Back from the Dead: The Internet ‘Kill Switch’
From the page: “…And like a horde of flesh-eating zombies shuffling out of a parking garage to feast on what’s left of our freedoms, the Obama administration has promised to revive a proposal thought dead by most: the internet “kill switch.”
On May 12, the White House released a 52-page document outlining administration plans governing cybersecurity. The bill designates the Department of Homeland Security as the “lead agency” with authority to initiate “countermeasures” to protect critical infrastructure from malicious attacks.
The term “countermeasure” is described by the White House as “automated actions with defensive intent to modify or block data packets associated with electronic or wire communications, internet traffic, program code, or other system traffic transiting to or from or stored on an information system for the purpose of protecting the information system from cybersecurity threats, conducted on an information system or information systems owned or operated by or on behalf of the party to be protected or operated by a private entity acting as a provider of electronic communication services, remote computing services, or cybersecurity services to the party to be protected.” (Section 1. Department of Homeland Security Cybersecurity Authority, May 12, 2011, p. 1)
In other words, the proposal would authorize DHS and presumably other federal partners like the National Security Agency, wide latitude to monitor, “modify or block” data packets (information and/or communications) deemed a threat to national security.
It isn’t a stretch to conclude that such “automated actions” would be predicated on the deployment of systems such as “Einstein 3” or the NSA’s top secret “Perfect Citizen” program throughout the nation’s electronic communications architecture.
NSA’s Einstein 3 project we’re told is designed to prevent malicious attacks on government systems and, controversially, private sector networks. Using NSA hardware and the signatures of previous attacks as a road map, Einstein 3 routes the internet traffic “of civilian agencies through a monitoring box that would search for and block computer codes designed to penetrate or otherwise compromise networks,” The Washington Post reported.
According to multiple media reports, AT&T, one of the Agency’s private partners in Bush and now, Obama administration warrantless wiretapping programs variously known as “Stellar Wind,” “Pioneer,” its data-mining portion and “Pinwale,” the agency’s secret email collection program, was the Bush administration’s choice to test the system. In fact, before agreeing to participate in the pilot project AT&T attorneys sought assurances from the Justice Department “that it would bear no liability for participating,” the Post averred.
How would such programs and proposals play out in the real world?
According to Government Computer News “proposed cybersecurity legislation released by the Obama administration earlier this month is similar to legislation now pending in the Senate, but it does not contain the explicit emergency powers contained in the bill introduced by Joseph I. Lieberman (I-Conn.) and Susan M. Collins (R-Maine).”
Pretty good so far? Not so fast! GCN reports, “instead, it seems to rely on a 77-year-old law that gives the president broad authority to shut down communications networks.”
Got that? There’s no need for a legislative fix to expand the president’s power to pull the plug, only in the event of an unspecified “national emergency” of course, since the White House already possesses the means to do just that, the Communications Act of 1934.
The Act, amended in 1996, specifically empowers the president “during the continuance of a war in which the United States is engaged,” control over media under circumstances determined by the Executive Branch. Accordingly, Section 706 [47 U.S.C. 606] authorizes the president “if he finds it necessary for the national defense and security, to direct that such communications as in his judgment may be essential to the national defense and security shall have preference or priority with any carrier subject to this Act.”…”
Yes, the U.S. has enemies – but the American people are not one of them. In an era where government has demonstratively moved from representative government to authoritarian government by fiat, it has also demonstrated that there are no inalienable rights under God that can’t be dismissed.