Does the President Need Special Powers During a 'Cyber Emergency'?

Shortly after three senators, including Joe Lieberman, introduced a bill to give the president sweeping powers during a "cyber emergency," Egypt's government pulled the country off the Internet. The Egyptian move highlighted just how fragile our networks can be when a central government decides to undermine them. Today, the legislators tried to fight back against the perception that their handiwork would give the president such authority.

Whatever the senators' wishes, from the description CNET's Declan McCullagh provides below, it's hard to see how such legislation doesn't require incredible faith in our government's benevolence.

Their so-dubbed "Protecting Cyberspace as a National Asset Act" would hand the president power over privately owned computer systems during a "national cyber emergency" and prohibit review by the court system. CNET reported last week that it will be reintroduced in the new Congress.

If the president declares a "cyber emergency," according to a summary prepared by Lieberman's committee, the Department of Homeland Security could "issue mandatory emergency measures necessary to preserve the reliable operation of covered critical infrastructure."

Although the term "kill switch" appears nowhere in the legislation, those "mandatory" measures could include ordering "critical" computers, networks, or Web sites disconnected from the Internet. It also includes controversial new language--which did not appear in the initial version introduced last summer--saying that the federal government's designation of vital Internet or other computer systems "shall not be subject to judicial review."

Perhaps more than any other section of the legislation, that part has drawn significant criticism from industry representatives and civil libertarians.

Read the full story at CNET.

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