The outbreak of civil unrest in Egypt this week has unfolded with rapid momentum. As in Tunisia, access to video, Twitter and other feeds at first appeared to help the Egyptian citizenry stand up for their democratic and human rights, including the right to be safe in their homes and businesses, and to come to consensus on being so.
The United States policy towards Egypt has valued its weight as ally in Middle East negotiations and stability.
When on January 27th Egypt shut down all Internet access, President Barack Obama objected loudly and clearly:
I ... call upon the Egyptian government to reverse the actions that they’ve taken to interfere with access to the Internet, to cell phone service and to social networks that do so much to connect people in the 21st century.
What does Egypt's use of its Internet "kill switch" tell us about American rights in a parallel situation?
The Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs held hearings on Protecting Cyberspace as a National Asset Act of 2010 S. 3480 in June last year. S. 3480 was an evolution of S. 773, the Cybersecurity Act of 2009 introduced the year before. A version of S. 3480 will likely be re-introduced this year as the Cyber Security and American Cyber Competitiveness Act of 2011 S. 21.
Section 249 of S. 3480 proposed to grant the President the temporary power to intervene upon the declaration of a “national cyber emergency.”
As S. 21's contours for Executive control over the Internet take shape, this week's events in Egypt may provide cause for caution and judicial review.