THE BLOG

Fight America's Internet 'Kill Switch'

01/31/2011 10:22 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Governments across the globe recognize that the Internet is increasingly the life-blood of democracy -- that's why Egypt's regime has scrambled to shut down online communications in the face of vast pro-democracy protests.

But with tragically ironic timing -- or just a lot of guts -- American politicians have just declared that they're pushing legislation that would give the president the power to do the exact same thing.

Some American officials are rightfully decrying the Egyptian regime's actions. Here's what Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said this week:

We support the universal human rights of the Egyptian people including the right of expression of association and assembly we urge the Egyptian authorities to allow peaceful process and reverse the unprecedented steps it has taken to cut off communications.

But Joe Lieberman's Internet 'Kill Switch' proposal would allow the president to shut down American access to the web. The president would be able to declare a state of cyber-emergency under which he could order covered critical infrastructure (CCI) to do essentially whatever he wants -- without judicial review or congressional approval. The bill passed out of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee by a unanimous vote.

You'd hope Lieberman would be embarrassed by the juxtaposition of his announcement with the Egyptian government's totalitarian crack-down on dissent. But when defending his bill last year, Lieberman argued that it's precisely because the Chinese government -- the king of all Internet censors -- has the power to shut down critical infrastructure, that our government should too.

The president, in catastrophic cases -- not going to do it every day, not going to take it over. So I say to my friends on the Internet, relax...

(LAUGHTER)

... take a look at the bill. And this is something that we need to protect our country. Right now, China, the government, can disconnect parts of its Internet in a case of war. We need to have that here, too.

Well, we at Demand Progress have taken a look at the bill, and it clearly poses a potential threat to dissent and democracy here at home.