The Internet may have started out as a communications oddity some 40 years ago, but it is now a necessity of modern life and, sadly, one that is under constant attack,” he said. Lieberman and the bill’s other sponsors cited the massive cyberattack several months ago on the search-engine company Google—an attack believed to have been organized by the Chinese government—as an example of the sorts of attacks that could be routine in the future.

Lieberman’s committee spokeswoman, Leslie Phillips, said the bill was an effort to defend the nation’s most important electronic networks, “the networks that are most central to our daily lives,” not at attacking anything. She was particularly agitated at any suggestion that the bill might give the White House the opportunity to try to shut down individual websites on national-security grounds.

“In no way is the senator’s cybersecurity legislation directed at websites—WikiLeaks or anyone else’s,” she said. WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange did not reply to a request for comment via email.

The bill would create a new federal agency, the National Center for Cybersecurity and Communications, within the Department of Homeland Security, with a director who would require Senate confirmation.

The center would work with private companies involved in what is described in the bill as “critical infrastructure”—a list including companies involved with electric grids, telecommunications networks and the Internet—to come up with emergency measures in the event of a crisis. Under the bill, the White House could demand that the emergency measures be put into place, including restrictions on their access to the Internet, if the president declared a national cyber-emergency.

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