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Should the US President be allowed to shut down the internet?
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Hydra
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Old Feb 10, 2011, 12:20 PM Local time: Feb 10, 2011, 10:20 AM #1 of 9
Should the US President be allowed to shut down the internet?

Short version: the Senate wants the 'prez to be able to turn off the internet. Except he kind of already can, and really no one thinks he would, but this updates the rules that say he can to deal with the 'tubes instead of telegraphs.

tl;dr version:

With the sort of awkward timing you'd expect from a screenplay, Democratic senators on the 26 released this super vague statement about how the government needs to "protect" the internet. Not a day later, Mubarak killed the tubes in Egypt. Now, the Cybersecurity act referenced by that Senate press release is the "Cyber Security and American Cyber Competiveness Act", aka . s21 of the 112th Congress. (As of yet it's five pages long and incredibly vauge.)

There are still some upset feelings over last year's effort: the ‘‘Protecting Cyberspace as a National Asset Act of 2010’’ (S.3480), which expired in Congress last year. It is not short. That is a 197 page pdf, but it goes something like "The internet is serious business, people could attack it and cost us money and security, thus if we think its going to be attacked the President should be able to shut down information providers and stuff, but only the important ones, but we decide who is important and those decisions are "not subject to judicial review". " (aka we don't have to explain and you can't appeal)

The Committe of Homeland Security released this fun little fact sheet last summer after people, y'know, read S.3480 and went "Omg noes." The particularly salient bit:


Quote:
MYTH #1:
S. 3480 authorizes a “kill switch” that would allow the President to shut down the Internet.
REALITY:
Rather than granting a “kill switch,” S. 3480 would make it far less likely for a President to use the broad authority he already has in current law to take over communications networks. Section 706 of the Communications Act of 1934* provides nearly unchecked authority to the President to “cause the closing of any facility or station for wire communication” and “authorize the use of control of any such facility or station” by the Federal government. Exercise of the authority requires no advance notification to Congress and can be authorized if the President proclaims that “a state or threat of war” exists. The authority can be exercised for up to six months after the “state or threat of war” has expired.
* I'm kind of curious where section 706 comes from and who thought that would be a fabulous idea, also why they're not revising that instead.

Also, this is completely ignoring the fact that previously he'd have to proclaim a state of war, and with the new material he just has to declare a cyber emergency while it's up to him to decide what that is.

But yeah. As much as I do think the Federal government should be involved in cyber security, I really dislike the idea of them being allowed to shut down private systems or service providers without something like a court order or judicial review, emergency or not. Even if the review to place a system on the "You cans kill" list was put together well in advance of any perceived emergency, at least companies would have a chance to influence the decision and, hopefully, avoid abuse. Abuse is inevitable this way, and last year's bill gives lawmakers all kinds of leeway to put their opinions above those of security professionals in an arena they (for the most part) have no hope of comprehending.

In summary, shutting down private machinery for it's own protection doesn't seem like a thing the Feds should be allowed to do.

What do you guys think?

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Fluffykitten McGrundlepuss
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Old Feb 10, 2011, 02:13 PM Local time: Feb 10, 2011, 08:13 PM #2 of 9
I think "Shutting down the internet" is a little over-dramatic. "Shutdown network hardware in the US and deny Americans access to the internet" might be a shade more realistic.

I think this whole thing seems like a knee-jerk reaction and a temporary solution to a permanent problem. A better bet would be to invest in more robust cyber-security for critical systems but that'd be a lot harder than passing some ill thought out legislation like has been drafted.

To be fair though, it'd have to be one fuck of an emergency for the President to use those powers and one would imagine that in a situation that dire, surfing the web might well drop down your priority list a couple of spots.

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Cellius
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Old Feb 11, 2011, 01:27 AM Local time: Feb 10, 2011, 11:27 PM 3 #3 of 9


This thing is sticky, and I don't like it. I don't appreciate it.
Hydra
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Old Feb 11, 2011, 02:19 PM Local time: Feb 11, 2011, 12:19 PM #4 of 9
I think "Shutting down the internet" is a little over-dramatic. "Shutdown network hardware in the US and deny Americans access to the internet" might be a shade more realistic.
Fair.

Though I really don't think that it would actually have to be (talking about reality here) that much of an emergency to prompt a President into signing off on shutting someone down and then just not explaining why (since (s)he doesn't have to.) In the context of history we know that it doesn't take much to have ye olde Chief of State decide to use his powers to settle private scores. The harder we make that for them, the better, imo.

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Zephyrin
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Old Feb 19, 2011, 03:43 PM Local time: Feb 19, 2011, 01:43 PM #5 of 9
I believe the checks and balances in our government is enough to prevent any particular abuse of such a power.

This whole thing is more of a "what if...oh shit maybe we should have a plan for this" kind of deal. Communication technology is too vast for any one country, even the USA, to shut it all down. Core components could be controlled, but for this "kill switch" ability to be used for any nefarious means, you have to already have a fairly suppressed population. I doubt any permanent, real harm could come of it.

I was speaking idiomatically.
Maris
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Old Feb 21, 2011, 04:46 AM Local time: Feb 21, 2011, 11:46 AM 8 #6 of 9
yes i think he should.. it has the same sitution in russia :-]

What kind of toxic man-thing is happening now?
Maris
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Old Sep 2, 2011, 02:20 AM Local time: Sep 2, 2011, 09:20 AM #7 of 9
what are`you tryeing to say at the post ?

FELIPE NO
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Old Sep 22, 2011, 11:02 PM Local time: Sep 23, 2011, 12:02 PM #8 of 9
I think the US President should be allowed to do that, he is the head of the nation's governing body anyway. Besides, even if the President ordered the internet to be shut down, there will still be companies that will not adhere to this and will keep the internets alive.

The President should always be prepared for a Die Hard 4 event.

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Polymath
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Old Oct 18, 2011, 10:49 PM #9 of 9
I don't think it would be a good idea personally. I'm sure it could stop widespread panic or prevent even more of a fallout should something happen, but I believe the fallout and panic of being disconnected from the world and from important information that the net could only provide would be much greater.

Ironically, to coin a phrase, the internet is serious business.

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