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Senate panel passes Cybersecurity Act with revised "kill switch" language

March 29, 2010 - by Donny Shaw

Last April, Sen. Jay Rockefeller [D, WV] (pictured at right), the Chairman of the Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee, introduced the Cybersecurity Act of 2009 to his committee. The goal of the bill was to develop a public-private plan for strengthening national security in the case of internet-based attacks. But it stalled almost immediately because of a controversial provision that would have give the President unilateral authority to declare a cybersecurity emergency and then shut down or limit access to parts of the internet without any oversight or explanation.

A couple weeks ago, Sen. Rockefeller partnered with Sen. Olympia Snowe [R, ME] to introduce a major revision to the bill that, among other things, made changes the emergency “kill switch” provision. The revision was adopted by the committee last Thursday and the bill was approved. It’s now ready for consideration by the full Senate.

The revised bill would require the President to develop an “emergency response an restoration” plan with the help of private industry and other government agencies, but it is vague enough that it does not actually limit what the plan can include. The President would still have authority to declare an emergency and implement the plan without first seeking congressional approval, though he would have to report to Congress within 48 hours after declaring an emergency. The revised bill also doesn’t require the plan to be made public, so it could potentially give the President the same authority to restrict internet access as the original bill did, just without being explicitly and publicly stated in the legislation itself.

Below is the revised text of the section as passed by the committee — it only exists in .PDF right now, hence the screenshots:

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