- The Washington Times - Thursday, October 7, 2010

Largely forgotten after its initial introduction in June, the “Protecting Cyberspace as a National Asset Act of 2010,” S.3480, was back in the headlines following its recent endorsement by former CIA Director Michael Hayden, who said he believes the president needs to have the authority to shut down the entire Internet “when he feels as if he has to.”

Sen. Joe Lieberman, Connecticut independent, ever the worshipper at the altar of increasing presidential power, introduced the bill that claims the entire Internet, worldwide, as a U.S. government possession and granting President Obama a “kill switch” power that would allow him to seize broad swathes of the Internet or even shut the entire thing down in the name of “cybersecurity.” Yet the Internet is not just some ill-defined place called cyberspace, it is literally my computer, your computer, indeed all computers and devices connected to this global network, and the aims to grant supreme presidential power over it amount to an attempt to turn the world’s computers into just another war zone.

Gen. Hayden made this claim while expressing wonderment at the Internet’s “frontier experience,” saying it amounted “to a new age of exploration” for the military. It is this view of the Internet as a new combat zone that gives rise to the idea that Mr. Obama, in his role as commander in chief, needs to have virtual dictatorial power over it.

But a massive network of largely private computers that constitute a large portion of the global economy is something quite different, and efforts to turn it into a war zone shouldn’t be taken lightly. The Internet is the livelihood of millions of people worldwide and one of the last bastions of free speech that hasn’t been severely curbed.

We have seen countless times across the world what happens to freedom and the economy when a military creates a new battle zone, but the sheer size and ubiquity of the Internet makes this an even bigger problem, and a global one. The consequences of such a ridiculous overreach of presidential authority cannot possibly be understated, nor can the perils of quite literally turning the worlds computers into the military’s playground.

This explains why so many Internet security firms, from Microsoft to Symantec to RSA, have vigorously endorsed the idea. In this era of endless war, few corporations can claim the reliable profits of military contractors, and the militarization of the entire Internet, its enormous effects on personal freedom aside, would allow these companies to move out of the uncomfortable position of having to compete in a free market and into the inevitable role of government contractors.

Entrepreneurship, affordability, freedom and competition, these are the things that have made the Internet great. Yet this is not the Internet of the future unless this eternal attempt to militarize anything and everything not already under government control is stopped.

This is one occasion during which we cannot depend on some special interest group to protect our freedom. Corporate lobbies are onboard for the big payday, while the Internet’s status as a tool for dissent worldwide has made it a scapegoat for militaries and governments the world over. It is the private citizen who loses in this case, and dreadfully so. And so, too, must it be the private citizens who stand up to the Mr. Liebermans of the world and say “no more.” The line must be drawn here, and the Internet must remain demilitarized.

Jason Ditz is news editor at Antiwar.com, a nonprofit organization dedicated to noninterventionism.