Ex-CIA chief weighs in for Internet kill switch

From Reuters, Sept. 26:

U.S. should be able to shut Internet, former CIA chief says
SAN ANTONIO — Cyberterrorism is such a threat that the U.S. president should have the authority to shut down the Internet in the event of an attack, Former CIA Director Michael Hayden said.

Hayden made the comments during a visit to San Antonio where he was meeting with military and civilian officials to discuss cyber security. The U.S. military has a new Cyber Command which is to begin operations on October 1.

Hayden said the president currently does not have the authority to shut down the Internet in an emergency.

“My personal view is that it is probably wise to legislate some authority to the President, to take emergency measures for limited periods of time, with clear reporting to Congress, when he feels as if he has to take these measures,” he said in an interview on the weekend.

“But I would put the bar really high as to when these kinds of authorities might take place,” he said.

Gee, thanks. How comforting. Well, we fingered Michael Hayden as a freedom-hater from the moment he was appointed to lead the CIA. But the problem is way bigger than him. This is but another example of how the so-called “information revolution” is paradoxically the greatest obstacle to the genuinely free dissemination of information that the power structure could have come up with. As we warned years ago:

I am still waiting for the big “enclosure” of the Internet. It has been a free-for-all for a decade and counting now, and I have a hard time believing the party will last forever. Meanwhile, the Net’s hypertrophy has succeeded in nearly destroying print journalism. The initially democratizing instinct that “information wants to be free” and “everybody can be a journalist” could be (is being?) perverted into its opposite: the death knell of information freedom and real journalism. And even as we wait for the corporate/government clampdown, the sheer abundance of electronic media has a marginalizing effect. So I think the techno-utopianism of the past several years could end up being a grand illusion.

Meanwhile, note that the original URL for the Pentagon’s Cyber Command (http://www.afcyber.af.mil/) has gone dead, while the new one (http://www.defense.gov/home/features/2010/0410_cybersec/) is not actually its own domain name. Note also that it is full of unseemly show-offy images of eerily shifting zeros and ones that are obviously riffing off The Matrix movies. All of this leads us to think that the Pentagon isn’t really quite serious about this stuff, but is just trying to impress us. Or we hope so, anyway…

See our last post on the politics of cyberspace.

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