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Cybersecurity Bill Approved by Senate Committee

The Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs has approved a bill that would give the president authority over the Internet in the case of an emergency. The cybersecurity bill or Protecting Cyberspace as a National Asset Act (PCNAA) was designed to take critical information technology systems offline during emergencies when no other option is available.

The panel approved the bill unanimously.

Chairman Joe Lieberman, I-Conn., and ranking member Susan Collins, R-Maine,  said the president already has authority to shut down online services under the 1934 Communications Act, and their bill actually aims to curtail that power.  Details are as follows:

  • Would establish a White House office for cyberspace policy and a national center for cybersecurity and communications, which would work with private U.S. companies to create cybersecurity requirements for the electrical grid, telecommunication networks and other critical “infrastructure” (water, electricity, banking, traffic lights and electronic health records)
  • Allow the U.S. president to take emergency action to protect critical parts of the Internet, including ordering owners of critical infrastructure to implement emergency response plans during a cyber emergency
  • The president would need congressional approval to extend a national cyber emergency beyond 120 days under an amendment to the legislation approved by the committee

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