GCIS CYBER-SECURITY BRIEFING: Internet “Kill Switch”: Mapping Out Governmententals Proper Role in Cybersecurity

ISSUED BY: GCIS Communications Command Center

SOURCE: The Heritage Foundation

22February2011 2:03pmEST

GCIS CYBER-SECURITY UPDATE: The problem is indeed a challenging one. Clearly, the federal government needs the ability to protect its own interests, some of which require use of the private-sector portions of the Internet. Likewise, the government is charged with providing “for the common defense,” and all Americans would expect it to play a role in defending, say, the West Coast electrical grid against a Chinese assault.

The Government's Internet Kill SwitchThe recent report of Chinese infiltration of Canadian government computers is a salient demonstration of the need for some defensive measures. And the reality is that if pre-enforcement judicial review of any governmental order is required, it is possible that the governmental response will be delayed so long that it proves ineffective.

But equally clearly, giving the government power over the private sector and the Internet is fraught with peril to civil liberties. Even though the legislation has explicit language denying presidential power to cut Americans off from the Internet generally (and even though any President of either party should not be presumed to exercise powers granted in a dictatorial way), the recent experiences in Egypt make it clear how relatively easy it is for an autocratically minded leader to take control of private conduct.

And even when government acts with good intent, mistakes happen—for example, the recent error in which DHS mistakenly seized a number of innocent domain names that it thought were tied to child pornography but were not. Post-enforcement judicial review is of less value after the order has already been given and implemented. (read full report)

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