Back from the Dead: The Internet ‘Kill Switch’
by Tom Burghardt
May 30, 2011
The American author William Faulkner once wrote: “The past is never dead. It’s not even past.”
And like a horde of flesh-eating zombies shuffling out of a parking garage to feast on what’s left of our freedoms, the Obama administration has promised to revive a proposal thought dead by most: the internet “kill switch.”
On May 12, the White House released a 52-page document outlining administration plans governing cybersecurity. The bill designates the Department of Homeland Security as the “lead agency” with authority to initiate “countermeasures” to protect critical infrastructure from malicious attacks.
But as with other aspects of U.S. policy, from waging aggressive wars to conducting covert actions overseas, elite policy planners at the Pentagon and at nominally civilian agencies like DHS hide offensive plans and operations beneath layers of defensive rhetoric meant to hoodwink the public.
The term “countermeasure” is described by the White House as “automated actions with defensive intent to modify or block data packets associated with electronic or wire communications, internet traffic, program code, or other system traffic transiting to or from or stored on an information system for the purpose of protecting the information system from cybersecurity threats, conducted on an information system or information systems owned or operated by or on behalf of the party to be protected or operated by a private entity acting as a provider of electronic communication services, remote computing services, or cybersecurity services to the party to be protected.” (Section 1. Department of Homeland Security Cybersecurity Authority, May 12, 2011, p. 1)
In other words, the proposal would authorize DHS and presumably other federal partners like the National Security Agency, wide latitude to monitor, “modify or block” data packets (information and/or communications) deemed a threat to national security.
It isn’t a stretch to conclude that such “automated actions” would be predicated on the deployment of systems such as “Einstein 3” or the NSA’s top secret “Perfect Citizen” program throughout the nation’s electronic communications architecture.