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Lieberman's Internet "Kill Switch" makes a return

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Lieberman proposed this once before. He's back at it, just in time for the SOPA and PIPA debates. CBS News (h/t Amanda Marcotte; my emphasis):

A controversial bill handing President Obama power over privately owned computer systems during a "national cyberemergency," and prohibiting any review by the court system, will return this year.
Instead, Milhorn said at a conference in Washington, D.C., the point of the proposal is to assert governmental control only over those "crucial components that form our nation's critical infrastructure."

Portions of the Lieberman-Collins bill, which was not uniformly well-received when it became public in June 2010, became even more restrictive when a Senate committee approved a modified version on December 15. ... The revised version includes new language saying that the federal government's designation of vital Internet or other computer systems "shall not be subject to judicial review." Another addition expanded the definition of critical infrastructure to include "provider of information technology," and a third authorized the submission of "classified" reports on security vulnerabilities.
So there are two parts to this story. The first is the obvious — Mr. Security, Sen. Joe Lieberman (along with colleague "moderate" Republican Susan Collins), would like to hand tons of power to the president.

Do you wonder what a "cyberemergency" is? Or what the president could do if he declares one? Well, that's nicely unclear:
President Obama would then have the power to "issue a declaration of a national cyberemergency." What that entails is a little unclear, including whether DHS could pry user information out of Internet companies that it would not normally be entitled to obtain without a court order. One section says they can disclose certain types of noncommunications data if "specifically authorized by law," but a presidential decree may suffice.
Read the last sentence again. It says what you think it says — domestic snoopage.

The second part of this story is about the media. Go back to the CBS News story and read the 2nd and 3rd paragraphs, where I placed the inter-paragraph elipsis in the quote.

The deleted section starts "Internet companies should not be alarmed". Note how that statement appears to be a bare assertion by the writer, until you jump past a bunch of pro-forma senatorial details and get (if you're still reading that paragraph) to the anonymous "Senate aid" attribution part. The "Senate aid" quote isn't a quote until you read that part — no quote marks to show someone else is the speaker.

So the piece is neatly crafted for the fast reader as follows:

1. The Internet "kills switch" bill is back.
2. (But) it's not a problem, so not to worry (plus eye-glaze phrases with names).
3. (After all) "We're not trying to mandate any requirements ..." (plus eye-glaze phrases with tech words like "backbone").

That "fast reader" I mentioned is most people on the planet. Do you think CBS News has an agenda?

If so, that makes three — Lieberman, who always wants Daddy to have the biggest stick available (wonder what he's hiding); CBS News, which wants to be news-credible without alarming the sheep with what the news actually contains (in this case at least); and Susan Collins, who's providing "moderate Republican" cover for a radical proposal, and is safely not up for re-election until 2014).

The radical stars aligned. This will get a new set of votes soon. The Senate is fun place these days. Al Franken sponsors PIPA, the "kill the Internet" bill; the full Senate passes the NDAA "Indefinite Detention by the Military" bill; and now Lieberman's Internet Kill Switch bill will return for discussion and a vote.

Dear Team Not So Smart As You Think — this is a terrible way to ask for votes in 2012. Just sayin'.


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