A couple weeks ago, Sen. Rockefeller partnered with Sen. Olympia Snowe to introduce a major revision to the bill that, among other things, made changes the emergency “kill switch” provision. The revision was adopted by the committee last Thursday and the bill was approved. It’s now ready for consideration by the full Senate.
The revised bill would require the President to develop an “emergency response an restoration” plan with the help of private industry and other government agencies, but it is vague enough that it does not actually limit what the plan can include. The President would still have authority to declare an emergency and implement the plan without first seeking congressional approval, though he would have to report to Congress within 48 hours after declaring an emergency. The revised bill also doesn’t require the plan to be made public, so it could potentially give the President the same authority to restrict internet access as the original bill did, just without being explicitly and publicly stated in the legislation itself.
I’m sure people like former DNI Mike McConnell will trot out their cyberscare stories (see this great piece on how anyone using “cyber” is usually full of it.) declaring just how essential it is that we lock down the Internet. Not too long ago, McConnell was out pushing this line:
We need to develop an early-warning system to monitor cyberspace, identify intrusions and locate the source of attacks with a trail of evidence that can support diplomatic, military and legal options — and we must be able to do this in milliseconds. More specifically, we need to re-engineer the Internet to make attribution, geo-location, intelligence analysis and impact assessment — who did it, from where, why and what was the result — more manageable. The technologies are already available from public and private sources and can be further developed if we have the will to build them into our systems and to work with our allies and trading partners so they will do the same.
Wired’s Ryan Singel helps clarify that:
Re-read that sentence. He’s talking about changing the internet to make everything anyone does on the net traceable and geo-located so the National Security Agency can pinpoint users and their computers for retaliation if the U.S. government doesn’t like what’s written in an e-mail, what search terms were used, what movies were downloaded. Or the tech could be useful if a computer got hijacked without your knowledge and used as part of a botnet.
Yeah, I think I’m going to pass on the advice of industry players that have devoted their lives to concealing the truth from the public. I just fear that they’ll be as successful with this effort as they have been before. That is, they never do manage to actually conceal the truth. All they need to do is convince enough of the generally-uninterested public to trust their version, and the public will go along with it. And, for the most part, that’s been a massively successful strategy. I used to think the Internet would help put an end to that. But more and more it looks like that might help put an end to the Internet.