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What the Feds Can Learn From Egyptian Internet Control

The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of

Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and Google services all have been disrupted by Egyptian governing authorities in pursuit of clamping down on protests. And we don't think the U.S. government would do the same?

Tell me, what's the difference between the Egyptian government's shutting down social networks to "bring order" to protests and the U.S. government's shutting down the Internet if there is an "imminent cyber threat"? Answer: nothing.

Over the past two years, the Obama administration has ramped up regulation and control of the Internet. Of course, it's packaging any bids to do so under Internet and homeland security.

But when does homeland security breach its constitutional limits of power and your rights as a citizen? How much authority can the feds be granted to "take over" a civilian network in case of an emergency?

First, there was Sen. John Rockefeller's Cybersecurity Act of 2009. That legislation gave the president executive privilege and power to shut down civilian infrastructure if he deems it necessary.

Then there was the "more moderate" Protecting Cyberspace as a National Asset Act of 2010, proposed by Sen. Joseph Lieberman and other senators.

Now Lieberman and his cronies are decrying any parallels between the Egyptian Internet crackdown and their Internet kill switch bill. They released a statement Feb. 1 saying emergency measures in their bill would only apply in a "precise and targeted way" to "critical infrastructure" to ensure that important assets and civilian networks "are protected from destruction." Their legislation would only allow the president to use emergency authority if there were an "ongoing or imminent" attack that would "cause local or national catastrophic effects" if there were a disruption.

And neither Obama (or any future president) nor Congress would ever abuse or build on that autocratic cease-and-desist decision, right?

Two days before Christmas 2010 (isn't its dodging timing uncanny?), the Obama administration issued yet new "network neutrality" regulations for Internet service providers. Of course, Julius Genachowski, President Barack Obama's appointee as Federal Communications Commission chairman, introduced these new regulations with the pure motive of guaranteeing equal access to the Internet, right? I agree with Sen. Jim DeMint, who says the FCC should be renamed the "Fabricating a Crisis Commission."

Seeing a pattern yet?

If not, consider that President Obama believes the federalized security screening at airports has been such a success that he wants to apply the same government "expertise" to the arenas of online commentary and commerce. The White House's cybersecurity adviser joined Commerce Secretary Gary Locke on Jan. 7 to announce what boils down to a national ID card for the Internet.

As The Washington Times reported, "their plan is straightforward. Instead of logging onto Facebook or one's bank using separate passwords established with each individual company or website, the White House will take the lead in developing what it calls an 'identity ecosystem' that will centralize personal information and credentials. This government-approved system would issue a smart card or similar device that would confirm an individual's identity when making online credit-card purchases, accessing electronic health care records, posting 'anonymous' blog entries or even logging onto one's own home computer, according to administration documents."

The Family Research Council summarized the "benefits" of this new U.S. Internet ID, or dog tag:

--The government would be able to track every website you visit and every keystroke you make on your home computer.

--The government would be able to track every purchase you make and every deposit and withdrawal, and it could gain access to your electronic health care records.

--The government would be able to track every blog comment you make, along with every Facebook and Twitter post.

--The government would be able to create lists of your friends and acquaintances and lists of all your political affiliations, political donations, club memberships, hobbies and interests.

And I'm sure the feds even would be so kind as to provide us with our own passwords! How lucky are we?! From Obamacare to Obamanet! And what's next, a cashless, credit card-less system through which we all receive chips on the backs of our hands or foreheads without which we can't purchase or trade?

You must admit that this Internet must be a scary thing to governments. In particular, as we've seen in Egypt, social networks provide a unique threat; it's called free speech. Political rallies are no longer limited to places like Cairo's Tahrir Square or Washington's National Mall.

Squelching criticism and invoking Internet kill switches are outlandish overreaches and constitutional affronts by executive governmental power, in Egypt or the U.S. And anyone's belief that a government agency could step in and administer civilian networks and servers, even under attack, better than the private companies that own them is naive and just plain idiotic.

But if the feds aren't smart enough to figure that out, then here's a no-brainer for them. In fact, they should have gotten the message loud and clear from watching the Egyptian uprising on CNN or Fox News Channel this past week: Shutting down the Internet in any way will not subdue the people; it will only fuel resistance.

How many times do we patriots have to point it out to these governmental knuckleheads?

Mr. President, you say that you now are patterning your presidency after Ronald Reagan's. Then follow his core advice about expanding government control and regulation: "Government is not the solution to our problem. Government is the problem."

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