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New Bill Grants Fed Power to Shut Down the Web

unplugging the web
Connecticut Senator, and chairman of the Homeland Security committee, Joseph Lieberman introduced legislation last week that would grant broad new emergency powers over the Internet to the federal government. The Protecting Cyberspace as a National Asset Act (PCNAA) would require broadband providers, search engines, and software companies to comply with emergency orders issued by the Department of Homeland Security under penalty of fine.

In the event of a national emergency, the bill would grant the power to control, and even shut down, large swaths of the Internet to the National Center for Cybersecurity and Communications (NCCC), a new office created within the DHS by the PCNAA. The legislation has garnered support from Senators Jay Rockefeller and Olympia Snowe who proposed similar powers last August, but it's bound to run into serious opposition from tech lobbyists, privacy groups and those who wish to limit the power of the federal government.

While the need to address issues of cybersecurity before, in the words of Senator Snowe, we experience a "cyber 9/11" is undeniable, there is serious cause for concern with the rather dense bill. For one, the language is often extremely broad and any company that "relies on... information infrastructure" in the U.S. would be subject to control by the NCCC. The law would also create additional bureaucratic obstacles for Homeland Security, the Defense Department and other offices that deal with domestic intelligence. It would also fall to the NCCC to monitor private websites and businesses to determine their "security status." Almost as worrisome as the potential for abuse of power by the government though is the immunity from civil suits granted to businesses. In the event of an "incident related to a cyber vulnerability," if the company has complied with federal standards plaintiffs will be unable collect damages related to economic losses.

On the plus side, the legislation does include specific language that bars the NCCC from ordering warrantless surveillance of broadband customers. We suppose that is a vast improvement over the last eight years of domestic spying ambiguity. [From: CNET, Via: Huffington Post]

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