Kill the ‘Kill Switch’

Who else but Joe Lieberman would introduce a bill to give the President the power to shut down the Internet with the flick of a switch? I’m afraid of the answer to that question, and you should be, too. However, it’s hardly surprising America’s premier authoritarian warmonger – author of a bill that would strip American citizenship from anyone even vaguely suspected of “terrorism” – would come up with a scheme like this.

If the “Protecting Cyberspace as a National Asset Act” passes – and isn’t that a name that embraces practically every collectivist bromide extant? – the Department of Homeland  Security would establish a “cyber-terrorism” sub-bureaucracy, the Office of Cyberspace Policy (OCP), and the National Center for Cybersecurity and Communication (NCCC), with the former lording it over the Internet – a Cyber-Czar – and the latter unleashed to spy on and otherwise guard the “cybersecurity” Senators Lieberman and his two co-sponsors aver is imminently threatened.

This bill is the culmination of years of yelping  about the likelihood of a “cyber-9/11,” a devastating attack on the national infrastructure via the Internet. If such an event is so likely, then why hasn’t it happened already? Because the likelihood of it ever happening is nearly nil.

In short, this is a completely phony and for all intents and purposes nonexistent “threat” that has been invented by those most likely to profit – financially and politically – from this kind of hype: the “cybersecurity” industry, which has been thriving (mostly off of government contracts, naturally) since 9/11, and neoconservative authoritarians of a Liebermanesque frame of mind. In their 2003 opus, An End to Evil, neocons Richard Perle and David Frum argue that what’s needed is a “domestic intelligence agency” to spy on Americans, and the Internet plays a major role in their scenario: Perle and Frum advocate establishing an Orwellian government database and comprehensive electronic surveillance system that not only keeps constant track of the whereabouts of everyone in the country, but also stores a dossier, complete with their religious and political affiliations – surely a job for the OCP/NCCC. After all, if we’re going to track the “cyber-terrorists,” we have to know who and where they are. Lieberman’s Cyber-Czar, and his minions, would put flesh on the bones of this nightmare, and make the neocon dream of a police state an emerging reality.

The icing on the cake is the “kill switch” provision in this bill, which says that Internet firms, including search engines, broadband providers, and software companies listed by the feds “shall immediately comply with any emergency measure or action developed” by the Department of Homeland Security – includng a presidential order to shut down Internet connections. Failure to comply would result in a hefty fine: presumably the company would be commandeered by the government and forced  to obey.

Andrew Sullivan, relying on dubious sources, pooh-poohs the threat to civil liberties, but his record on this subject isn’t very good: he refers us over to the neoconnish Volokh Conspiracy web site, where we’re told it’s all a bunch of nonsense, no need to worry, move along nothing to see here – but this argument falsely avers that search engines aren’t included in the bill. They are: the bill gives broad powers to the new cyber-bureaucracy and the President over any company that “relies on” the Internet, the telephone system or any other component of the US “information infrastructure” What this means is that any web site, any search engine, or anything to do with the Internet could be subjected to a government  takeover: the entire US-based Internet could be shut down, including news aggregators like, if they were deemed a “threat” to “cybersecurity,” whatever the heck that means.

In effect, although the reach of our Cyber-Czar is not global – yet – the feds could electronically isolate the US from the rest of the world, erecting the cybernetic equivalent of the Great Wall of China in order to keep out the Bad Guys. Speaking of China, that country’s policies were an inspiration to Lieberman, according to the Senator’s recent remarks on CNN:

“Right now China, the government, can disconnect parts of its Internet in case of war and we need to have that here too.”

It’s Liebermanism with Chinese characteristics, our own version of the Great Cultural Revolution: if anything serves as a model for the ideal neocon state, it’s the Beijing regime. Too bad the Communist Party (Marxist-Leninist), which used to have the China franchise in the US, is defunct: I hear Joe is looking for a party that will take him.

