Government pushing to control Internet

For the past decade, the federal government has been moving to gain effective control over the internet.  Now, thanks to legislation just crafted by Sen. Joseph Lieberman of Connecticut, the government may finally realize its goal of being able to control virtually all aspects of the vast internet, including private internet systems.

The decade-long process began in earnest in 2001, when the Bush Administration secured passage of legislation giving it jurisdiction to prosecute computer hackers anywhere in the world if the packets of information travelled through a U.S. computer or router and affected a “federal interest computer.” 

Then, in 2006, the Senate voted to ratify the Cybercrime Treaty that essentially internationalized all “cybercrimes,” so that crimes committed in any country that is a signatory to the treaty can be investigated by any other signatory country.  The treaty contains extremely broad definitions of “cybercrime” with no meaningful privacy protections.

Two years later, during his last year in office, President George W. Bush signed an executive order centralizing in the National Security Agency (NSA) the power to monitor the computer networks of all federal agencies.  As a result of this non-legislative initiative, federal law enforcement and intelligence agencies were empowered to monitor even private, domestic networks if they suspected unauthorized intrusions.

Shortly after taking office in January 2009, President Barrack Obama sought and obtained significantly increased funding for federal cybersecurity activities.  Also in 2009, the administration created a cybersecurity office in the White House, and a new military command dedicated to cybersecurity in the Defense Department.  Problems continue to plague the government’s efforts to protect government cyber systems against intrusions, however, based largely on technical difficulties and privacy concerns.

Undaunted, the Congress for the past year has been toying with legislation to protect the government’s vast cyber-systems, but which at the same time would grant the president and the Department of Commerce in particular, vast and virtually unfettered power to commandeer even private computer network systems under the vague notion of a potential cyber-threat.  None of these bills has gained sufficient traction to pass either house of the Congress.  Lieberman hopes his latest attempt, encumbered by the unwieldy title, the “Protecting Cyberspace as a National Asset Act” (“PCNAA”), will break that losing streak. 

PCNAA would greatly expand the federal cybersecurity bureaucracy, this time largely within the Department of Homeland Security.  In particular, a new National Center for Cybersecurity and Communications (NCCC), would gain power to issue enforceable commands to any private company that “relies” on the internet.  Any internet traffic or private internet system could be shut down under emergency powers granted in the legislation.  These powers could be exercised if the government determines there is a vaguely-defined “incident” that even “potentially jeopardizes” any internet or communications network.

Federal interference in the private sector would not be limited to “emergencies.”  As noted, for example, by privacy expert Declan McCullagh in a recent article, the NCCC would be able to monitor the “security status” of private websites and internet systems.

Anticipating industry opposition to the legislation, the draft bill makes a significant effort to essentially buy-off private-sector opposition, by granting immunity from civil lawsuits to companies that might commit costly errors or harm customers as a result of complying with government directives under the legislation.  As another indirect inducement to gain industry support, Lieberman’s bill makes clear that federal agencies will be making massive new purchases of products to enhance the security of their cyber systems.

Protecting government computers and internet systems from hackers and other external threats is a critically important responsibility of governments at all levels.  However, using that responsibility to gain control over private cyber systems is neither warranted nor necessary.  In fact, by thus overreaching, the government may be delaying and hampering its efforts to protect the very government systems over which it should be concerned.

43 comments Add your comment

deborahinAthens

June 21st, 2010
5:44 am

Thank you, yet again, Bob for watching out for the freedoms most people in this country seem all too willing to give up. But, when it comes to the internet, you’re too late. I remember, in 2003,2004, 2005, trying to find news stories about how many Iraqi civilians were killed during the beginning of the war. In this country, the news was already very tightly controlled, with most stories focusing on how “successful” the war was. It didn’t matter that tens of thousands of innocent men, women and children were killed. It didn’t matter that there were no weapons of mass destruction. If, however, you went to other countries– Great Britain, France, etc. you could read news stories that gave you the “other side” of the story. This restriction of information occurred without any sort of law being passed. Someone, somewhere just made sure you couldn’t access the information. So, when you start your story with the premise that we already had a “free” flow of information on the internet, you are behind the eight ball. What is so very sad, is that the American public seems to be happy with this state of affairs, and continue to make decisions based on the narrow, biased news that they are able to access.

