Sunday, 05 April 2009


Rockefeller wants massive Presidential cyber-grab, Snowe signs on

Spotted by Joanna:

Should President Obama have the power to shut down domestic Internet traffic during a state of emergency?

Senators John Rockefeller (D-W. Va.) and Olympia Snowe (R-Maine) think so.  On Wednesday they introduced a bill to establish the Office of the National Cybersecurity Advisor—an arm of the executive branch that would have vast power to monitor and control Internet traffic to protect against threats to critical cyber infrastructure...

The Cybersecurity Act of 2009 [SEE NOTE* - o.g.] gives the president the ability to “declare a cybersecurity emergency” and shut down or limit Internet traffic in any “critical” information network “in the interest of national security.”  The bill does not define a critical information network or a cybersecurity emergency.  That definition would be left to the president.

The bill does not only add to the power of the president.  It also grants the Secretary of Commerce “access to all relevant data concerning [critical] networks without regard to any provision of law, regulation, rule, or policy restricting such access.”  This means he or she can monitor or access any data on private or public networks without regard to privacy laws. - Steve Aquino, “Should Obama Control the Internet,” Mother Jones, April 2, 2009
Gee, seems like only yesterday that all those lefties (and a number of righties, to give them credit) were fulminating about Bush’s post-9/11 power grabs!  This looks pretty grabby to me, and whaddaya know, a Democrat wrote it:
“...from our water to our electricity, to banking, traffic lights and electronic health records—the list goes on,” Rockefeller said in a statement.
Not much limit there.  (Traffic lights?)  Dear Senator Rockefeller:  A “network” isn’t necessarily “the internet,” and good administrators already know enough to keep the “critical stuff” separate.  A law that required such separation might be a good idea (just to help the smart people keep the bean counters and suits under control), but your bill ain’t it.

Instead you wrote yet another bad bill which massively- and unnecessarily-  extends executive power, and here comes Snowe, eager to sign on as a co-sponsor.
Snowe echoed her colleague, saying, “if we fail to take swift action, we, regrettably, risk a cyber-Katrina.”
Ooooh, rhetorical overload!  If it happens (as Joanna asks) do we get FEMA to sort things out?  Give me a f*ckin break!

Oh, and if you work in IT, you’ll find this little provision (which the MJ article missed) quite “interesting,” too:

(a) IN GENERAL.— Within 1 year after the date of enactment of this Act, the Secretary of Commerce shall develop or coordinate and integrate a national licensing, certification, and periodic recertification program for cybersecurity professionals.

(b) MANDATORY LICENSING.— Beginning 3 years after the date of enactment of this Act, it shall be unlawful for any individual to engage in business in the United States, or to be employed in the United States, as a provider of cybersecurity services to any Federal agency or an information system or network designated by the President, or the President’s designee, as a critical infrastructure information system or network, who is not licensed and certified under the program.
Looks like a whole bunch of techies are going to have to get certified.  Makes you wonder which “education” lobbyist bought Senator Rockefeller, doesn’t it?

I won’t go further at enumerating the problems with this bill.  For public reaction, the Mother Jones comment thread is a good place to start.  (I imagine there will shortly be some technically interesting comments at Slashdot, Ars Technica, and the Register.)

Anyway, I believe this one qualifies Olympia for another point.  Done!



Related, in a “more bad legislation” way:

*NOTE about the bill:  The Mother Jones story links to a PDF of a draft version (hosted at the Center for Democracy and Technology.)  On checking the listings at, it appears that the draft has now been split into two bills (texts not available at THOMAS at this writing).  They are:
S.773: “A bill to ensure the continued free flow of commerce within the United States and with its global trading partners through secure cyber communications, to provide for the continued development and exploitation of the Internet and intranet communications for such purposes, to provide for the development of a cadre of information technology specialists to improve and maintain effective cybersecurity defenses against disruption, and for other purposes.”
which, judging from its title, probably includes most of the draft text, and
S.778: “A bill to establish, within the Executive Office of the President, the Office of National Cybersecurity Advisor.”
Both bills have the same co-sponsors:  In addition to Snowe are Democrats Evan Bayh (D-IN) and Bill Nelson (D-FL).

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