Revolution

Stomach flu sucks!

I came down with it yesterday just after writing my blog.

I have spent the last 19 hours in bed. I am still weak, but I am eating again.

Which is is fortunate since I don’t really have any sick days but had to do it yesterday.

So I’m not going to be long winded today. But I did find it curious that one of the first things the Egyptian Government did was kill the internet when the uprising started.

And Obama has been pursuing such a kill switch. Fascinating…

Censorship: Virtually the first thing an authoritative Egyptian government did to quell dissent was to shut down its Internet. So why are we debating a bill to give our government the same power?

In George Orwell’s classic “1984,” the control of information and its flow was critical to Big Brother’s maintaining his grip on the people and manipulating their passions. Authoritarian governments and dictators worldwide know that lesson well.

The ability to see how others live and to exchange ideas is a catalyst to dissent and unrest. The ability to choke off that flow is a necessity for authoritarian governments. The Internet and social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter have helped fuel democratic movements from our own Tea Party to the Iranian dissidents.

It was no surprise that when unrest poured onto the streets of Egyptian cities, the Internet was a major way for protesters to communicate and organize. It was also no surprise that the Egyptian government moved quickly to shut things down.

Organizations that track Internet traffic worldwide reported the virtual collapse of the Egyptian Internet at 5:20 a.m. last Thursday, as more than 88% of Egyptian Internet access was shut down.

Christopher Williams, technology correspondent for England’s Telegraph newspaper, reports the withdrawal of more than 3,500 of what are called Border Gateway Protocol routes by Egyptian Internet service providers.

Which is why we are concerned about the resurrection of a bill that would give our government the ability to shut down part or all of American cyberspace in what the government would declare a “cyber-emergency.” Certainly the need for enhanced cybersecurity is clear, but why the ISPs and the government are incapable of protecting their own turf is unclear.

Last June, a bill titled “Protecting Cyberspace as a National Asset Act of 2010” was introduced in the Senate by Joseph Lieberman and Susan Collins. It would authorize the creation of a cyberpolicy office in the White House and a cybersecurity center run by the Homeland Security Department, the same people who think enhanced pat-downs and groping our junk are necessary evils.

The bill sailed through the Senate’s Homeland Security Committee in December but expired with the new Congress a few weeks later. Chief sponsor Collins told Wired.com that the bill will be reintroduced in the new Congress.

The president would be granted the power to “authorize emergency measures to protect the nation’s most critical infrastructure if a cybervulnerability is being exploited, or about to be exploited.” How the president would know that, or what these “emergency” measures might be, is unclear.

No, there won’t be a red switch on the president’s desk, and experts note that our Internet is far larger and more diversified than Egypt’s. Yet this is an administration of czars — like FCC “diversity czar” Mark Lloyd, who admires Hugo Chavez’s approach to the media and supports free-speech threats such as “net neutrality.”

This is an administration that has orchestrated the virtual seizure of banks, insurance companies and the car industry. It routinely bypasses the will of Congress and the people, from mandating the purchase of health insurance to letting the Environmental Protection Agency govern us down to our lawn mower via regulation.

It is also an administration that believes that a crisis is a terrible thing to waste, as former White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel once put it. Would a “cyber-emergency” also be a terrible thing to waste? Putting the nation’s Internet under the control of the folks who run the Transportation Security Administration gives us pause.

As we’ve said, there’s no single magic switch. Jim Cowie, founder and chief technology officer at Renesys Corp., a company that analyzes Internet performance worldwide, says: “What is most likely is that somebody in the government gives a phone call to a small number of people and says, ‘Turn it off.'” In a “cyber-emergency” declared by the president, who would dare say no?

An unfettered Internet is a guarantor of free speech and freedom. We would prefer to keep it that way, and more than a few Egyptians might agree with us. (IBD)

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