Egypt move revives US ‘kill switch’ debate

By Agence France-Presse
Sunday, February 6, 2011 5:48 EDT
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WASHINGTON (AFP) – Egypt’s five-day shutdown of the Internet has revived debate in the United States over how much authority the president should have over the Web in the event of a crisis.

Some opponents of cybersecurity legislation wending its way through the US Congress have condemned the bill as a danger to free speech and civil liberties that would equip the White House with an Internet “kill switch.”

Supporters deny it would confer any such power on the president.

As Hosni Mubarak cut his 80 million people off from the Web, the US senators behind the legislation denounced the move by the Egyptian president as “totally wrong” and leapt to the defense of their bill.

“(Mubarak’s) actions were clearly designed to limit internal criticisms of his government,” said Joe Lieberman, an independent from Connecticut, Susan Collins, a Republican from Maine, and Tom Carper, a Democrat from Delaware.

“Our cybersecurity legislation is intended to protect the US from external cyberattacks,” Lieberman, chairman of the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, Collins and Carper said in a joint statement.

“We would never sign on to legislation that authorized the president, or anyone else, to shut down the Internet,” they said. “Emergency or no, the exercise of such broad authority would be an affront to our Constitution.”

At the same time, the senators continued, “our current laws do give us reason to be concerned” and their bill, which has yet to reach the Senate floor, was designed to replace “broad and ambiguous” presidential authority with “precise and targeted” powers to be used only in a national emergency.

In June, the Electronic Frontier Foundation, American Civil Liberties Union and some two dozen other privacy, civil liberties and civil rights groups wrote a letter to Lieberman, Collins and Carper to express concern about the bill.

“Changes are needed to ensure that cybersecurity measures do not unnecessarily infringe on free speech, privacy, and other civil liberties interests,” they said.

“The Internet is vital to free speech and free inquiry, and Americans rely on it every day to access and to convey information,” the groups said. “It is imperative that cybersecurity legislation not erode our rights.”

Taking note of the concerns, Lieberman, Collins and Carper said “we will ensure that any legislation that moves in this Congress contains explicit language prohibiting the president from doing what President Mubarak did.”

“Our bill already contains protections to prevent the president from denying Americans access to the Internet — even as it provides ample authority to ensure that those most critical services that rely on the Internet are protected,” they said.

Cindy Cohn, the EFF’s legal director and general counsel, said the latest version of the cybersecurity legislation was an improvement on its “draconian predecessors” but remained wary.

“The Egyptian regime’s shutdown of the Internet in an attempt to preserve its political power highlights the dangers of any government having unchecked power over our Internet infrastructure,” Cohn said in a blog post.

“The lesson of Egypt is that no one, not even the President of the United States, should be given the power to turn off the Internet.

“(Egypt’s move) puts a fine point on the risks to democracy posed by recent Congressional proposals to give the president a broad mandate to dictate how our Internet service providers respond to cyber-emergencies,” she said.

“Any proposal to give the president the ability to interfere with Internet access of Americans — whether to address cyberattacks or for any other reason — must be tightly circumscribed,” she said.

“It must be limited to situations where there are serious and demonstrable external security threats and must be strongly checked by both Congressional and court review.”

James Lewis, a cybersecurity expert at the Washington-based Center for Strategic and International Studies, said the cybersecurity bill sets the threshold for invoking the presidential powers “very, very high.”

“It’s not some arbitrary power to turn off the Internet,” Lewis told AFP. “It’s an authority consistent with other wartime authorities to act in an emergency.

“It’s not an Internet kill switch,” he said. “That’s just insane. How do you kill a globally distributed network with millions of devices?

“The answer is you don’t,” Lewis continued. “But you can think about isolating certain domains or certain enterprises.

“Say a big power company gets infected,” Lewis said. “You say to them ‘Disconnect yourself before you infect other power companies.’ It’s like an avian flu quarantine for the Internet.
“It’s not like Egypt where the dictator wakes up in a bad mood and does it,” he said. “It would be a legitimate process. It would have to be the threshold of an act of war or a major terrorist event.”

Agence France-Presse
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  • http://profiles.yahoo.com/u/LEUDUVF5EGJZRZETF3KV53P7BQ Thomas

    What lie-berman meant was that the external cyber attack was anybody other than the official government lie. For anybody telling the truth, they are the externals. The web must remain free of all government intervention. There’s enough intervention from the various web sites, Huffington Post.

