Senate debates president’s power during cyber-attack

May 24, 2011 @

Senators squared off with Obama administration officials Monday about plans to give the president emergency powers to protect vital U.S. electronic networks from attacks by hackers, cyberterrorists and foreign governments.

The Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee held a hearing on the administration’s legislative proposal, announced two weeks ago, that would rely on a pre-World War II radio emergency law to provide the president with authority to protect key computer and communication networks €” like those mainly in private hands that run power grids, phone systems and banking services €” from a cyber-attack.

€œI must say this baffles me,€ said Sen. Susan Collins, Maine Republican, of the administration’s plan to rely on the 1934 statute.

Ms. Collins accused administration officials of relying on “outmoded yet potentially sweeping authorities granted in the Communications Act of 1934” that gave the president the power to take over radio stations in a time of national emergency.

At issue is one of the more controversial elements of any new cybersecurity law — what powers the president should have over the Internet in the event of a catastrophic attack on vital U.S. assets.

“€œThe country would be better off if we did create some new law regarding the authority of the president to act in these emergencies,”€ said Sen. Joe Lieberman, Connecticut independent and the committee chairman.

Read More at the Washington Times by Shaun Waterman, the Washington Times

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