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Executive Order Grants US Gov't New Powers Over Communication Systems 513

Posted by timothy
from the or-did-you-think-the-state-was-your-friend? dept.
An anonymous reader writes "President Obama has issued a new executive order: 'Assignment of National Security and Emergency Preparedness Communications Functions.' EPIC reports: 'The Executive Order grants new powers to the Department of Homeland Security, including the ability to collect certain public communications information. Under the Executive Order the White House has also granted the Department the authority to seize private facilities when necessary, effectively shutting down or limiting civilian communications.' A few key excerpts from the exec order: 'The views of all levels of government, the private and nonprofit sectors, and the public must inform the development of national security and emergency preparedness (NS/EP) [National Security/Emergency Preparedness] communications policies, programs, and capabilities. ... Sec. 5.2. The Secretary of Homeland Security shall: (a) oversee the development, testing, implementation, and sustainment of NS/EP communications, including: communications that support Continuity of Government; Federal, State, local, territorial, and tribal emergency preparedness and response communications; non-military executive branch communications systems; critical infrastructure protection networks; and non-military communications networks, particularly with respect to prioritization and restoration; .... (e) satisfy priority communications requirements through the use of commercial, Government, and privately owned communications resources, when appropriate."
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Executive Order Grants US Gov't New Powers Over Communication Systems

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  • by crazyjj (2598719) * on Tuesday July 10, 2012 @11:15AM (#40603085)

    has also granted the Department the authority to seize private facilities when necessary, effectively shutting down or limiting civilian communications

    When the U.S. President does it, it's to make your kids safer.

    • by Jhon (241832) on Tuesday July 10, 2012 @11:19AM (#40603155) Homepage Journal

      Who needs "checks and balances"...

      • Well, I could sure use a few more checks...

        • by v1 (525388)

          Well, I could sure use a few more checks...

          won'd do you much good if you don't have a positive balance in your account...

        • by cayenne8 (626475) on Tuesday July 10, 2012 @12:06PM (#40603865) Homepage Journal
          So....how's that "Hope and Change" working out for you?

          Geez...and people were seriously worried about Bush Jr. trying to 'go imperial', grab power and stay president past his term.

          Even he didn't go for a power grab THIS broad.

          Seriously...the govt can take over private sector machines? What constitutes an emergency to trigger this takeover....emp? China cyber attack? Bad election returns?

          • Meh. Every President at least as far back as JFK has issued Executive Orders like this, giving the President broad powers to seize all sorts of stuff should there ever be a "national emergency." It's unclear whether they are Constitutional or whether anyone would follow orders to enforce them.

            I'm not thrilled with Obama doing it, but let's not pretend this is some novel, new thing that previous Presidents wouldn't have dared.

            • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

              by Anonymous Coward

              No let's instead pretend that since it has happened before, we should downplay its current significance by citing the past.

            • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday July 10, 2012 @12:59PM (#40604745)

              Meh. Every President at least as far back as JFK has issued Executive Orders like this, giving the President broad powers to seize all sorts of stuff should there ever be a "national emergency."

              Eh, "every president at least as far back as JFK" was a president after the two great advances of hyperfederalism, i.e. reconstruction and the new deal. Nobody's pretending it's a new trend, but it's damn infuriating when every damn president, despite claiming to support either "small government" or "social liberties", marches right in line with his predecessor, pushing federal power an inch further. Obama is perhaps the most frustrating to today's youth, since he ran one of the more populist, throw-the-bums-out, real-change campaigns in recent memory. And of course, since it happened today, not 4 years ago.

              It's unclear whether they are Constitutional or whether anyone would follow orders to enforce them.

              The former may be unclear, but the latter is completely clear.
              There's certainly little constitutional need for them, as anything the executive has the power to authorize in advance, he has the power to authorize when needed. And while one might think that, by declaring his presumed powers beforehand, the President opens them to scrutiny that could result in them being declared unconstitutional and illegal (thus, that unchallenged E.O.s would be confirmed within the President's lawful power), this is just not the case -- until some act is taken pursuant to them which harms some state or citizen, nobody has standing to file suit, thus the courts cannot rule on it.

              Regarding obedience, see Milgram's famous experiment on the subject [wikipedia.org]; orders pursuant to these E.O.s will be obeyed by federal agents, exactly as any other orders (or the same orders, in the absence of the E.O.) would be, and nobody at your local ISP will stop the men in body armor and guns when they come through the door. (Note that obedience depends principally on the authority's immediacy, which is a huge part of why we have such long chains of command and so many layers of bureaucracy -- so each person is receiving an order from an immediate authority, not a voice from Washington. They will obey.)