  • Anonymous

    Last sentense in article above:-
    “It would be a legitimate process. It would have to be the threshold of an act of war or a major terrorist event.”

    Think about it.
    You’re already there.
    It’s called “The War on Terror.”

  • Anonymous

    Slimey buggers aren’t they.
    They’re looking for a way to shut down individuals and groups for “suspected copyright infringement” when they say or advocate things the govt doesn’t like — that way you can’t accuse them of stomping on free speech — while at the same time ensuring their own communication abilities aren’t inhibited and they can still use your cellphone to track you.

  • CozmicSeer

    Lie-berman was the one that started this with his statement “They can do it in China…why can’t we do that here?” This guy is a traitor if he wants to run this country like they do in China. We should deport him to China so he can live where they do what he wants them to. Then ask the other two dipsticks senators if they still want to introduce the bill after that.

  • Anonymous

    WOW! Look at them all DANCE now huh? SO let me get this straight, they would never give an American president the same power they would to Hosni, thats unconstitutional, they just want the president to be able to shut down all communications at will in a national emergency….. hmmmmm

  • Anonymous

    If these meat h eads turned the internet off, it would be like whacking a hornets nest. See what our youth do if you take their facebook and texting away. it would be the end for most politicians.

  • Anonymous

    Actually it was Rockefeller who I first heard talking about shutting down the net. He proposed in a hearing that the WHOLE internet be shut down now with a smirk on his reptile face. The internet has become a utility every bit as important as electricity and supports many jobs and businesses. The logical thing to do is to take important things off the public internet and put it on a closed intranet but Lieberman and Rockefeller have other motives.

  • Anonymous

    They would never give an American “Democrat” president…

  • Anonymous

    Check this out if you want a kill switch:


    U.S. News
    10 sports Web sites shut down for piracy


    Bloody bastards better not mess with Liverpool vs Chelsea match today………

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_LJMNZL5KJFX2H5CKWK2S75HU7I Kevin

    Right..just like an American “Democrat” President would never allow renditions and torture to happen.

  • Anonymous

    In the event of a real crisis in the US, the President is going to shut down the internet if he/she thinks it’s necessary and worry about if it was legal later.

  • Anonymous

    Link didn’t work

  • Anonymous

    It did show the homeland security emblem didn’t it?

  • Anonymous
  • http://profiles.yahoo.com/u/FPBFO6RC5R2HHIP3VXSFU2RZQA mjj

    There is a difference to having the authority to shut down the internet and the power to do so. He may not have the authority to shut the internet down but does he have the capability to do so? If he doesn’t does someone else have it ?

  • DesertSun59

    There is NO DEBATE. The US economy is beholden to a working Internet. Do you all really think the US gov’t will halt commerce in the US? Do any of you have jobs? Have any of you ever worked a day of your life in IT?

    I have, for over 20 years.

    The US gov’t is beholden to a working Internet. The transmission of data that you don’t even know about relies on a working Internet. A huge amount of gov’t communication relies on a working Internet.

    There will never EVER be a ‘kill switch’ either figuratively or literally, to ‘shut down the Internet’.

    This debate was over before it ever began.

  • Anonymous

    Mubarek has shown us that those who claim it is impossible or even difficult are apologists for those who want the power. One need only call Boeing to buy the software Mubarek and other terrorists have used. It will also tell who is sending what online, with deep packet inspection. More dangerous than shutting it off, would be hitting those who speak out, such as the FBI are doing now to people who have stood up and demonstrated in support of Julian Assange.

  • Anonymous

    More dangerous than shutting it off would be sanitizing the internet with deep packet inspection software, that would block controversial topics and report dissent. The attacks now going on against those who stood up and demonstrated in support of Assange are evidence of what they would do with the power.

  • godistwaddle

    Torture, plutocracy, a kill switch on free speech. We ARE Egyptians, treated like fellaheen by bankers, insurance companies, and multinational corporation who own our political whores.

  • Anonymous

    I have to give Obama congratulations by asking to have an Internet kill switch. Obama is challenging all those young kids and this got all the young people coming out with a lot of innovations on how to communicate without the internet. These kids are simple unstoppable. The thought that grownups could stop them from communicating and playing games really got them going. You are now talking about 9 and 10years old kids.
    That was a brilliant idea to challenge them like that, by the time they finish the Internet is going to be irrelevant for them. They refer to the Internet as the Old foggy net.
    Have a look at some things they are doing:


  • Anonymous

    Lieberman stops humping Israel’s leg, walks to the podium, and says “Arf, arf, bark, bark, arf, arf…” After finishing his statement he quickly returns to his masters side.

