Web Emergency: No Sweat, Obama's Got It

Senate bill would give president the power to unplug the Internet

By Sajid Farooq
|  Friday, Aug 28, 2009  |  Updated 7:07 PM EDT
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Web Emergency: No Sweat, Obama's Got It

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President Barack Obama has been called the most digital president in American history. And now he could maybe control of the Internet.

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Cross cyber terrorism off of your list of things to worry about. President Barack Obama has it covered.

A Senate bill on cyber security that scared Internet companies and civil liberties groups last spring is back with a revised edition and firewalls everywhere are still worried.

Democratic Sen. Jay Rockefeller's bill would give Obama the ability to take control of private-sector networks during a cyber emergency, a power one Senate source compared with President George W. Bush's decision to halt all air travel following the attacks on Sept. 11.

CNET News obtained a copy of the 55-page draft (pdf), which still contains the controversial presidential seizure powers of the initial draft of the bill. Security experts and civil rights groups worry the bill would give the president too much power to control the Internet.

The new version of the bill would give Mr. Obama the ability to "direct the national response to the cyber threat" for "the national defense and security" of the country, CNET reported. The bill would also allow the president to "declare a cyber security emergency" over "non-governmental" computer networks and to decide the necessary response.

One expert said the bill, if approved, would give the government far reaching powers over a so-called "critical" company, including who those companies could hire, what information they would be forced to disclose to the government and of course the ability to take control over their computers and networks.

A Rockefeller aide said the bill is still being developed and he declined to comment because several people familiar with the bill were unavailable because of the congressional summer recess.

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