In the past couple years we have witnessed an onslaught of internet propaganda, continuing to push for regulation of the open and free world wide web. Most often the push comes in the form of threats about CyberAttacks to the United States critical infrastructure. The latest warning of impending doom comes from a former NSA director, John, “Mike” McConnell.
In a recent interview with McConnell, who served as director of the National Security Agency under President Clinton and then as director of national intelligence under George W. Bush and President Obama, he was quoted as saying, “”We have had our 9/11 warning. Are we going to wait for the cyber equivalent of the collapse of the World Trade Centers?”
Of course, using 9/11, whether digital or otherwise, as a fear tactic is nothing new. In Houston Sheila Jackson Lee often uses the official story of 9/11 as a talking point to bring in more TSA employees at the airports, buses, and trains. In 2011 she said if we remove the TSA from airports, “we are looking forward to returning to 9/11.”
Since the online backlash against SOPA/PIPA we have seen every single piece of internet legislation fail. The people have made it obviously clear they are not interested in regulating the internet, the politicians on the other hand only seem to disagree on how much to control the internet.
This comes at the same time that a conference in Vienna by the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC). released a report entitled, “The Use of the Internet for Terrorist Purposes”. According to the report “Terrorists are exploiting Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and Dropbox, to spread “propaganda” and open Wi-Fi networks in airports and libraries pose a threat to national security and enable “perpetrators,”
The UN plan calls specifically for data retention by ISPs and providers that allow anonymous access to the internet, such as cyber cafes and open Wi-Fi networks.
Most recently the Cyber Security Act of 2012 failed in the Senate with a vote of 51 to 47. However, shortly after this failure the Washington Post reported that Presidential Obama signed a secret cybersecurity presidential directive: Presidential Policy Directive 20. Althought this was apparently signed in October the public is just now finding out about the secret directive.
According to the Post:
Presidential Policy Directive 20 establishes a broad and strict set of standards to guide the operations of federal agencies in confronting threats in cyberspace, according to several U.S. officials who have seen the classified document and are not authorized to speak on the record. The president signed it in mid-October.
The new directive is the most extensive White House effort to date to wrestle with what constitutes an “offensive” and a “defensive” action in the rapidly evolving world of cyberwar and cyberterrorism, where an attack can be launched in milliseconds by unknown assailants utilizing a circuitous route. For the first time, the directive explicitly makes a distinction between network defense and cyber-operations to guide officials charged with making often-rapid decisions when confronted with threats.
Lawyers with the Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC) filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request (PDF) demanding that the Obama administration reveal the exact language of the directive.
The NSA responded to the FOIA request this week with a statement arguing that it does not have to release the document because it is a confidential presidential communication.
While the government refuses to cooperate with its own policies of transparency there are other pressing issues in the cyber battle. This policy directive is different from the Presidential Executive Order. Yes, the president has many tools of tyranny in his toolbox. The Presidential Policy Directive differs in only superficial ways from an executive order, both side step congress all together.
It was reported after the failure of legislation that the Presidential Executive Order on Cyber Security was imminent. John Brennan, Assistant to the President for Homeland Security and Counterterrorism, wrote in a letter to Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-WV), chairman of the Senate Commerce Committee,”Specifically, we are exploring an Executive Order to direct executive branch departments and agencies to secure our nation’s critical infrastructure by working with the private sector.”
Most recently the Syrian government is reported to have temporarily shutting down their country’s internet. President Assad officially blames the “terrorists”, or “rebels”, depending on who you are talking to. While the role of these rebels is questionable, what we can say for sure is that the internet kill switch does exist.
With a secret Presidential Policy Directive already signed, a looming executive order on cyber security, and multiple intelligence officers warning of impending attack, how long will it be before SOMEONE shuts down our internet?
Derrick Broze is the co-founder of the Houston Free Thinkers. He co-hosts Free Thinker Radio with Micah Jackson Tuesday on Local Live Houston, as well as his own program, the Conscious Resistance, Sunday on Orion Talk Radio.