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Congress Warned Against Chokehold on Internet Access

From the Finally Fast Help Desk:

An internet watchdog organization recently called upon the U.S. Congress to reevaluate its internet control policies in light of the recent conflict in Egypt.

Testifying before the House Armed Services Subcommittee on Emerging Threats and Capabilities, Gregory Nojeim of the Center for Democracy and Technology warned the federal government against assuming similar power over internet access as the administration of former Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak did. Mubarak systematically disconnected the internet across Egypt after citizens and government opposition forces organized protests throughout the country.

These issues, according to Nojeim, should prompt the federal government to consider its policy over internet access, at the risk of garnering criticism of its own.

“When the government of Egypt cut off internet services on January 27, 2011, to much of its population in order to stifle dissent in an uprising, it magnified concerns about extending cyber security emergency authority to the U.S. president,” Nojeim said.

Some members of Congress maintained that the government and military requires access to internet connectivity in the country for security purposes. Rather than restricting internet access to deny opposition forces free speech, as the Mubarak administration acted, the U.S. government must have the ability to shut off internet access in preparation for dangerous cyber threats, Representative Mac Thornberry said.

“If a formation of planes or hostile-acting ships came barreling toward a factory or refinery in the U.S., we know pretty well what we expect the military to do,” Thornberry said. “But what do we expect, or should we expect, if a bunch of malicious, or potentially malicious (data) packets come barreling toward that same factory or facility in cyber space?”

And, although Nojeim emphasized the unexpected impact that may arise from shutting down private networks in the U.S., regardless of the reason for it, Thornberry believes the government needs the ability to cut off internet access until it has the adequate protection against the threats facing internet security.

“Cyber is a new domain of vandalism, crime, espionage and, yes, warfare, but we are not very well equipped to deal with any of those challenges,” Thornberry said.

Thornberry’s response reiterates a recent report from the Center for Strategic and International Studies. The agency recently released its Cyber Security Two Years Later report, which evaluated the government’s progress since the CSIS released a report in 2008 that presented cyber security as a top priority for the incoming Obama administration. According to the CSIS’s most recent report, the government is still not prepared to protect the networks the U.S. economy and population rely on.


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