While Al Gore claimed to invent the internet, he didn’t. Some say Leonard Kleinrock did, others say it was a little government agency called DARPA. If you listen to some members of Congress lately, however, apparently President Obama will soon be able to control the internet. In fact, the Cybersecurity Act of 2009 and/or similar draft legislation by Senators Rockefeller/Snowe, would give the President the power to ‘control’ the internet in case of emergency.
The ability to achieve such a lofty goal aside, too many questions and not enough answers emerge when one looks at why we need this type of legislation. The President has ample authority to take appropriate steps in case of a national emergency. Even with control of the internet, what use would it serve? To send out messages to the public? Look at the Iranian protests—the public did an awfully good job of getting messages out to the rest of the world on what was occurring. To protect critical infrastructure? Seems like putting the cart before the horse—we haven’t been able to determine the appropriate roles and responsibilities for the private sector in terms of critical infrastructure, and now we are going to give at least one of their responsibilities away?
More fundamentally, the idea that the President can control the internet is laughable. The technology isn’t there. The legal authorities aren’t there. And what about that pesky “freedom of expression”?
This is simply the wrong course for cyber security. And it is an embarrassing first step for a Congress and a new Administration that have placed cyber security at the top of their homeland security priorities. We need to concentrate on developing cyber security leaders. James Carafano and Eric Sayers point that out in their Backgrounder, Building Cyber Security Leadership in the 21st Century.
The Obama Administration just had its new cyber czar exit stage left. This legislation has ignited a firestorm around a completely unworkable, unconstitutional idea. Cyber security has official woken up on the wrong side of the bed.