Washington (CNN) - A new Congressional cyber security proposal would give the president emergency powers to protect critical private networks under attack, but the bill's sponsors insisted it does not allow the government to take control of any private cyber-network.
Senate Homeland Security Committee Chairman Joseph Lieberman, I-Connecticut, who helped create the legislation, said the president could order a patch or tell a cyber network to stop receiving incoming data from a particular country when critical infrastructure in the private sector such as the electrical grid or financial grid is threatened or attacked. A company that complies with the order would be given immunity from any liability for any consequences of the action.
Sen. Susan Collins, the ranking Republican on the Homeland Security Committee, emphasized the proposal does not allow for any new surveillance authority.
"This isn't a case of the federal government increasing its surveillance of private sector computers nor would it permit the government to take over private networks," said Collins. "It enables the government in concert with the private sector to better protect our nation's cyber assets."
The bipartisan bill announced by Lieberman, Collins and Sen. Thomas Carper, D-Delaware, creates a cyber security center at the Department of Homeland Security and would make the cyber security coordinator at the White House a permanent position, confirmed by the Senate. The position is currently appointed by the president.