When protests gained momentum in Egypt, the government forced the shutdown of Internet access and other forms of communication to prevent protesters from being able to work together and organize effectively. The same thing is going on in other countries faced with political upheaval as well.
At face value, giving the government the ability to shut off such a critical lifeline to the world as the Internet seems ridiculous. However, there are actually some legitimate cases where the government might want such a capability–not to oppress the people, but to defend them.
As Americans, we don’t want the government to have any undue power or control. But, a case can be made that it is in our best interests from a national security perspective to allow the government to shut off portions of the Internet in the event of a cyber attack against the nation. Shutting down the effected portions of the Internet can contain the threat and prevent any further spread or damage while responding to the attack.
According to an article on the Senate bill from USA Today, “The Cybersecurity and Internet Freedom Act aims to protect critical infrastructures that Americans rely on–the power grid, financial systems and water supply, among other things–in the event of a potentially crippling digital assault. It does not, as its authors say, give anyone the authority to choke off the Internet with the flick of a so-called “kill switch,” as some of its critics contend.”
I get it. The country is very polarized in its political alignment, and we only trust administrations we support. Armed political militias and rhetoric about defending the Constitution all but died during the Bush administration–while the government pushed through the PATRIOT Act without debate or reasonable consideration, and illegally spied on citizens, and found clever loopholes allowing prisoners to be “legally” tortured and circumventing the Fourth, Fifth, and Sixth amendments to the Constitution.
Yet, suddenly when the Obama administration wants to solve the healthcare epidemic armed militias show up at rallies, and conservative mouthpieces like Glenn Beck and Rush Limbaugh stoke the fires of tinfoil hat conspiracy theorists suggesting the President is not an American citizen, or he’s a Muslim (as if that would somehow disqualfy him for the office of President).
Conversely, I was quite sure that Bush, Cheney, and Rove had an overt disdain for the Constitution and how it got in the way of them doing what they wanted to do, and that the Bush administration did more damage to the United States and the world than any government leadership of any nation in decades. Yet, I fully support President Obama and I have faith that he is focused on the best interests of the nation.
My point is, I am sure that the reality lies somewhere in the middle, and the government has an obligation to protect and defend the nation. Cries of “kill switch” are akin to cries of “death panel” in the healthcare debate, or the “birther” movement to prove President Obama is not an American citizen. They are silly, ridiculous distractions.
I don’t know if the bill currently before the Senate is the right bill to get the job done. But, I do know it addresses a need, and that it should be considered and debated–rationally.