WASHINGTON, D.C.—Republican Senator Susan Collins of Maine has told Wired magazine that she intends to reintroduce legislation that would provide internet 'kill switch' powers to the president, to presumably be used only in the event of a "true cyber emergency."
Collins is the ranking Republican on the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, where she intends to first float the proposal. "The proposed legislation, which Collins said would not give the president the same power Egypt’s Hosni Mubarak is exercising to quell dissent, sailed through the Homeland Security Committee in December but expired with the new Congress weeks later," Wired reported.
This bill, insists Collins, would only be used in extreme circumstances and with limited reach, with one aide to the Homeland Security committee saying the bill does not mandate the shuttering of the entire internet. Instead, according to Wired, "It would authorize the president to demand turning off access to so-called 'critical infrastructure' where necessary."
Needless to say, civil libertarians—including the American Civil Liberties Union, the American Library Association, Electronic Frontier Foundation and Center for Democracy & Technology—have doubts about the efficacy of a law built on a vague promise by the government that it will only be used as a last ditch measure. In an open letter issued in December, the combined groups expressed their concern that such a power, if granted, could be used to censor unpopular speech.
“It is imperative that cyber-security legislation not erode our rights,” the letter read, in part.
The opposition letter can be read here.