April 13, 2009

Congressman Langevin Should Tell Us What He Means

Justin Katz

Given its title, I had hoped for some blogworthy meat in Rep. James Langevin's Sunday op-ed, "U.S. needs more control over Internet," but having read the thing, I'd be hard pressed to describe what he's proposing. The reader gets this at the beginning:

A NEWLY INTRODUCED Senate bill, the Cybersecurity Act of 2009, which would establish cyber security standards for both the government and the private sector, and create a national cyber security officer within the office of the president, is a notable development in our nation’s effort to craft a comprehensive national cyber security strategy.

And this in the middle:

True protection requires cyber resilience. But that can only be achieved through collective action and cooperation on a scale rarely witnessed before: a national effort involving business, government and society — similar to the way "Y2K" was approached, but designed for the long-haul not just one event. No single organization has the capacity to build this resilience. We need to work as a large and inclusive community across government, industry and non-profit organizations — a mega-community of sorts.

But what does this mean? And how can a "mega-community" help but be open to infiltration and attack?

The underlying question is, I suppose, why Mr. Langevin thought his essay worth writing in the first place. A quick review of the Cybersecurity Act text suggests that its main thrust is to create panels, programs, and centers — another bureaucracy — that will assess and address problems related to cybersecurity, not only for national security purposes, but also to protect intellectual property rights. That's all fine, but is this what now constitutes "action afoot" in the federal government?

I'm afraid so. When we the voters are brought into the fold, the information is vague warnings and declarations of a need for collaboration and, of course, spending. Somehow, at the tail-end of the process, we seem always to be spending more of our money to finance somebody else's investigation into methods of curtailing our freedom of motion and of information.

Aren't there already agencies in the federal government tasked with ensuring our security? I'd suggest that we could add cybersecurity to their responsibilities and then require them to provide detailed explanations for why they need to reallocate or acquire additional funds to address specific problems. Instead, we get politicians who wish most to create the image that they are doing something — while pinning themselves to as few specific policies as possible — and an ultimately unaccountable bureaucracy that will never go away, even when the prefix "cyber-" is a quaint relic of the past.

Comments, although monitored, are not necessarily representative of the views Anchor Rising's contributors or approved by them. We reserve the right to delete or modify comments for any reason.

Off topic, but does it give anyone else a queasy feeling that Sen. Whitehouse appointed Jack "lead paint" McConnell (aka Class action Jack) to the federal bench?

Posted by: anonymous at April 13, 2009 11:54 AM

McConnell is an ACLU operative and can be glimpsed now and then on their crappy little free access program sitting around schmoozing with lowlifes such as Dan Weissman and Steven Brown.
McConnell is a hardcore leftist who apparently never met an illegal alien he didn't like.
O.Rogeriee Thompson,also a judicial selection,is an outstanding choice.She is a good trial judge,has an impeccable reputation,and is in touch with the real world.I remember her as one of the best District Court judges around when it came to taking a search warrant application at any hour of the night.Always gracious and very conscientous in the execution of her job.

Posted by: joe bernstein at April 13, 2009 1:18 PM

The following section gives some pause:

(a) DESIGNATION- The Department of Commerce shall serve as the clearinghouse of cybersecurity threat and vulnerability information to Federal Government and private sector owned critical infrastructure information systems and networks.
(b) FUNCTIONS- The Secretary of Commerce--
(1) shall have access to all relevant data concerning such networks without regard to any provision of law, regulation, rule, or policy restricting such access;

The problem is that decisions as to what constitutes "relevant data" are completely unlimited and are apparently to be determined by the Secretary of Commerce. Given this administration's disinterest in civil liberties, and their willingness to interfere in the operation of private companies, I don't find this comforting.

This gives the Secretary of Commerce the same kind of power over cyber security as the Secretary of Treasury has over the dispensing of bailout funds. And we all know that's going to continue to work out just great.

Also, in tune with the Obama administration’s pathological distrust of free markets, the bill specifically calls for the government to create a market for cyber security tools, as opposed to, well, for instance, letting the market create a market.

Our cyber-infrastructure does have vulnerabilities. Part of the problem seems to be that a large portion of our infrastructure is already too centralized. I'm not sure I see how this helps.

Any bill which is justified as being necessary because the federal government "needs more control over the Internet" is almost surely an awful and dangerous bill.

Posted by: Ralph Stokes at April 13, 2009 3:14 PM

As a friend of the McConnell family, you'll have to forgive me the giggles I'm indulging in over these attacks.
My father, who was much more conservative than I and was once Jack's basketball coach, would be getting a hearty laugh, too.

Posted by: rhody at April 13, 2009 4:05 PM

Rhody-you sneak-ran right to RI Future to lie about what I said here?Invective?McConnell works for the ACLU.It is a fact.I DIDN'T call him a socialist.I wouldn't know.He is a leftist if his fundraising is any indication.
BTW-being more conservative than you isn't really saying much.I don't give a shit about whether you like what I say or not,but don't misquote me.

Posted by: joe bernstein at April 13, 2009 6:27 PM

Joe, you pique with me is not good for your blood pressure. Relax. Chill.

Posted by: rhody at April 14, 2009 1:09 AM
Post a comment

Remember personal info?

Important note: The text "http:" cannot appear anywhere in your comment.