President Obama will be handed the power to shut down the Internet for at least four months without Congressional oversight if the Senate votes for the infamous Internet ‘kill switch’ bill, which was approved by a key Senate committee yesterday and now moves to the floor.
The Protecting Cyberspace as a National Asset Act, which is being pushed hard by Senator Joe Lieberman, would hand absolute power to the federal government to close down networks, and block incoming Internet traffic from certain countries under a declared national emergency.
Despite the Center for Democracy and Technology and 23 other privacy and technology organizations sending letters to Lieberman and other backers of the bill expressing concerns that the legislation could be used to stifle free speech, the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee passed in the bill in advance of a vote on the Senate floor.
In response to widespread criticism of the bill, language was added that would force the government to seek congressional approval to extend emergency measures beyond 120 days. Still, this would hand Obama the authority to shut down the Internet on a whim without Congressional oversight or approval for a period of no less than four months.
Recessions are common; depressions are rare. As far as I can tell, there were only two eras in economic history that were widely described as “depressions” at the time: the years of deflation and instability that followed the Panic of 1873 and the years of mass unemployment that followed the financial crisis of 1929-31.
Neither the Long Depression of the 19th century nor the Great Depression of the 20th was an era of nonstop decline — on the contrary, both included periods when the economy grew. But these episodes of improvement were never enough to undo the damage from the initial slump, and were followed by relapses.
We are now, I fear, in the early stages of a third depression. It will probably look more like the Long Depression than the much more severe Great Depression. But the cost — to the world economy and, above all, to the millions of lives blighted by the absence of jobs — will nonetheless be immense.