          • by citylivin (1250770) on Tuesday July 10, 2012 @12:35PM (#40604339)

            "So....how's that "Hope and Change" working out for you?"

            You are arguing now that mccain and sarah palin would have run the USA better. That is what you are arguing, just so we are clear.

          • by GodInHell (258915)
            Bush DID grab the power to spy on all communications in the U.S., without a warrant - remember that whole "Warrantless wiretapping" thing and "carnivore" that sorted through your e-mails and text messages. The difference is that Obama publishes his orders where they can be critiqued, and thus gives us a chance to object and bring suit to prevent it.

            You'd think people would have longer memories.
      • by KhabaLox (1906148) on Tuesday July 10, 2012 @12:53PM (#40604617)

        Politicians need checks from lobbyists to increase their balances.

    • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday July 10, 2012 @11:29AM (#40603313)

      has also granted the Department the authority to seize private facilities when necessary, effectively shutting down or limiting civilian communications

      When the U.S. President does it, it's to make your kids safer.

      So how does "satisfy[ing] priority communications requirements through the use of commercial, Government, and privately owned communications resources, when appropriate." turn into "seizure of private facilities when necessary, effectively shutting down or limiting civilian communications"?

      Have you heard of QoS? Do you get that there are ways to achieve the stated goal without seizure of a TV station or undersea cable or the like? And that this is already something implemented in the regional and nationwide EBS? Shit, you go nuts when the government has two departments with the same name (what a waste, fire them all!) but when they try to put something important like EBS under one roof, you have a conspiracy fit? Makes me glad I am not a politician. You know why they don't give a shit about what you think? It's because most of you (especially the vocal ones) are fucking nuts!

    • the question is WHEN and WHY do they do it. and the job for you is to base your opinion on those whens and whys, not base on your opinion on the fact that they can do this

      for example, china will do it just to crush political dissent. invalid

      the usa will do it to crush kiddie porn. valid. the usa might also do it to crush piracy. invalid. so THAT'S where oyu want to focus your criticism

      but right now, your opinion just makes you look naive and ridiculous, you are not commenting intelligently on the issue. the basis for your opinion, a common invalid opinion, unfortunately, is that just because the government has this power, something is wrong. except that the government, any government, will always have this power. so that is why your opinion is invalid

      you need to focus less on the fact that the police man has a gun at his side, and focus more on the procedures of his police department that say when it is valid for that police man to pick up his gun and shoot you

      what you don't get, and never will get, is a police force who don't have guns

      (this is not the time to point out the police forces in the world that don't actually carry guns. it's just an analogy, you don't dispel the usefulness of an analogy by being overly literal about it)

    • has also granted the Department the authority to seize private facilities when necessary, effectively shutting down or limiting civilian communications

      When the U.S. President does it, it's to make your kids safer.

      I just re-read section 5.2 (which deals with DHS) for the *third* time. I don't see that anywhere in the order. This is astroturfing, and not a very good example of it either.

      Geez! The US government is already doing enough stupid/illegal/unethical things already. No need to fake up any more. Unless, of course, the goal is to discredit the Obama administration in advance of the election. I mean, it's one thing to say the the gov't is spying on *everyone*, killing civilians, wiping their asses with the

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday July 10, 2012 @11:19AM (#40603169)

    Because I'm not cranky or old, but the forefathers would've absolutely despised a measure such as this. It's more or less a Quartering Act on the communication network, giving them the right to seize for their own purposes in the state of an emergency.

  • Extremely misleading (Score:4, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday July 10, 2012 @11:24AM (#40603241)

    Read the Exec, Order. This is not about monitoring specific communication, it's about maintaining the integrity of the communication network so that in the event of an emergency communication doesn't go down.

    For those of us in NYC, we should remember core telephone, pager, and cellular infrastructure going down back on 9/11...circuit congestion was through the fucking roof, and someone is turning a "must make communications possible" into "BB is watching you."

    The spin is disgusting, and the brainless will never actually read the executive order and understand it anyway. Da govment gona take my phone! Dey do this in E-jupt and Ly-bia. Fucking retards, the lot of you.

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      Read the Exec, Order. This is not about monitoring specific communication, it's about maintaining the integrity of the communication network so that in the event of an emergency communication doesn't go down.

      For those of us in NYC, we should remember core telephone, pager, and cellular infrastructure going down back on 9/11...circuit congestion was through the fucking roof, and someone is turning a "must make communications possible" into "BB is watching you."

