A bill created last year by US Senators Joseph Lieberman and Susan Collins that would give the President power over the internet in the event of a "cyberemergency" and prohibit any review by the court systems has resurfaced. The bill has been modified since its initial introduction to the Senate, but the primary idea behind the bill is to give the government power over "the nation's critical infrastructure."
When speaking about the bill, Lieberman said that it should be a top priority, then went on to say,
"For all of its 'user-friendly' allure, the Internet can also be a dangerous place with electronic pipelines that run directly into everything from our personal bank accounts to key infrastructure to government and industrial secrets."
The Senators said that companies like Microsoft, Verizon, and EMC Corporation have said positive things about the initial version of the bill. Steve DelBianco, director of the NetChoice coalition, which includes members such as eBay, Oracle, Verisign, and Yahoo, told CBS,
"A designation of critical information infrastructure brings with it huge obligations for upgrades and compliance. The country we're seeking to protect is a country that respects the right of any individual to have their day in court. Yet this bill would deny that day in court to the owner of infrastructure."
DHS Deputy Undersecretary Philip Reitinger said that the President already has the ability to seize control of the networks if he wanted to based on a law created in 1934 establishing the Federal Communication Commission (FCC) that says, "if a state of public peril or disaster or other national emergency exists," the President has the power to "authorize the use or control of any...station or device." He said that this law should be clarified and updated rather than creating a law that overlaps this one.
A proposal to put an Internet kill switch into place is nothing new for the US government. There have been several bills introduced before this one that have tried to give the White House the power to declare cybersecurity emergencies, or bills that attempt to allow the government to disconnect certain sites or networks if needed.