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2011, legislation sponsored by eight senators, including
Senate Majority leader Harry Reid, John Kerry, Dianne
Feinstein, and Rockefeller. The proposed bill softens the
Rockefeller-Snowe bill by emphasizing resiliency over
any so-called kill switch.
Too Much Power?
“I can’t envision a case where national security would
trump freedom of information, or where shutting down the
Internet entirely would be necessary,” said Jillian York, who
coordinates the OpenNet Initiative, a research project run
by the Canadian consultancy SecDev Group and scholars
at Harvard University a nd the University of Toronto.
York warns that the bill combines vague phrases such
as “critical companies” with scant accountability. The bill,
she argues, allows the government too much authority in
shutting down websites without a court order, a scenario
she likens to the Department of Homeland Security’s take-
over of dozens of sites due to alleged copyright violations.
In November alone, it seized more than 70 sites.
Moreover, adds Rebecca Jeschke, media relations di-
rector for the Electronic Frontier Foundation, an ill-defined
bill has the potential to stifle freedom of speech,
even if Internet access itself isn’t a right, per se.
“If there were a virus that could cause
structural damage to the Internet or other
physical resources, or risk the exposure of state
secrets, then perhaps some traffic restrictions
that would halt the spread of the virus would
be appropriate,” she said. “But it should be
as narrow as possible a restriction. In times
In fact, the president already has
the right to take control of the
Internet under section 706 of the
Communications Act of 1934, which
states that in wartime the president
can close “any facility or station for
Though this act clearly precedes
the Internet age, a 21st-century
policy makeover has been a tough
sell. Two years ago, Senate Com-
mittee on Commerce chairman Jay
Rockefeller and Senator Olympia
Snowe of Maine introduced a cy-
bersecurity act that would have
provided for the addition of a Na-
tional Security Advisor reporting
to the president.
“Nearly 90 percent of our nation’s
networks are owned and operated
by the private sector. Securing
cyberspace must be a collaborative effort between our
government and private sector,” read a March 2010 draft
of the bill-in-progress.
The senators introduced the bill months after Melissa
Hathaway, the then-acting cybersecurity chief at the National
Security Council, published a60-day review in which she
called for private-public partnerships and oversight by
a central White House office—not myriad Federal ones.
That kind of collaboration meant using security software
already on the market and sharing intelligence with “key
private sector officials” in an effort to stem identity theft
and attacks on the government’s own infrastructure.
The senators repeatedly insisted that the cybersecurity
bill did not provide for a so-called kill switch allowing the
president to pull the plug on the Internet, but it was tabled
nonetheless amid outrage from civil liberties groups that
questioned whether allowing the president to disconnect
“critical” systems in the event of an emergency meant the
government could effectively shutter private networks.
The bill was reborn in January, however, as the Cyber
Security and America n Cyber Competitiveness Act of
Amind mounting anti-government protests in
January, Egypt effectively pulled the plug on the
entire country’s Internet connection.
The Cyber Security
and American Cyber
Competitiveness Act of
2011 is co-sponsored
by 13 U.S. Senators.
To secure the United States against cyber attack, to enhance American
competitiveness and create jobs in the information technology industry,
and to protect the identities and sensitive information of American citi-
zens and businesses.
IN THE SENATE OF THE UNITED STATES
JANUARY 25 (legislative day, JANUARY 5), 2011
Mr. REID (for himself, Mrs. FEINSTEIN, Mr. KERRY, Mr. LEAHY, Mr. LEVIN,
Mr. LIEBERMAN, Mr. ROCKEFELLER, and Mr. BINGAMAN) introduced the
following bill; which was read twice and referred to the Committee on
Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs
To secure the United States against cyber attack, to enhance
American competitiveness and create jobs in the informa-
tion technology industry, and to protect the identities
and sensitive information of American citizens and busi-
Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representa-
tives of the United States of America in Congress assembled,
SECTION 1. SHORT TITLE.
This Act may be cited as the ‘‘Cyber Security and
American Cyber Competitiveness Act of 2011’’.
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envision a case
— Jillian York, OpenNet
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