The Obama administration will appoint yet another “czar” to put in charge of policy outside the bureaucratic organization, this time on cybersecurity. In essence, Barack Obama will have one man running the Internet, or at least its American resources, in order to better coordinate security for both public and private networks:
President Obama is expected to announce late this week that he will create a “cyber czar,” a senior White House official who will have broad authority to develop strategy to protect the nation’s government-run and private computer networks, according to people who have been briefed on the plan.
The adviser will have the most comprehensive mandate granted to such an official to date and will probably be a member of the National Security Council but will report to the national security adviser as well as the senior White House economic adviser, said the sources, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because the deliberations are not final.
The dual reporting function is a key to the post. Lawrence Summers, the Washington Post reports, worries that an unbalanced focus on security will blunt on-line economic growth through a burgeoning thicket of regulation. He wants the Council of Economic Advisers to have some authority to block regulation and enforcement on private networks that will damage the economy.
The appointment of a czar comes as a piece with the Cybersecurity Act of 2009, though, which already grants some far-reaching power to the executive branch. While most wondered whether Obama would “shut down” the Internet on the pretense of national security, the actual threat involves the legal authority to demand records without a warrant or probable cause. As I wrote almost two months ago, in the hands of a political commissar, that could mean trouble for administration critics if the government abuses that authority:
Section 14 may be a bigger problem. It essentially revokes all privacy safeguards on Internet use for all networks. The Fourth Amendment would go straight out the window with the explicit inclusion of “private sector owned critical infrastructure information systems and networks.” While Section 18 limits jurisdiction to federal networks, Section 14 allows the government to go after private networks without search warrants. The section also doesn’t limit the jurisdiction to acute attacks, either. That jurisdiction exists at all times.
The big problem isn’t that Obama might shut down the Internet. It’s that the bill essentially repeals the Fourth Amendment.
And now Obama wants to put that power in the hands of one man, answerable only to Obama himself. Of course, that’s how the czars ran Russia back in the day, too … and look how well that turned out.