Mickey

June 21st, 2010
5:45 am

The Congress and President Obama need to be stopped. I believe this isall about controlling the information that we have access to and watching our every move we make.

A CONSERVATIVE

June 21st, 2010
5:57 am

BIG BROTHER IS HERE FOLKS…..LIBERALs can justify taking away from you every freedom you have enjoyed…AND the looney rank-& file liberal will go along like sheep over a clift.

A CONSERVATIVE

June 21st, 2010
5:57 am

BIG BROTHER IS HERE FOLKS…..LIBERALs can justify taking away from you every freedom you have enjoyed…AND the looney rank-& file liberal will go along like sheep over a clift.

extricated

June 21st, 2010
6:12 am

First, I can’t stand Obama.
However, don’t forget that this started under a “conservative” Bush.
“Big Brother” policies aren’t just products of democrats.

Walter

June 21st, 2010
6:19 am

A Conservative: George W Bush started this process. So you can blame your own party for this “loony action.”

David S

June 21st, 2010
6:25 am

The cornered rats are lashing out in the only way they know how.

Not Going To Use My Usual Name

June 21st, 2010
6:58 am

Also a concern: net neutrality. Corporations should NOT be restricting use of the Internet any more than phone companies should be restricting use of landline phones. Make sure the FCC keeps (or maybe just *gets*) some teeth in order to enforce neutrality. Big ISPs like Comcast want to restrict how their customers use the Internet by making some sites faster or slower than others. They should be allowed to give a data pricing plan, but they should *not* be allowed to give some sites priority over others.

Just another instance where business alone does NOT have your best interests at heart.

A fundamental difference between conservatives and liberals: liberals trust government, because we elect them and can unelect them. Conservatives trust business, because–well, I can’t think of a good reason, to be honest. I think they’ve bought this Adam Smith mess about a so-called invisible hand, forgetting that this “hand” is very happy to slap us ordinary folks.

Lieberman is rather persona non grata on the Hill. I won’t worry about his legislation unless it appears to have legs, and I’d be surprised.

WTF?

June 21st, 2010
7:12 am

One day, and probably sooner rather than later the beat down American comman people will finally say enough is enough and unfortunately there won’t be a march or protest. This country will become a third world country in the sense that there will be uncontrolled riots, bombings, murders, robbings and all other forms of violent crime due to the simple fact that the government tried to turn our free society into a communist country. The only peaceful way to make change is go to the ballot box and VOTE !!!

Ruth Ellen

June 21st, 2010
7:15 am

I can remember when my folks threw an election night party the day Franklin D. Roosevelt was elected to office. Everybody came over to our house to listen to the election returns on radio. One man jumped up and danced a jig when Franklin D. Roosevelt won. Those “old timers” would never believe what is happening in the USA today. A socialist USA. Led by one of the most unpresidental Presidents American has ever voted into office. God save the USA.

A True Patriot

June 21st, 2010
7:16 am

This is scary…..the “Government trying to control the Internet”…..that’s a joke, they can’t even control themselves, most of them are just as crooked as they can be and can’t be trusted. Load ‘em up boys, next thing they’ll be after is our guns. Thank you Bob Barr, a Great American, for continuing to bring this kind of absurdity to our attention.

Not Going To Use My Usual Name

June 21st, 2010
7:16 am

The government wha–? Is this a joke? I mean, come on. Even Obama’s much-hated “health care reform” is really just insurance reform, not actual single-payer coverage–a far cry from the open access to healthcare enjoyed by the rest of the developed world. Are you going to apologize to BP next?

Not Going To Use My Usual Name

June 21st, 2010
7:18 am

Socialism… I do not think it means what you think it means (apologies to Princess Bride). Y’all seem to be under the mistaken impression that our President is a Marxist. Government regulation =/= socialism.

[...] Government Pushing to Control Internet For the past decade, the federal government has been moving to gain effective control over the internet. Now, thanks to legislation just crafted by Sen. Joseph Lieberman of Connecticut, the government may finally realize its goal of being able to control virtually all aspects of the vast internet, including private internet systems. The decade-long process began in earnest in 2001, when the Bush Administration secured passage of legislation giving it jurisdiction to prosecute computer hackers anywhere in the world if the packets of information traveled through a U.S. computer or router and affected a “federal interest computer.” Read the full AJC post here. [...]

