A privacy rights group has brought a lawsuit to gain more detailed information on the federal government’s ability to shut off the internet in the event of a national crisis.
The Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC) has filed Freedom of Information Act lawsuit against the Department of Homeland Security, in response to a failure by the agency to release any documents pertaining to the “Emergency Wireless Protocols,” (Standard Operating Procedure 303 or “SOP 303″).
SOP 303 outlines exactly how the DHS would carry out a complete communications shutdown in the event of what it deemed an emergency situation.
EPIC explains in its complaint that the DHS has publicly stated that under SOP 303 an agency component “will function as the focal point for coordinating any actions leading up to and following the termination of private wireless network connections, both within a localized area, such as a tunnel or bridge, and within an entire metropolitan area.”
The DHS, led by ‘Big Sis’ Janet Napolitano, said recently that it was “unable to locate or identify any responsive records” on the matter.
The issue is directly related to the much feared Obama Internet ‘kill switch’, a tangible government policy that was eventually purportedly dropped from cybersecurity legislation making its way through the Congress.
“Public apprehension about the possibility of handing the White House a ‘kill switch’ for the Internet has dogged the cybersecurity debate, fueled by a proposal that would have codified emergency powers for the president in the event of a catastrophic attack,” reported the Hill last year.
Indeed, cybersecurity advocate Joe Lieberman ominously pushed for the ‘kill switch’ provision to be included in the bill by citing the Chinese system of Internet policing as a model to which the United States should aspire. As we have documented, China routinely censors the Internet and cuts off access in order to hide evidence of government corruption and to cover up atrocities committed by the state.
Lieberman then pushed Obama to sign a cybersecurity executive order that would act as an Internet kill switch, granting the president vast power over private networks during a “national cyberemergency.”
Earlier this month, Obama secretly signed an executive order on Cyber Security, then issued an embargo to all news organisations NOT to cover the developments.
In recent days Janet Napolitano has described cybersecurity as a “core mission area” for the DHS. The federal agency was intimately involved in drawing up the Obama cybersecurity executive order.
Although language allowing the President to flip a figurative kill switch to shut down parts of the Internet is seemingly gone, the White House still claims that it already retains such powers under the law that created the Federal Communications Commission in 1934. This law states that if a “state of public peril or disaster or other national emergency” exists, the president may “authorize the use or control of any…station or device.”