A new draft of the Cybersecurity Act of 2009, which may give the President greater powers over the internet, appears to be causing as much controversy as the original proposal.
The bill seeks to determine when and how the President could intervene in public and private information systems by limiting internet traffic to critical networks for national security reasons or in the case of an emergency.
It has come under scrutiny from a range of first amendment advocacy groups, such as the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), which have raised alarm about government interference. The new draft drops certain specific language, instead allowing the president to direct a "national response" to the cyber threat.
Meanwhile, Larry Clinton, president of the Internet Security Alliance, which represents a cross-section of IT companies including Verizon and Nortel, has criticized what he calls vaguely worded language in the latest version.
"It is [still] unclear what authority … is necessary over the private sector. Unless this is clarified, we cannot properly analyze, let alone support the bill," he states.
However, there are those who say the recommendations make sense. James Lewis of the Center for Strategic and International Studies compared the provisions to President Bush’s decision to shut down airlines after the 9/11 attacks.
"It seems foolish not to have the same authority for cyberspace," he said, quoted by TheHill.com. "It’s not that the president will wake up in a bad mood one day and implode Yahoo. This would apply only to severe national emergencies. … This is a great opportunity to blast us into a new level of discussion about cybersecurity."
The bill was first introduced four months ago by Senate Commerce Committee Chairman Jay Rockefeller, a West Virginia Democrat, and Republican Olympia Snowe of Maine.