Friday, June 25, 2010

SECURITY - A Dangerous Law Proposed

The article reference that follows is dangerous because it lets the government decide an issue that impacts our Constitutional Rights without any review.

Why, the law would make it possible for the government to spy on citizens using the "backdoor" the law proposes.

"Say no to a government 'kill switch' for the Internet" by Bill Snyder, Tech's Bottom Line 6/24/2010


A proposed law would give the president sweeping new powers to shut down the Internet if he declares a 'cyber emergency'

A bad idea that keeps coming back

This sort of bad idea has been floating around Congress for a while. A year ago, a couple of senators proposed the Cybersecurity Act of 2009, which would have given the government the power to shut the Web in an emergency and give it access to "all relevant data concerning [critical infrastructure] networks without regard to any provision of law, regulation, rule, or policy restricting such access."

In effect it would have allowed, or maybe mandated, that back doors be built into private networks in case the government needed access in a hurry.

That bill was sidetracked during the health care debate, but the senators who sponsored it, Olympia Snowe (R-Maine) and Jay Rockefeller (D-W. Va.), support this version. Snowe has even signed on as a co-sponsor, saying at a press conference, "We cannot afford to wait for a cyber 9/11 before our government realizes the importance of protecting our cyber resources."

A price too high to pay

Yes, cyber attacks on this country's infrastructure are a serious potential threat, and it's reasonable to give the government the power to protect us. Certainly the apparent Russia-based cyber attacks on Georgia and Estonia show that cyber war, including massive DoS attacks, is more than science fiction.

Lieberman's bill, though, would create another bureaucracy within the already cumbersome bureaucracy of the Department of Homeland Security. It would be called the National Center for Cybersecurity and Communications (NCCC).

Bureaucracies have a bad track record when it comes to protecting individual rights. Just think how many innocent Americans have been denied the right to get on an airplane because they were mistakenly put on a no-fly list by Homeland Security. Once a bureaucracy labels someone a bad actor, getting the nameless, faceless functionaries to correct an error can be nearly impossible.

The bill has a provision that would grant broadband providers immunity from civil lawsuits if they cut service to a customer on the orders of the NCCC. At first glance that may seem reasonable, but the grant of immunity will make it that much harder for innocent people to gain redress if the bureaucracy makes a mistake.

As I said, I'm not a believer in conspiracies, and as much as I dislike this bill, I don't think that Lieberman and his co-sponsors are gearing up for some sort of dictatorship. But, there's no telling what the political landscape will look like in the future. In an age where the Internet has become one of the most important means of political expression, giving the government the power to shut it down is giving it the power to stifle free speech and dissent.

Of course, our government will deny any such usage (just trust us), as if the NSA is not already spying on citizens. This law will just make it legal.

No comments: