On CNN's "State of the Union" this past Sunday, Senator Joseph Lieberman discussed the idea in a recent bill of an "Internet kill switch". Basically, this means that under an emergency situation, the government would have the power to shut down parts of the Web. Here's a direct quote from the transcript:
CROWLEY: Let me ask you on a couple of other subjects in our final minutes here. First of all, you have an Internet bill, it has been called the "kill switch bill" that would allow the president to seize control or shut down portions of the Internet if the U.S. was under some sort of cyber attack.
LIEBERMAN:No way, and total misinformation. I don't know whether people are intentionally pedalling misinformation. Here is the fact. Cyber war is going on in some sense right now. Our civilian infrastructure, the Internet that runs the electric grid, the telecommunications grid, transportation, all the rest is constantly being probed by nation states, by some terrorist groups, by organized criminal gangs. And we need this capacity in a time of war. We need the capacity for the president to say, Internet service provider, we've got to disconnect the American Internet from all traffic coming in from another foreign country, or we've got to put a patch on this part of it. The president will never take over -- the government should never take over the Internet. Listen, we've consulted, Senator Collins and I, who are proposing this bill, with civil liberties and privacy experts. This is a matter of national security. A cyber attack on America can do as much or more damage today by incapacitating our banks, our communications, our finance, our transportation, as a conventional war attack. And the president, in catastrophic cases -- not going to do it every day, not going to take it over. So I say to my friends on the Internet, relax...
Now, I know that at first reading this sounds pretty Orwellian, but take a look at the actual bill. If I understand it right, it does not actually permit the government to take control of the Internet; rather, just to take specific portions of the Internet offline that are crucial to the country's infrastructure and are under attack; plus, Congress has to give their consent. Perhaps we ought to find another name for it that's less dire than "Internet kill switch?"
What do you think of the "Internet kill switch" idea?
- Lieberman: 'Internet Kill Switch' Talk is Just 'Misinformation' (appscout.com)
- Lieberman tells internet to 'relax' about 'kill switch' (videocafe.crooksandliars.com)
- Lieberman Clarifies That He's Not Really Giving Obama An Internet Kill Switch (techdirt.com)
- Cyber-war (news.bbc.co.uk)