  • SCLiberal

    Prior to the internet I don’t recall anyone trying to give the president the sole authority to shut down all phone service.

  • Anonymous

    Wake up, lefties, and use your friggin socialist brains: WHEN EGYPT SHUT DOWN THE NET, THE BANKS AND ALL BUSINESSES WERE UNABLE TO FUNCTION SO THE NET WAS REOPENED. IT WORKS TWO WAYS–(1) you make it tough to unite the rebels, (2) yiou fuck up your own economy and further gain resentment from a larger audience.

    Put Marx aside and think on your own for a change.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_ZQPQ7VGUQIMTNHZCUM472IPSJM Doug Jones

    I watched an online news report that said NARUS an American company in (Silicon Valley) Sunnyvale CA is the company that shut down the Egyptian internet. NARUS software and I guess training the Egyptians how to shut down the internet.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1046573071 Matt Mosley

    Crisis = Uprising against tyranny

  • Anonymous

    What was it about “the road to hell is paved with good intentions?” Anyway, the lesson from Egypt is how well this didn’t work.

  • Anonymous

    Point of information: Which Rockefeller?

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Lon-Warneke/1409625620 Lon Warneke

    There is no Internet ‘kill-switch’ –except metaphorically:

  • NadePaulKuciGravMcKi

    Joe Lieberman demands a ‘law’ to censor exposure of criminals.

  • http://www.myspace.com/dermezel Megaprole

    Lot’s of people are like “they wouldn’t really go that far…”

    Well I don’t think such people really have any conception of how much the lust to retain power can cloud a person’s judgment.

    Leaders have historically destroyed their nation’s economy, their culture, their people, basically everything just to hold onto power for a little bit longer.

    Do I believe the capitalists if cornered would use a Nuke? I bet a lot more then you’d expect would rather Nuke the entire world then ever face the terrible fate of calling themseves “equal” to you or me.

    Just like a White Southern Slave Owner would rather die (and many did) then live to see the day of a free black person.

    Many of our corporate elite would be willing to crash the economy a thousand times over then lose their positions of dominance and power.

  • http://www.myspace.com/dermezel Megaprole

    I mean just think about it, if they are willing to use nukes, they are willing to shut down the internet (or try to) and destroy the economy.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_TF72KWIG5DGSPE3ZXDK6FX4KTQ Robert Burned

    If an internet kill switch is possible, its use would have devastating consequences for commerce.

    I don’t believe the corporations could allow the closure to last very long.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_TF72KWIG5DGSPE3ZXDK6FX4KTQ Robert Burned

    An actual Easy Button to shut the Internet down may not exist, but it could be closed down.

    The deeper problem is the effect this would have on the wealthy pigs for whose ultimate benefit such a shutdown would be carried out.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_TF72KWIG5DGSPE3ZXDK6FX4KTQ Robert Burned

    It seems that all they’re doing is putting a usb stick in a wall and plastering it over. You can tell the guys are hackers because they’re taking the board out of its little case before plastering it over (kewl).

    Of course nobody’s going to notice all these geeks looking shady with their netbooks stuck at right angles to a wall.

    Is there something slick going on here that they haven’t bothered to explain? Like actual networking for example? It seems that a good deal more could be done ….

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_PCHLMPBJKYTW3LJBHZEZMO3TXQ What Ever

    If no one should have the power to shut down the Internet then whats this bill about, it is about shutting down the Internet, period. This is another one of those bills like the Patriot Act to protect us from our rights and freedoms and to increase the power of our corporate owned government over us. 9/11 was an excuse to trash our democracy and its working beautifully so far.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_PCHLMPBJKYTW3LJBHZEZMO3TXQ What Ever

    Kids now a days tsk, tsk.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_TF72KWIG5DGSPE3ZXDK6FX4KTQ Robert Burned

    Didn’t the Assange “supporters” take a calculated risk of being identified or actually step forward? How deep were their attempts at clandestinity? And besides, weren’t they hackers, illegally attacking well-known targets?

    My impression of what the “alternate techs” seek to protect is free communication among citizens on news and political matters, which might be enabled by a type of hacking (in the sense of ingeniously cobbling up ways around blocking) but is not itself hacking.