Will

June 21st, 2010
8:07 am

deborahinAthens

June 21st, 2010
5:44 am
Where do you think foreign armies, groups, and terrorists get their soldiers? Do you think they have a mold and pour blood and flesh into it and a soldier pops out? Liberals have always limited our soldiers on the batttle field. Result! More of our children killed. That is ok with liberals. Americans should die first and foremost. There is not intention of the armed forces to kill anyone but the armed military. But guess what “deborahinAthens”, OUR children want to live and come home to. You are a disgrace!

Socrates Stepchild

June 21st, 2010
8:11 am

A CONSERVATIVE, As if “conservatives” in office do not “take away” freedoms? Fools like you continue to play the Glenn Beck said/Keith Olberman said game, while tyrants from both sides of the aisle consolidate their power at our expense. The federal government MUST control the internet, because the internet is killing the USPS. It will present the move as “national security” or “anti-hacking” but by the time it’s over, we will pay a fee to send emails, and our monthly ISP bill will look like a telephone bill, with 10-15% in additional taxes and government fees. This isn’t about freedom in the traditional sense. This is about the government’s insatiable appetite for revenue.

Socrates Stepchild

June 21st, 2010
8:15 am

WTF?, Sorry to ruin the party, but the idea that we can vote, and out votes matter is nothing more than a ruse to delay the aforementioned civil unrest. If Bush is as complicit in this as Obama, and Lieberman is behind this (a former Dem, who now describes himself as “independent”), what good is voting? We’re darned if we do and darned if the don’t. The government will bleed out the working/middle class, until, as you point out, we are a third world nation, with a very wealthy and very well-protected (by the government) ownership class, and the rest of us living in squalor.

Al Gore

June 21st, 2010
8:33 am

I invented the internet for everyone to enjoy and have a good time. It makes me mad that my Big Brother wants to hog my toy.

Eva Kosinski

June 21st, 2010
8:45 am

For years, folks who said there were US forces trying to control the Internet were told by techies “don’t worry, the US doesn’t control the Internet…it’s international and those other countries would NEVER let the US affect their use of the Internet.” But the neo-con elements in both major parties, who see opportunities for the US to regain its status as “world leader” and who see a “one world” view (with, of course, themselves in charge) are now pushing hard to convince other countries that they, too, can be control freaks, and the wish to gain power over others is a very potent force in human psychology. Reworking the “boogeyman” threat so it’s now the “boogeyman on the Internet” gets a lot of people to sign on, however weak-willed that seems. As long as some folks can be the ones telling everyone else what to do in their own country, they won’t care that liberties are lost worldwide. World government is a very tempting target for those who want absolute power; for those who must live under that power, world government is a single point of failure that can cripple the entire planet when decisions go wrong. Our freedom and success are based in diversity, and a free internet will do more for that than any single thing in our lifetimes.

Eddie

June 21st, 2010
9:04 am

The internet is become too important for commerce and many other reasons for the govt not to be able to protect it from hackers and other people with crimial and destructive intent. Looks t o me our lawmakers and representatives are moving in the right direction. We need freedom but our forms of commerce and communication vital to us also need protection.

Socrates Stepchild

June 21st, 2010
9:31 am

Eddie, Please tell us you’re a federal government mole. You must be kidding. The reason the government wants control of the internet is presented in your first sentence – “the internet has become too important for commerce”. If the private sector is using something (telephones, internet, automobiles, etc.) to conduct business – generate income/revenue, the government must attach itself to the revenue stream in order to siphon off its cut. This isn’t about free commerce or hackers; it’s about $$$

The Thin Guy

June 21st, 2010
9:56 am

If the government clamps down on the internet look for it to move to satellite. It would be impractical for the fuzz to come to your house and put tin foil around your dish. The internet is like toothpaste. Once it’s out of the bottle there’s no going back.

Dr. Pangloss

June 21st, 2010
10:03 am

Bob’s headline is basically a lie.

One place read about what the bill is really about is at http://www.thedailybeast.com/blogs-and-stories/2010-06-18/new-bill-would-let-obama-police-internet-for-national-security-reasons/

There are legit concerns on either side. For instance:

WikiLeaks, which is nominally based in Sweden and promotes itself as a global resource for whistleblowers, announced this week that it is preparing to post a classified Pentagon video depicting an American airstrike in Afghanistan last year that left as many as 140 people dead, most of them children and teenagers.

