White House not equipped to hold keys to the Internet

A controversial proposal that would give the President the power to seize control of the Internet -- essentially cutting off the private-sector in the event of a "cybersecurity emergency" -- is still on the table in Washington.

A controversial proposal that would give the President the power to seize control of the Internet -- essentially cutting off the private-sector in the event of a "cybersecurity emergency" -- is still on the table in Washington, CNET reports.

The idea, which first surfaced in a bill back in March, is largely in-tact in its revisions, according to a CNET review of the 55-page draft of the bill. (excerpt)

Watchdog groups, tech companies and others are already waving red flags, warning that the bill's vague wording is an issue, that the government isn't equipped to be trusted with that sort of power and that the bill could have broader implications on the national economy.

Beyond the excerpt posted by CNET, I haven't read the bill, so I can't say much about the bill's language. But the argument that the government is ill-equipped and shouldn't be trusted with the such far-reaching power is no joke. It wasn't that long ago -- the end of May, actually -- that the White House announced a cybersecurity  "short-term action plan," which included the appointment of a cybersecurity czar.

Heading into September, that job remains vacant. What's more, the White House has since lost its senior cybersecurity aide, who resigned a few weeks ago to go back into the private sector, frustrated by the delays in appointing a national cybersecurity czar.

When Washington initially laid out that short-term plan, it received some positive reviews, largely because of some of its forward-thinking approaches on working hand-in-hand with the private sector to protect our cyber infrastructure.

And, of course, there might even be a chance to be entrepreneurial about it.

From that report:

Current law permits the use of some tools to protect government but not private networks, and vice versa. Industry leaders can help by engaging in enterprise information sharing and account for the corporate risk and the bottom line impacts of data breaches, corporate espionage, and loss or degradation of services. Industry leaders can demand higher assurance from vendors and service providers while taking responsibility to create more secure software and equipment. Businesses need effective means to share detection methods, information about breaches and attack methods, remediation techniques, and forensic capabilities with each other and the Federal government.

Handing the president the keys to the Internet is extreme and a long-shot given Washington's track record of understanding technology and doing anything at the speed of the Internet.

We're talking ultimate power for the federal government. I just don't see that happening.

Instead, just rip that language out of bill and let's get back to bringing in a czar and hammering out a plan for the government to work with -- not control -- the private sector.