There was a fight earlier this year about Internet freedom and privacy as Congress attempted to create legislation (SOPA, PIPA, CISPA, ACTA) that would give government more control over the Internet. When Internet companies and the public expressed disdain for such a measure, legislators backed down.
Now they have a different plan.
Senate Intelligence Committee Chairwoman Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) sent a letter earlier this week to President Barack Obama urging him to forgo Congress and pass cybersecurity legislation via his powers of executive order.
“While efforts to reach consensus continue, I fear that the Congress will be unable to pass meaningful cybersecurity legislation this year. Therefore, I believe the time has come for you to use your full authority to protect the U.S. economy and the networks we depend on from future cyber attack[s],” Feinstein contends. “While an executive order cannot convey protection from liability that private sector companies may face, your administration can issue cybersecurity standards and provide technical assistance to companies willing to take voluntary steps to improve their security.”
The Senator believes that the Nation faces grave and imminent national and economic security implications as long as the Internet is free and that there is no time to wait for Congressional legislation.
“These are meaningful, if limited, steps that can be taken now,” she said. “The threats to our national and economic security are simply too great to wait for legislation.”
Feinstein said the President should also encourage more collaboration between the Department of Homeland Security and private enterprise in the way of information sharing in order to lessen threats to national security.
A plea similar to Feinstein’s was made earlier in the month by Senator Jay Rockefeller (D-W.Va.), who also cosponsored Senator Joseph Lieberman’s latest attempt at legislation ceding control over the Internet to the government.
“[B]ecause it is very unclear whether the Senate will come to agreement on cybersecurity legislation in the near future, I urge you to explore and employ every lever of executive power that you possess to protect this country from the cyber threat,” Rockefeller wrote in a letter to Obama. “We must act to address our cyber vulnerabilities as soon as possible and many components of the Cybersecurity Act are amenable to implementation via executive order, normal regulatory processes, or other executive action under the authorities of the Homeland Security Act.”
Cybersecurity bills that have already been proposed have been met with harsh criticism from a number of conservative lawmakers, along with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and a number of Internet-based companies. The critics say that such legislation opens the door for the Federal government to impede Internet commerce with burdensome regulation and could have a damning effect on Internet free speech.
White House chief counterterrorism adviser John Brennan has said recently that the Obama Administration is considering the possibility of Internet regulation through executive order in the wake of recent failed legislative attempts to implement the controls.