In the wake of week after week of political reversals, fears are growing among climate sceptics that the current cybersecurity bill in the U.S. moves ever closer towards becoming law. In the Fall of 2009 the Electric Frontier Foundation (EFF) raised serious concerns about the Cybersecurity Bill proposed by Senators Jay Rockefeller (D-WV) and Olympia Snowe (R-ME), that sought to give the federal government unprecedented power over the Internet. For months, the bill has been redrafted behind closed doors and has recently been circulated, but by all accounts, the changes are cosmetic and it’s sadly more of the same.
This proposed Act is the biggest threat to the momentum now building behind climate skeptics after a rush of bad news for President Obama’s faltering cap and trade bill. Fears are now growing among bloggers that the Rockefeller Cybersecurity bill would give the President emergency authority to halt all “inconvenient” web traffic and access private data.
Essentially, Rockefeller’s Act would federalize critical infrastructure security. Since many of our critical infrastructure systems (banks, telecommunications, energy) are in the hands of the private sector, the bill would create a major shift of power away from users and companies to the federal government. This is a potentially dangerous approach that favors the dramatic over the sober response and is rattling civil libertarians.
The President [...] in the event of an immediate threat [...] may declare a cybersecurity emergency; and may, if the President finds it necessary for the national defense and security, and in coordination with relevant industry sectors, direct the national response to the cyber threat and the timely restoration of the affected critical infrastructure information system or network.
In other words, they appear to have packaged Presidential authority to shut down the Internet and other private networks behind a ribbon of red tape, and the words “national response.” The bill does not define what it means by “cybersecurity emergency.” That definition would be left to the president.
Senior counsel for the Center for Democracy and Technology (CDT), Greg Nojeim says, “It’s an incredibly broad authority.” Nojeim pointed out that existing privacy laws “could fall to this authority.”
Having read the proposed new law it will be clear to any advocate of civil liberties that the broad scope of this provision could eviscerate all statutory protections for private information, such as the Electronic Communications Privacy Act, the Privacy Protection Act, or financial privacy regulations. Since the 1980’s Americans have been protected by these privacy laws that require law enforcement seek a warrant before tapping in to data transmissions between computers.
Followers of the criminal investigation into Climategate will note that governments and the mainstream media consistently refer to this scandal as having been precipiated by the alleged “hacking” of 1,000+ plus emails among 62MB of data from the servers of the University of East Anglia’s Climatic Research Unit. There is never any pause to admit to the alternative hypothesis that a whistleblower leaked the data even though prsonal email and phone contact data was rigorously redacted and files were listed in a directory named “FOIA” (Freedom of Information Act).
Even more distressing, as we reported on January 9, 2010, a private British police group, the National Domestic Extremism Team, is in charge of the Climategate investigations with no accountability under existing freedom of information laws.
Jennifer Granick, civil liberties director at the Electronic Frontier Foundation, says, “Who’s interested in this [bill]? Law enforcement and people in the security industry who want to ensure more government dollars go to them.”
Just like with the climate, in order to “protect” our infrastructure, the government must assume control over it. Obama is taking the work of George W. Bush to the next level of censorship building on the strangulation of civil liberties enshrined in the Patriot Act , and dare we say it? Perhaps we are seeing what is meant by “true socialism.” As with fascism, or any other statist doctrine of dystopia, it is all anti-liberty because it requires the use of force to be established and maintained. No matter which plutocracy you subscribe to, it all gives more power to the state.
We will be watching this Rockefeller’s bill carefully to ensure that it doesn’t pass in its present form (Shocking that a Rockefeller would promote authoritarianism–not!).
In addition to keeping watch on this bill, we’ll also be keeping a keen eye on the National Domestic Extremism Team to see if, and how, they botch the Climategate criminal investigation. For months, the bill has been redrafted behind closed doors and has recently been circulated, but by all accounts, the changes are cosmetic and it’s sadly more of the same.
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