Savannah Morning News

Hit ‘delete’ button
Savannah Morning News

American who believe in the free flow of information on the Internet should be concerned about a Democratic-sponsored bill that would give the federal government the power to hit the « off » switch.

U.S. Sen. Jay Rockefeller, D-W.Va., has introduced a measure (S.773) that appears to give the president the power to seize temporary control of private-sector networks if he declares a cybersecurity emergency. While the United States must be prepared to defend its critical infrastructure, especially its power grid, from cyberterrorists, this is still a free country.

Privacy and civil liberty concerns exist. Care must be taken so that Uncle Sam can’t become Uncle Censor.

Indeed, the president of the Internet Security Alliance, a group that has representatives from Verizon, Verisign and Nortel on its board, says the current version of the bill is troubling. « It is unclear what authority Sen. Rockefeller thinks is necessary over the private sector, » Larry Clinton said. « Unless this is clarified, we cannot properly analyze, let alone support the bill. »

Vital details must be fleshed out in Mr. Rockefeller’s bill and amendments that protect individual freedoms written in. Otherwise, giving the White House the ability to disconnect private-sector computers from the Internet is a bad idea, and lawmakers should hit the « delete » button.