The Obama administration’s “kill switch” for the Internet is being brought up before Congress again. Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME) plans to re-introduce the legislation to the Homeland Security Committee very soon.
With the news out of Egypt including stories about Hosni Mubarak shutting off Internet access across the country, this idea would seem to carry far too many echoes of that kind of abuse of power. Would Obama’s kill switch go as far as Mubarak’s?
Collins says her bill would not grant the President the same powers as Mubarak, according to Wired News. Based on its description, that is entirely true. What it can do is still a matter of considerable debate.
Obama’s “kill switch” would grant the President the ability to order turning off “critical infrastructure” when deemed necessary. This would apply to such systems as dam floodgate control systems facing cyber attack.
Nearly two dozen civil rights groups ranging from the American Civil Liberties Union and the Electronic Frontier Foundation to the American Library Association have all voiced concerns about the legislation. It could be used to censor access to different parts of the Internet, they fear.
What’s definitely unclear about the “Obama kill switch” is why it’s necessary. Cyber attacks are very real, but why not make sure the systems the government is most worried about have their own built-in security methods to react to them?
Interestingly, the Congressional white paper on the original bill said the government would be specifically prohibited from using the kill switch “based solely on activities protected by the First Amendment of the United States Constitution.” This language may seem familiar.
The last time that phrase was floated, it was on the Patriot Act as part of the needs test for the government to permit wiretapping based on someone’s political beliefs or statements. Since the ACLU claims to have proof that has been ignored, perhaps they can be excused for worrying again.
If there’s one area the Left has found Obama wanting on, it’s rolling back the civil rights abuses Bush initiated with the Patriot Act. Obama’s kill switch for the Internet begins to smell of the same stench when looked at long enough.