It’s good that the whistle is being blown in a case like this, but what if they post info on troop movements?

Not long ago, one group tried going in through the Internet and taking control of a big electric generator; they succeeded and had the machine shaking itself to death.

This is not a simple issue.

Morrus

June 21st, 2010
10:09 am

Curiously, in a supposed anti-incumbent year, most of the departing are not retiring but seeking higher office. We may recycle more than we replace. The bad news is that a frustrating 114 seats still have but one contestant. Two of them aren’t even incumbents, meaning they will affect state policy without being vetted by voters. And I have to think that we’d be better off if many had run instead for the Legislature — and cut down on the number running unopposed. Georgia’s problems are numerous. They aren’t going away. There’s too much stale thinking at the Capitol, on both sides of the aisle. New voices would be welcome.

StJ

June 21st, 2010
10:19 am

Napolitano said it is wrong to believe that if security is embraced, liberty is sacrificed.

On the contrary, liberty is sacrificed anytime you give the government more power.

I can see if you want to monitor critical infrastructure against cyber-terrorism by logging all access attempts to the critical systems; but logging every site that every user visits is no different than what China does.

It’s time to vote the Communists out.

Elephant Whip

June 21st, 2010
10:47 am

Conservatives on here trying to say this is Obama’s bag are willfully ignorant. Bush’s administration was trying to monitor everyone’s cell phone activity without getting a search warrant and was shut down time and time again by the federal courts for illegal invasion of privacy. Bush was setting up big brother ever since 911 in the name of protection (who cares if excess information collected can be used politically or sold to private industry).

I am disgusted that legislators/executive agents Democrat or otherwise are intruding on our constitutional right to privacy, but please avoid hypocrisy when criticizing one administration/party more than the other on this issue.

Bonaparte

June 21st, 2010
10:51 am

Why do we not eliminate all government? Then each one of could be autonomous and kill anyone who threatened. Why have an army or navy or police? Who need them? Who needs roads, trash collection etc. etc?

Socrates Stepchild

June 21st, 2010
11:51 am

Bonaparte, Your sarcasm is noted, but when you think about it, what’s wrong with people disposing of their own trash? What’s the difference between a police officer killing a criminal, and a homeowner killing a criminal? I’ll concede that roads are an unique bird, but it is only through the federal highways (asphalt) system that over-the road truckers, can transport goods to Wal-Mart, using diesel fuel and petroleum-based rubber tires. When the line between public and private sector gets hazy; or when citizens come to accept the only relationship that matters is that of the government and America’s corporate citizens, you might be onto something. We can’t eliminate government all together, but only because that’s why we killed all the indians, who lived here for hundreds of thousands of years without government, trash collection and roads. Don’t be silly.

No Hope, No Change

June 21st, 2010
12:04 pm

Meet the new boss – same as the old boss.

Mr. Holmes

June 21st, 2010
12:19 pm

There is a legitimate debate to be had over government “control” over the Internet; the issue is not nearly as black and white as Mr. Barr lays out. Is the notion of Big Brother monitoring your web traffic or the security of your network unsettling? Of course. But the threats are very real–don’t kid yourself that they aren’t. And not just from random 13-year-old hackers, we’re talking state-supported cyber warfare.

I say this as a staunch liberal. I’m with Bob on most civil liberty vs. security questions, but the successful operation of world financial systems or national defense grids don’t depend on my ability to make a private phone call or walk down the street without being videotaped.

Someday, and probably soon, there will be a national examination of cyber civil rights that will be on the scale of what happened in the ’60s and during the suffrage movement. It won’t be solved by the typical Democrat/Republican name calling. It will demand some soul-searching, honest debate and–yes–compromise on all sides.

Remember compromise, folks? It’s the foundation of our government.

Brutus

June 21st, 2010
12:21 pm

You proved that you are Socrates Stepchild because you certainly didn’t inherit any of his smarts: The Indians had governments, both tribal and regional, and met in councils with representatives to work things out. They also had roads, and near the coast, they were even paved with oyster shells. They didn’t need trash collection because they had no trash, nothing artificial – everything they used was from the earth and returned to it organically.

