The Cybersecurity Act of 2009 - introduced by Senate Intelligence Committee chairman Jay Rockefeller, D-WV, and cosponsor Olympia Snowe, R-ME - bypasses all existing privacy laws and allows White House political operatives to tap into any online communication without a warrant, including banking, medical, and business records and personal e-mail conversations. This amounts to warrantless wiretaps on steroids, directed at U.S. citizens instead of foreign terrorists.
The bill gives the Secretary of Commerce and a new national cybersecurity czar power to shut down all Internet transmissions in the event of a yet-to-be defined “cyber emergency.” This is a dangerous power, even for a president who in a 2008 campaign appearance at Dartmouth College harshly criticized Bush for anti-terrorist “wiretaps without warrants,” and promised that if elected he would leave such policies behind.
There’s no doubt that serious deficiencies in cyber security remain a major threat to national security. Just this week, The Wall Street Journal reported that our electric grid has already been penetrated by Russian and Chinese hackers. But centralized eavesdropping in Washington and government licensing of cyber- security specialists is exactly the wrong approach. Jennifer Granick, director of civil liberties at the Electronic Frontier Foundation, says such an approach would actually make the Internet even more vulnerable by “basically establish[ing] a path for the bad guys to skip down.” The best response to increasing cyber threats, then, is less centralization - not more. This bill, which is a full frontal assault on our First Amendment rights, should be deleted from the congressional agenda immediately. Americans should tell President Obama and members of Congress in no uncertain terms that their cyber-security agents will get inside our e-mail only after they pry our cold, dead hands away from our keypads.
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