Preserve Internet Freedom -- Oppose Cybersecurity Legislation

By:  Ann Shibler


“To amend the Homeland Security Act of 2002 and other laws to enhance the security and resiliency of the cyber and communications infrastructure of the United States.” These are the words used to describe the latest cybersecurity bill, S. 3480  "Protecting Cyberspace as a National Asset Act of 2010," introduced on June 10 and cosponsored by Senators Susan Collins (R-Maine), Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.) and Tom Carper (D-Del.).

Senate Bill 3480 would convert the White House appointed cyber coordinator into the Director of the Office of Cyber Policy. One concession to “transparency” and “accountability” is that the cybersecurity coordinators inside the White House and the Department of Homeland Security -- under a new agency, the National Center for Cybersecurity and Communications (NCCC) -- would have to be approved by the Senate.

The DHS would compile a list of companies that rely on the Internet, phone system, or any other feature of the U.S. “information infrastructure” to “conduct risk-based assessments” of the system “with respect to acts of terrorism, natural disasters, and other large-scale disruptions...” According to terms in the bill “information infrastructure” covers the entire Internet and phone system, and these would be subjected to the broad and almost unrestrained authority of the NCCC:

‘‘(18) the term ‘national information infrastructure’ means information infrastructure—
‘‘(A)(i) that is owned, operated, or controlled within or from the United States; or 
‘‘(ii) if located outside the United States, the disruption of which could result in national or regional catastrophic damage in the United  States; and that is not owned, operated, controlled, or licensed for use by a Federal agency;

The NCCC would be tasked with monitoring the “security status” of private sector websites, broadband providers, etc.  A requirement for private sector companies would be participation in “information sharing” with the federal government. They must certify in writing that they have complied with federally approved security measures -- encryption, physical security mechanisms, or other programming methods -- approved by the director. To make this directive more palatable to technology companies, the bill would offer immunity from civil lawsuits to ISP’s who comply with all federal regulations and standards, so that if those companies cause a website to experience a loss of business in downtime or money from a shutdown due to their own mistakes, or if the shutdown was federally mandated, the business or organization would not be able to recoup any losses by suing their ISP or the government.

Not content with establishing a gigantic framework for the federal government to control private sector Internet companies and those who use the World Wide Web, the new legislation, under the cosponsors’ claims of building a “public/private partnership” to increase “economic security, national security and public safety,” there is a most disturbing allocation of authority to the Executive Branch

Emergency response authority would be granted to the President to protect critical infrastructure if any level of cyber vulnerability is detected by the federal government. What defines “emergency” for the feds is:

the term ‘national cyber emergency’ means an actual or imminent action by any individual or entity to exploit a cyber vulnerability in a manner that disrupts, attempts to disrupt, or poses a significant risk of disruption to the operation of the information infrastructure essential to the reliable operation of covered critical infrastructure;

Congress is supposed to be notified in advance of the exercise of the emergency powers and any emergency measures are also supposed to be the least disruptive as possible, expiring in 30 days unless re-extended. But a President could in actuality keep extending the measures indefinitely.

There are several acknowledgements given to international partners of the United States, and international agreements as well. If a declaration of emergency is declared by the President, then the Director has the authority to coordinate responses with certain international partners to protect the critical infrastructure, and even international standards may be relied upon for use as cyber guidelines.

The 197-page bill that creates a super-sized bureaucratic agency with incredible power over private enterprise and private information sources and means of communication containing all sorts of hidden dictates is just another in a list of similar bills that keep coming to the fore. The Senate Commerce Committee had previously approved a bill in March cosponsored by Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-W. Va.) and Sen. Olympia Snowe (R-Maine.) that also contained a presidential “kill-switch” provision. And now Lieberman and Rockefeller have pledged to work together to iron out any differences between the bills so that they can proceed on the path to quick passage for near absolute governmental control of cyberspace. Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) indicated that he wants this legislation passed this year as well.

Whether it’s S. 3480, the Lieberman/Collins/Carper caper that gets the nod, or the Rockefeller/Snowe job, S. 773, the American people need to loudly and strongly voice their opposition to government monitoring and control of Information Technology, whether it’s the Internet, or phone system.

The U.S. already possesses a very healthy and capable private IT security industry. Government interference would only destroy private protection initiatives and efforts, and allow security and intelligence agencies that have very faulty track records to hold sway over the liberties of the people. Help stop this unconstitutional power grab and oppose any government intervention or interference in the private communications network.

Help preserve Internet freedom by contacting your representative and senators in opposition to the proposed cybersecurity legislation.

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