While this odious bill is gaining traction, it may be a bit too extreme for the public to swallow, and so we have a two-pronged approach: the “soft” version is being peddled by the Federal Trade Commission, which is seeking to establish bureaucratic hegemony over Internet regulation. Frustrated by its inability to force “Network Neutrality” down our throats, Obama’s FCC chairman Genachowski, in league with Democratic appointees to the commission, has launched a campaign to extend its control over cyberspace – this in spite of federal laws which supposedly ensure that the Internet shall be “unfettered by state or federal regulation.”

This is the “progressive” face of Liebermanism, which holds that the federal government has the right to tell broadband companies which applications they must allow (or disallow) on their networks, all in the name of the egalitarian-sounding “net neutrality.” But of course if private companies and individuals cannot determine what goes on in their own networks, then the government’s role becomes decisive, as the FCC tries to do an end run around the courts. The CNS News site puts it thus:

The FCC is now trying to reclassify the Internet to broaden its authority over the Web. Currently, the FCC only has ‘ancillary’ authority, meaning it can regulate Internet access only in the process of regulating another service that it has direct authority over, such as television or cable.

“The 3-2 party-line vote on Thursday at the FCC began the formal process of reclassifying the Internet as a telecommunications service instead of an information service – its current classification. This is necessary because, as an information service, the government has little power to regulate Internet networks. As a telecommunications service, such as a telephone network, the Internet would fall under a much broader regulatory scope – giving the government the power to enforce universal service requirements, making them pay into a federal universal service fund used to provide communications services to poor areas.”

The FCC bureaucrats aver that they have three choices: take charge of the Internet entirely, as if it were the old monopoly telephone system, which it quite obviously isn’t (indeed, it’s quite the opposite of that archaic structurally centralized relic): do nothing (not a chance), or choose a “third way,” in Senor Genachowski’s phrase, in which the FCC would indeed extend its regulatory sway over the Internet, but in a promise of “forbearance,” a pledge to not exercise its authority – unless, of course, it’s a “national emergency.”

When, I ask you, has government ever exercised “forbearance” when it came to exercising and extending its power? One doesn’t quite know whether to laugh or cry.

This brazen power grab would give the feds the means to enforce certain terms of service (in the name of “consumer’s rights), extort cash from Internet companies – and subject them to “emergency” regulations that would give the Feds the power to shut down web sites, shut down search engines, and give the Joe Liebermans of this world all the power they need to make the Internet “safe,” i.e. free of “terrorism.”

How “progressive” can you get?

The Internet has been a painful thorn in the side of the political Establishment, destroying the hold of their useful idiots in the “mainstream media” over the flow of information, and giving dissidents a voice – and they’ve been seeking ways to rein it in, “for the public good,” ever since. We’ve heard for years how sinister the Internet is, and how we need to be “saved” from the “dangers” that lurk in cyberspace. The only danger, however, is to the power elite and its information monopoly, which has now been broken beyond repair: the authoritarians in our midst, and I don’t just mean Sen. Lieberman, are desperate to get this cyber-monkey off their backs, and that’s what’s behind the legislative  assault coming from all sides of the political spectrum.

Lieberman, Cass Sunstein, and Mr. Genachowski are hoping that the American people are dozing off, unaware of the danger to their liberties: they want to regulate the Internet to death, and hope that no one notices. Don’t be caught sleeping: wake up and contact your congressional representatives. Tell them that we don’t need to be more like China – and that if Senator Lieberman wants to emigrate, you’d be glad to help him out with a one-way ticket. With his distinctly un-American views, he’d do much better as a delegate to China’s rubber-stamp National Congress of People’s Deputies, rather than a member of the Congress of the United States – and that goes for his co-sponsors, Susan Collins (R-Maine) and Sen. Tom Carper (D-Delaware), too.

Put them on a slow boat to China, and good riddance to them all!

Author: Justin Raimondo

Justin Raimondo passed away on June 27, 2019. He was the co-founder and editorial director of, and was a senior fellow at the Randolph Bourne Institute. He was a contributing editor at The American Conservative, and wrote a monthly column for Chronicles. He was the author of Reclaiming the American Right: The Lost Legacy of the Conservative Movement [Center for Libertarian Studies, 1993; Intercollegiate Studies Institute, 2000], and An Enemy of the State: The Life of Murray N. Rothbard [Prometheus Books, 2000].