    Even on the WWW, the Darth Powers of the NSA, etc., as regards the general population (as opposed to hackers) might be more limited than you think. Part of the problem is making use of terafloods of mostly worthless data which overwhelm the watchers. Still the point is a good one.

    Posts here suggest a number of promising alternative techs addressing different parts of the problem such as local wireless peer-to-peer networks and packet radio/ham radio.

    The kicker with regard to a large-scale international resource is that you have to have not only a functioning proof of concept but also a network and body of users with the necessary equipment. All this would have to be in place, tested, in use, and somehow sustained before any crackdown.

    If any kind of robust two-way comms. network or facility is built out and populated on a national scale, won’t it stand out like Mount Helena?

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_TF72KWIG5DGSPE3ZXDK6FX4KTQ Robert Burned

    Last I heard, those sites (which I don’t use, so wouldn’t know) were available from offshore servers not subject to Sieg Heil Security’s so-called “jurisdiction.”

  • H.P. Loathecraft

    One pundit on BBC stated that when Mubarak shut down the internet it was a negative for the regime and a turning point because the only remaining way for people to communicate was in the streets.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_TF72KWIG5DGSPE3ZXDK6FX4KTQ Robert Burned

    Most of our youth would just have tantrums and yell “bitch!”

  • H.P. Loathecraft

    Society is profoundly dependent on the internet. I think all air traffic control data is available only online today so, no internet, not commercial flights.

  • Anonymous

    Didn’t the lunch counter protesters do exactly the same thing? They blocked service at Southern lunch counters because they were refused service. The tousands of people worldwide who want to support wikileaks were treacherously attacked by banks, with no legal action whatsoever having called for this. Many thousands of people staged what amounted to a sit in to protest this. The reaction of the US government has been to pick off protesters privately, one by one.
    The necessary equipment is in place, developed by Boeing even though it is illegal to use here, and it was provided to Mubarak and some others. The only purpose of this software is to detect protesters and silence them, and to block all data transfer when it suits the needs of the owner. I am sure that the development of this system is covered in the black budget, which disappeared from the news. It is not something Americans should be developing as an ethical matter. Go back to ham radio? I think this is unlikely.

  • H.P. Loathecraft

    That’s where the scary “cyber attack” excuse comes in handy.

  • Anonymous

    oh they’d shut it down in a few hours if it came to the same situation as has arisen in egypt…..but it won’t come to that for a long long while. as this very good piece in the truthout points out, once put in the context of the unravelling of the american neo-liberal Empire, much of what is happening at a micro-level becomes understandable from forces working at a global level. the US is pretty much politically stable until the unraveling reaches close to it own shores, meaning until the dominos mostly fall

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_TF72KWIG5DGSPE3ZXDK6FX4KTQ Robert Burned

    Your reference to Marx is a total non sequitur.You teaparty fuckbags never get anything right.

  • H.P. Loathecraft


  • Anonymous

    Regarding the Internet Kill Switch and it’s effect on killing free speech, the following is truly the stupidest statement of the year so far.

    “Supporters deny it would confer any such power on the president.”

    Bull shit…First you gave our radio to the right wing, then our television, now all that is left is the internet and you dare say a “Kill Switch” would not affect the flow of Free Speech. You have got to be kidding me…

    Well when you pull the plug, you’ll find us dirty f–king hippies in the streets, just like the Tunisians, the Egyptians, and the rest of the 98 percent of the worlds “have nots”.


  • H.P. Loathecraft

    Fucking up the economy? No problema. With some advance notice, Wall St. switches to put options. Ka-ching!

    Sept. 2001: “Bloomberg News reported that put options on the airlines surged to the phenomenal high of 285 times their average.”

  • H.P. Loathecraft

    It took Limbaugh a full week to figure out how to spin Egypt. Waaay behind the curve.

  • H.P. Loathecraft
  • Anonymous

    Actual ATC mission critical data is not on the internet. It is on special point to point telco circuits. However flight info is available as a courtesy/convenience on the web.

    The real issue is the shutdown of commerce, personal automatic bill pay from your bank to your creditors, shopping, and other items we have grown dependent on over the last 25 years.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_TF72KWIG5DGSPE3ZXDK6FX4KTQ Robert Burned

    There’s always one lurking somewhere like pandemic flu.

