Bill Would Give Obama ‘Cybersecurity Emergency’ Powers

by on August 28, 2009 · 11 comments

According to a report by CNET’s Declan McCullagh, a draft bill in the U.S. Senate would grant President Obama “cybersecurity emergency powers” to disconnect and even seize control of private sector computers on the Internet.

Back in May, when Obama proposed a “cybersecurity czar with a broad mandate” and the administration issued a report outlining potential vulnerabilities in the government’s information security policies, I cautioned about the constant temptation by politicians in both parties to expand government authority over “critical’ private networks.” From American telecommunications to the power grid, virtually anything networked to some other computer would potentially be fair game for Obama to exercise “emergency powers.”dhs_cyberattacks_080312_ms

Policy makers should be suspicious of proposals to collectivize and centralize cybersecurity risk management, especially in frontier industries like information technology.  When government asserts authority over security technologies, it hinders the evolution of more robust information security practices and creates barriers to non-political solutions—both mundane and catastrophic.  The result is that we become less secure, not more secure.

Instead, the Obama Administration should limit its focus to securing government networks and keeping government agencies on the cutting edge of communications technology. As today’s news illustrates, the dangers created by such a broad mandate may come to pass.

  • mwendy

    Some in the industry believe this bil, or successor, is inevitable. And, because of that, we must cut a deal. I disagree. This bill, if passed, is more than just the camel's nose under the tent, it is the beginning of the end for the free (well, almost) design of our offerings. We must resist the temptation to allow legislators to pick individual constituencies off with tempting provisions, those that in the abstract may benefit insular business models, but in the long run represent a soft occupation of our industry (wow, sorry for the militatistic tone here). The civil liberties only erode from here.

  • http://techliberation.com/author/berinszoka/ Berin Szoka

    Amen, Mike! What you're arguing for is essentially a united front against government control, which we can applaud heartily. I don't think your “soft occupation” metaphor is inappropriate at all. I just worry that too many in industry will collaborate with their new overlords because they think they can live with, or even benefit from, the new (regulatory) regime. This same dynamic plays out again and again on one online policy issue after another, most notably in “privacy regulation,” and yet even among those in industry who see the danger of government control, few will stake a principled stand, either because they fear losing a “seat at the table” with regulators, getting bad PR, or (most understandably) because they think the alternative (a patchwork of state regulation or an even more onerous federal bill) is worse.

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  • http://www.facebook.com/adrian.salsgiver Adrian Salsgiver

    FYI – The Obama Administration will not be limiting its focus to securing government networks and keeping government agencies on the cutting edge of communications technology. That is not what it is about. The Obama Administration is about getting rid of ever increasing sums of our money as wastefully as possible. It is about surrendering American sovereignty, higher then much higher taxes and an increasingly higher debt despite the higher taxes, total government control over every aspect of our daily lives, etc. Some call it Obamageddon.

  • Greg H

    I am glad to see someone is writing about this topic. I heard about this proposal on a conservative radio show, but have NOT seen it on TV or in the news elsewhere (which is very appalling). Is this bill going to be a Patriot Act on steroids for the Internet? It sounds like something straight out of Communist China. If it is just a rumor, that is one thing but if there is truth to this story than shame on our news media for not reporting this miscarriage of justice. If Bush would have proposed something similar, he would have been criticized like no tomorrow.

  • Greg H

    I am glad to see someone is writing about this topic. I heard about this proposal on a conservative radio show, but have NOT seen it on TV or in the news elsewhere (which is very appalling). Is this bill going to be a Patriot Act on steroids for the Internet? It sounds like something straight out of Communist China. If it is just a rumor, that is one thing but if there is truth to this story than shame on our news media for not reporting this miscarriage of justice. If Bush would have proposed something similar, he would have been criticized like no tomorrow.

  • http://www.facebook.com/adrian.salsgiver Adrian Salsgiver

    FYI – The Obama Administration will not be limiting its focus to securing government networks and keeping government agencies on the cutting edge of communications technology. That is not what it is about. The Obama Administration is about getting rid of ever increasing sums of our money as wastefully as possible. It is about surrendering American sovereignty, higher then much higher taxes and an increasingly higher debt despite the higher taxes, total government control over every aspect of our daily lives, etc. Some call it Obamageddon.

  • Greg H

    I am glad to see someone is writing about this topic. I heard about this proposal on a conservative radio show, but have NOT seen it on TV or in the news elsewhere (which is very appalling). Is this bill going to be a Patriot Act on steroids for the Internet? It sounds like something straight out of Communist China. If it is just a rumor, that is one thing but if there is truth to this story than shame on our news media for not reporting this miscarriage of justice. If Bush would have proposed something similar, he would have been criticized like no tomorrow.

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