Hillbilly Deluxe

June 21st, 2010
1:02 pm

we killed all the indians, who lived here for hundreds of thousands of years without government

Ever heard of a Tribal Council or a Chief?

Pho Nuff

June 21st, 2010
1:48 pm

Does the Hillbilly Deluxe come with extra cheese, lettuce and tomato or is that the Hilbilly Supreme?

Socrates Stepchild

June 21st, 2010
1:51 pm

Brutus and Hillbilly D; a Tribal Counsel is not a government. It is (get ready) a tribal counsel. An indian chief was no different than a religious elder, and given the the dogma of most native American religious dogma – intimately connected to the land (that’s why many pioneers called them “dirt worshippers”) could as easily be a shaman, as a worrior. I’ll concede the roads, but only if you concede the roads were not “built” and maintained by the orders of the tribal counsel. The roads were built for the same reason buffalo were hunted or corn was cultivated. A “tribe” is an extension of the family unit or clan, and it more ethnic than political. And you are correct, they lived off the land (which was not considered anyone’s “property”), but they were mostly nomadic. They would roam within a geographic area in search of food, or spend one season hunting and another hunkered down for the winter. In fact, it was not until the Spanish (re)introduced horses to North America, that native Americans roamed extensively beyond the northeast, southeast, Plains, desert southwest, etc.

Elephant Whip

June 21st, 2010
2:02 pm

Socrates Stepchild:

“Tribal Council” was also part of the Roman legislature more than 2000 years ago. It acted like the House of Representatives does in the US today (and, in fact, is the model for the House). It counterbalanced the Senate in Rome by representing the interest of the plebians in the face of the patricians who controlled the Senate and held the offices of consul.

Don’t hang you superficial argument on terminology. Back it with references.

ButtHead

June 21st, 2010
2:07 pm

All I hear from the liberal leftist is that George Bush did this, George Bush did that; stop it already we are not talking about Bush. This has to do Obozo trying to take over the internet. Just because Owl Gore invented it does not mean Obozo owns it. I hope the US wakes up before it is to late… Vote out ALL incumbents, FAIRTAX.ORG

Jefferson

June 21st, 2010
2:34 pm

[...] cybersecurity to launch the “Protecting Cyberspace as a National Asset Act”, a bill that, as dissected by former Rep. Bob Barr of Georgia, would grant the Executive Branch wide power and discretion to [...]

No More Progressives!

June 26th, 2010
12:49 pm

deborahinAthens

June 21st, 2010
5:44 am
Thank you, yet again, Bob for watching out for the freedoms most people in this country seem all too willing to give up.

First, I’m not picking on you, Debra. Your post is just a great example.

We really didn’t “give up” any freedoms, in my humble opinion. However, as I’ve watched politics for a few years now, a 30% voter turnout can be considered high. We have the opportunity to stop this madness, come November. And every vote counts. In every election. It’s still “We the People,” not Me the President.

Matty Boynton

June 28th, 2010
10:58 am

One of the reasons I believe Lieberman is attracted to this idea is that he might anticipate an unpopular was with Israel as the pre-emptive aggressor and in the name of national security wants the option to create a temporary propaganda bubble inside the US to support his beliefs in a watered-down version of what China has done regarding Tiananmen
.
We cannot let that happen. Give the private sector the impetus to protect it on its own. Let the govt. clamp down on .gov and .mil domains and allow other sensitive sites the means to disconnect from foreign intrusion and keep them out of the rest. The internet/arpanet was developed just to have no such central control in the event of a war so at least SOME of it will survive. It is better to have at least part of the internet up in a disaster then to have a tyrannical government hiding information from us in the name of national security. Central government control of anything regardless of the reason is the enemy of the truth.

richo

June 29th, 2010
2:04 pm

Well enough is enough, let’s all git him OUT!!!

[...] The “Protecting Cyberspace as a National Asset Act of 2010,” S. 3480, is part of a dangerous ploy by the Obama Administration and Congress to take over control of the Internet.Here are the main [...]

mrhossc

August 26th, 2010
2:17 am

deborahinAthens, you take the prize for narrow and biased! You just proved to a lot of people that those who are deceived don’t know they are deceived. Please don’t embarrass yourself so much.