  • http://profiles.yahoo.com/u/YVBA25ZZJYN5C44WGILY6P4X34 Raven

    Well said!

  • Anonymous

    Thank you. Thanks for the link.

  • Anonymous


  • Anonymous

    We need a Switch to turn off the actions and policies coming from these corrupted Corporate brought elected officials.
    That is the switch American need.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_IAHKRM7O3ZRX5MCQQTHHQVSAF4 Nem Inis

    Next possession of tin cans and string will be declared a treasonous act.

  • H.P. Loathecraft

    This is true. However, as I mentioned elsewhere, with advance notice, losses are wins to those who place the right put options in a timely manner.
    Thom Hartmann suggests the entire financial crash was entirely intentional and extremely profitable to those who stood to gain the most.

  • Anonymous

    There were plenty of free blacks when slavery was legal, and I’ve never heard of a single slave holder who committed suicide because they couldn’t bear seeing a free black.

    But, yeah, these folks will hit the kill switch without batting an eyelash, if they think it is to their advantage. Egypt was a test to see how effective a policy it will be. You can be sure that the foundations tasked with studying that are buzzing right now over all the data from Egypt…

  • Anonymous

    I can’t believe Joe Lieberman would poke his head up after his gaffe being so vocal about having Amazon shut down WikiLeaks, etc. What a toad! Does he think we will believe this is anything BUT a way to shut down dissent? I think not… He must think we have short memories.

  • realnewz

    but wouldnt the Internet be needed the most in cases of an emergency ?

    It appears that Congress wants public opinion/networking shut down in the event of a crisis.
    I interpete this ‘kill switch’ similiar to a media blackout.
    As others have mentioned, shutting down the Internet would harm business,
    (for a few days) but never under estimate the govt will to shut down dissent.

    The way the system is set up, the Internet is the only way to ‘safely’ have a dissenting opinion
    when voting, protesting, and writing to politicians clearly dont work.

  • Guest

    The jig is up on this deal, and our liars in congress know it. Let us review. Kill switch activated in Iran, end of democracy movement revolt. Kill switch activated Egypt, democracy movement stalled and would be dead if not for Al Jazeera (because of internet use). United states kill switch (first leg) activated, Wikileaks web sites under attack, all money sources frozen.

    Feel free to add your example of the ‘harmless” kill switch these basterd’s want.

  • Rob

    It is my opinion that if they are asking for the authority, they already have the ability. If history is to be any type of guide…
    Since the first “war powers” act. we have effectively been ruled by executive order. I haven’t heard yet; what is to be the 2011 justification for the declaration of a national state of emergency?

  • Rob

    Texas is 100 miles from here. Nope, damb… wait… oh yeah, still proud of Texas…
    I think this clean-cut, moderate hippy is likely to be out front with you’all, yet again.
    And the only trouble with Texas is that they tend to breed their own breed of elitist, and as it goes with so much from there, “bigger is better!”
    But by far the majority of Texans I’ve met are good, honest folk. Save the odd cousin that likes to shoot, drink, and gives in to his passions.

  • Anonymous


  • Anonymous

    John D Rockeffeler in a hearing that was broadcast on CSPAN 8 months ago or so. Here is an example but in the hearing that followed he bluntly said he felt the internet should be shut down for security http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ct9xzXUQLuY&playnext=1&list=PL0FB50C5044C3D57F

  • Anonymous

    Texas does have its fair share and more of crazy…
    But in general most everyone here just wants to live their life and enjoy their family, in spite of the shirttail relatives and odd cousins :)

  • dk504

    I think it’s the one thing both sides would actually agree on and fight for. Kill switch our Internet and everyone will pour out of their homes and start tearing shit apart. Especially those old white guys, they have got to keep in touch with their Aryan Brotherhod. Very scary.

  • dk504

    >>>Taking note of the concerns, Lieberman, Collins and Carper said “we will ensure that any legislation that moves in this Congress contains explicit language prohibiting the president from doing what President Mubarak did.”<<<<
    Then why the hell are we pushing a bill through Congress? When did Obama say: it's imperative he have a Kill Switch to the Internet? When did that happen?
    And if Obama is going after the Internet, I sure as hell don't want Lieberman and Collins any where near this type of legislation. Two of the most untrustworthy Senators ever, oh yeah this is right up your alley Deputy Dawg. please

  • Anonymous

    touché : )