Press Releases

Sens. Lieberman, Collins, and Carper Introduce Bill to Address Serious Cyber Security Threats

Legislation Expressly Prohibits President from Turning off the Internet

Feb 17 2011

WASHINGTON – Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee Chairman Sen. Joe Lieberman (I/D-Conn.), Ranking Member Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine), and Federal Financial Management Subcommittee Chairman Sen. Tom Carper (D-Del.), authors of comprehensive cybersecurity legislation, have introduced updated legislation to secure the nation’s most sensitive and critical cyber infrastructures and protect Internet freedom.

The Cybersecurity and Internet Freedom Act explicitly states that “neither the President, the Director of the National Center for Cybersecurity and Communications or any officer or employee of the United States Government shall have the authority to shut down the Internet.” It also provides an opportunity for judicial review of designations of our most sensitive systems and assets as “covered critical infrastructure.”

Sen. Lieberman said: “We want to clear the air once and for all. As someone said recently, the term ‘kill switch” has become the ‘death panels’ of the cybersecurity debate. There is no so-called ‘kill switch’ in our legislation because the very notion is antithetical to our goal of providing precise and targeted authorities to the President. Furthermore, it is impossible to turn off the Internet in this country. This legislation applies to the most critical infrastructures that Americans rely on in their daily lives – energy transmission, water supply, financial services, for example – to ensure that those assets are protected in case of a potentially crippling cyber attack.

“The so-called ‘internet kill switch’ debate has eclipsed discussion of actual, substantive provisions in this bill that would significantly improve the security of all Americans by creating a new national center to prevent and respond to cyber attacks, requiring critical infrastructure owners - for the first time - to shore up cyber vulnerabilities, and establishing a strategy to secure the federal IT supply chain. I look forward to working with Senator Reid to bring comprehensive cyber security legislation to the floor early this year.”

Sen. Collins said, “Our bill contains additional protections to explicitly prevent the President from shutting down the Internet. While experts question whether anyone can technically ‘shut down’ the Internet in the United States, our bill has specific language making it crystal clear that such actions are expressly prohibited.”

“The threat of a catastrophic cyber attack is real. Attacks are happening now. In March 2010, the Senate’s Sergeant at Arms reported that the computer systems of the Executive Branch agencies and the Congress are now under cyber attack an average of 1.8 billion times per month. The annual cost of cyber crime worldwide has climbed to more than $1 trillion globally.”

Sen. Carper said: "All aspects of American society have become increasingly dependent on the internet whether we’re talking about the military, the government, or businesses both small and large. While in most cases this powerful technology has transformed our daily life for the better, unfortunately bad actors – from common criminals to foreign terrorists-- have identified cyber space as an ideal 21st century battlefield. We have to take steps now to modernize our approach to protecting this valuable, but vulnerable, resource. We also have to balance our need for security in this new frontier with our democratic values of freedom and liberty. This legislation strikes that careful balance – providing the tools that America needs to better protect cyber space while additionally protecting our civil liberties. It encourages the government and the private sector to work together to address this growing threat and provides the resources for America to be successful in this critical effort."

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