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Joe Lieberman: The Internet Will Devolve Into A "Digital Dodge City"

Members of the Senate Homeland Security Committee praised the Obama administration’s recently released cybersecurity proposal during a Monday hearing, but expressed concern about some remaining differences between the approaches of the White House and lawmakers on Capitol Hill. Committee Chairman Joe Lieberman, ID-Conn., said he was pleased with much of the White House Cyberspace Policy Review released last week. Unless Congress acts, he said, the Internet will devolve into a “digital Dodge City.” The White House is correct in assigning cybersecurity authority to the Department of Homeland Security, said Lieberman, who has proposed cybersecurity legislation along with Homeland Security ranking member Susan Collins, R-Maine, and Sen. Tom Carper, D-Del. Lieberman also praised the policy’s call for public/private partnerships to reduce cyber threats. However, the chairman stuck by his call to establish a White House "Office of Cyberspace Policy" led by a Senate-confirmed official, something the White House plan does not call for. Currently, Howard Schmidt is White House cybersecurity coordinator; Lieberman, however, said that cyber threats deserve the attention of an official accountable to Congress. Collins also praised the White House for wading into cybersecurity. “Experts tell me that the cyber arena is where the biggest gap exists between the threat level and our preparedness,” she said. “Unfortunately, the government’s overall approach to cybersecurity has been disjointed and uncoordinated.” Collins said the administration’s legislative proposals largely mirror those in the bill she wrote with Lieberman and Carper, but she asked for more details about what powers the president has to control parts of the Internet in case of a large cyber attack. “Our current bill has explicit provisions preventing the president from shutting down the Internet,” she said. “By contrast, the administration appears to rely on outmoded, yet potentially sweeping authorities granted in the Communications Act of 1934."

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