Egypt turns off internet, Lieberman wants same option for US

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[UPDATE: A roundup of BoingBoing's ongoing coverage of events in Egypt is here.]


On Thursday Jan 27th at 22:34 UTC the Egyptian Government effectively removed Egypt from the internet. Nearly all inbound and outbound connections to the web were shut down. The internet intelligence authority Renesys explains it here and confirms that "virtually all of Egypt's Internet addresses are now unreachable, worldwide." This has never happened before in the entire history of the internet, with a nation of this size. A block of this scale is completely unheard of, and Senator Joe Lieberman wants to be able to do the same thing in the US.

This isn't a new move, last year Senators Lieberman and Collins introduced a fairly far-reaching bill that would allow the US Government to shut down civilian access to the internet should a "Cybersecurity Emergency" arise, and keep it offline indefinitely. That version of the bill received some criticism though Lieberman continued to insist it was important. The bill, now referred to as the 'Protecting Cyberspace as a National Asset Act' (PCNAA) has been revised a bit and most notably now removes all judicial oversight. This bill is still currently circulating and will be voted on later this year. Lieberman has said it should be a top priority.

It's worth noting that the US sends $1.3 billion in annual military aid to Egypt. That makes the US the primary benefactor of the current Egyptian government. Vice President Joe Biden stated in an interview with Jim Lehrer on Thursday that Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, who has held that office since 1981, should not be considered a dictator. His opinion is not shared universally.

Mother Jones has a fantastic play-by-play explaining the situation right now in Egypt, and there are reports that some people using Tor are able to skirt around the governmental blocks.

This is something Americans should be paying very close attention to. Think about your daily life and how big a role the internet plays in it. Now think about what it would be like if one person had the authority to turn that off completely. If you can't imagine what that would be like you aren't alone. A week ago this was a hypothetical scenario. Now, you can just ask an Egyptian citizen what that feels like. Pay close attention to what happens with this bill.

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