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Is Obama’s Cybersecurity Executive Order Imminent?

Joe Wolverton, II, J.D.
New American

Flush with electoral capital, President Barack Obama is spending it like mad in pursuit of his radical power consolidating agenda. Over the past few days we have chronicled the fast-tracking of a UN gun control treaty, the prosecution of another alleged espionage case, another deadly drone attack, approval of a planned UN invasion of Mali, etc.

The latest stop of the Barack Obama Worldwide Tour of Tyranny may be the issuing of a  long-awaited and regularly leaked executive order exerting control over the Internet in the name of cybersecurity.

Of course, there remains the chance that Congress will pass some version of a cybersecurity bill before the president can issue his edict. Congress will be back in town on November 13 and Republican leaders have already telegraphed their intent to “reach across the aisle” and accede to the president’s mandate, including the touting of ObamaCare as “the law of the land.”

Then again, the president famously declared that “we can’t wait” for Congress to act, and given the fact that there are a few other pretty weighty items on the legislative schedule, a cybersecurity executive order isn’t out of the question. The decree would take that topic off Congress’s plate and allow the president greater control over the scope and severity of the regulations governing the “protection” of the nation’s cyberspace infrastructure.

Promises of the White House’s imminent issuing of the edict have been coming for months. The Associated Press (AP) obtained a leaked draft version of the order, but indicated that the source of the document didn’t disclose when the president would sign the order.

Greater evidence of the imminent issuing of the order came on September 19, when Department of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano said the executive order granting the president sweeping power over the Internet is “close to completion.”

In testimony before the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs, Napolitano said that the order is still “being drafted” and vetted by various high-level bureaucrats. But she also indicated that it would be issued as soon as a “few issues” were resolved. Assuming control of the nation’s Internet infrastructure is a DHS responsibility, Napolitano added.

“DHS is the Federal government’s lead agency for securing civilian government computer systems and works with our industry and Federal, state, local, tribal, and territorial government partners to secure critical infrastructure and information systems,” she informed senators.

Napolitano’s report on the role of DHS squares with the information revealed in the seven-page version of the order the AP has read. According to the report of their findings:

The draft order would put the Department of Homeland Security in charge of organizing an information-sharing network that rapidly distributes sanitized summaries of top-secret intelligence reports about known cyberthreats that identify a specific target. With these warnings, known as tear lines, the owners and operators of essential U.S. businesses would be better able to block potential attackers from gaining access to their computer systems.

The new draft, which is not dated, retains a section that requires Homeland Security to identify the vital systems that, if hit by cyberattack, could “reasonably result in a debilitating impact” on national and economic security. Other sections establish a program to encourage companies to adopt voluntary security standards and direct federal agencies to determine whether existing cyber security regulations are adequate.

The president’s de facto re-routing of all Internet traffic through federal intelligence officers deputizes more than just DHS as cybertraffic cops. The AP reports that “the Pentagon, the National Security Agency (NSA), the director of national intelligence, and the Justice Department” will all cooperate in the surveillance — in the name of national security, of course.

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