RIght now I'm not sure what to think about criticism of a bill giving the President a role in responding to "cybersecurity emergencies" (though I do know I hate the term 'cybersecurity').
I'm certainly glad there is recognition at the highest levels that threats to electronic infrastructure are real and that we do need good policy in place to mitigate the impact of any attacks or other failures. Even some Federal coordination can be beneficial.
As noted in the article, however, distributed systems are better at failing gracefully than any centralized system would be, so we shouldn't be too enamoured of the idea that the President can sit in his super high-tech command center deep underground, directing our "cyber response" (gag) by barking out orders via Twitter to his IT agents nationwide. Still, having a team in the WH that can coordinate with ISPs, application hosts, and organizations like CERT wouldn't be a bad thing.
I guess I trust the Obama administration more than I would the previous one, so perhaps I'm not reacting in an overly negative way to the passage in question because of my own biases. I'm not entirely convinced language in the bill is so vague that the President could "take over" the Internet in the United States, but sure, let's replace that word 'direct' with something more innocuous, take a stab at defining what an emergency is. Or better yet, direct the WH to develop a security policy based on ISO 27002 like every other organization should.
It's heartening to see such debates at least are taking place. We rely so heavily on the Internet and other communications systems so much now that we must view them as critical assets and constantly (re)assess how to safeguard them.