In a recent talk at the Fortune Brainstorm Tech event, Professor Lawrence Lessig predicted an "I9/11" event that would precipitate a restrictive "iPatriot Act" for the Internet.
The basic idea is that, at some point, there will be an exploit so intrusive that the security flaws of the Internet will be exposed to everyone. It is Lessig's belief that the government will respond with restrictions on Internet privacy that will be similar to those of the Patriot Act. The policy will probably be much more restrictive than the public might ordinarily approve; key issues like net neutrality might be renegotiated in ways that will benefit government agencies and corporations.
Listen to this Lessig I-9/11 clip video below:
(Lessig I-9/11 clip video)
This is an Internet scenario that is similar to the kind of situations discussed in The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism by Naomi Klein. In her book, Klein discusses how disasters can be used by groups, corporations and political parties to push for laws that are favorable to the interested groups. When the public is left stunned, the government can be forced to step in with policies that a thinking public might reject.
Lessig quotes Richard Clarke, former Counter Terrorism Czar for both Clinton and Bush (briefly) administrations, as saying that this document has already been prepared for use.
SF fans may recall that in The Shockwave Rider, Brunner discusses the possibility that the national data network could be compromised or even taken over in an enemy occupation. A special tapeworm Electric Skillet, referred to in the book by the name of the place where it was developed, could shut down the entire network to preserve it and prevent it from being misused.