” pursuant to regulations that he or she establishes, the Director shall have:

the sole, unreviewable discretion [to] determine what, if any, steps are necessary or appropriate to address any problems or deficiencies identified (Section 251(d)(3)

Lest you think that this legislation is only about technical security problems rising to a national security emergency, think again. This represents a huge transfer of power from the private sector, which has operated the most dynamic and freest Internet in the world, to the federal government.  The First Amendment is at stake.

Just consider the mentality already evident in the Obama administration.  President Obama’s choice to head the White House Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs, Cass Sunstein, supports suppression of free speech on the Internet. Sunstein believes the Internet should be regulated to ensure that “falsehoods” are not disseminated. He said that “[A] ‘chilling effect’ on those who would spread destructive falsehoods can be an excellent idea.” To that end, he proposed a “notice and take down” law that would require bloggers and service providers to “take down falsehoods upon notice.”

Do we really want to give these guys even more power?  Not if we want to preserve our freedoms and the Constitution that protects them.

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