      The spin is disgusting, and the brainless will never actually read the executive order and understand it anyway. Da govment gona take my phone! Dey do this in E-jupt and Ly-bia. Fucking retards, the lot of you.

      You forgot to quote the part where they are empowered to seize civilian facilities. I'm guessing that was just an oversight or you didn't want to mention it. Whatever the reason. That sent a chill in the air. Sounds a lot LIKE other countries during THEIR instances of 'maintaining the integrity of the communication network' doesn't it.

      • by the eric conspiracy (20178) on Tuesday July 10, 2012 @12:13PM (#40603995)

        > You forgot to quote the part where they are empowered to seize civilian facilities.

        The summary is a gross lie.

        Go read the actual executive order. There is no such place where empowerment to seize civilian facilities is described. In fact the order is just a directive to establish an emergency communications plan.

        Slashdot can be really bad at times. This was one of the worst examples I've seen.

    • by FlynnMP3 (33498)

      Read the Exec, Order. This is not about monitoring specific communication, it's about maintaining the integrity of the communication network so that in the event of an emergency communication doesn't go down.

      For those of us in NYC, we should remember core telephone, pager, and cellular infrastructure going down back on 9/11...circuit congestion was through the fucking roof, and someone is turning a "must make communications possible" into "BB is watching you."

      The spin is disgusting, and the brainless will never actually read the executive order and understand it anyway. Da govment gona take my phone! Dey do this in E-jupt and Ly-bia. Fucking retards, the lot of you.

      I read the Executive Order. Here is the section that I think people are getting riled about. Emphasis added is mine.

      Sec. 5.6. The Federal Communications Commission performs such functions as are required by law, including: (a) with respect to all entities licensed or regulated by the Federal Communications Commission: the extension, discontinuance, or reduction of common carrier facilities or services; the control of common carrier rates, charges, practices, and classifications; the construction, authorization, activation, deactivation, or closing of radio stations, services, and facilities; the assignment of radio frequencies to Federal Communications Commission licensees; the investigation of violations of pertinent law; and the assessment of communications service provider emergency needs and resources; and

      (b) supporting the continuous operation and restoration of critical communications systems and services by assisting the Secretary of Homeland Security with infrastructure damage assessment and restoration, and by providing the Secretary of Homeland Security with information collected by the Federal Communications Commission on communications infrastructure, service outages, and restoration, as appropriate.

      So...if I understand the /. summary right, it states the DHS can shutdown portions of the communications network (not specified, most likely the Internet augmented by other more traditional means, perhaps shortwave radio). What I have pasted here directly from the order states nothing of the sort. It says the FCC has that power provided it is within current laws.

      Granted, there is a LOT I d

  • by sohmc (595388) on Tuesday July 10, 2012 @11:24AM (#40603243) Journal

    My civics may be a bit rusty but my understanding of executive orders is that they are used to further describe legislation that has been passed (i.e. laws) and outlines what federal officers (in the broad sense, not LEOs) are to do to execute the law.

    From just the summary, this doesn't seem like this is the case. This seems like a sweeping "I want the ability to do this but not willing to pass it through congress."

    Can anyone with more civics experience clarify this? Don't get me wrong: both sides have done this. But want to know how things "should" be.

    • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday July 10, 2012 @11:32AM (#40603365)

      Because the summary is bullshit.

      This is basically doling out to different departments who has responsibility for the government's communications in emergencies. The Defense Department is responsible for the President and VP's communications while Homeland Security is responsible for other levels of government. There is nothing about new powers in the executive order.

    • by Baloroth (2370816)

      Because, as others have pointed out, the summary and linked "article" are complete and utter bullshit. All the Executive Order actually does is designate to whom and how the government should go about maintaining communications in an emergency, i.e. it delegates powers the President already holds either through legislation or through the Constitution itself. On other words, it cannot delegate unconstitutional power because the President doesn't have such power (in theory, in practice it may differ, but that

  • The first thing that came to mind was a classic Cold War movie called Seven Days in May (1964) [imdb.com]. There was a shadowy group within the Pentagon called ECOMCON. Watched the movie and see if any parallels jump out at you.

  • The first amendment (from wikipedia) says:

    The amendment prohibits the making of any law respecting an establishment of religion, impeding the free exercise of religion, abridging the freedom of speech, infringing on the freedom of the press, interfering with the right to peaceably assemble or prohibiting the petitioning for a governmental redress of grievances.

    Does giving the Department of Homeland Security affect this, by being able to collect information on it's citizens? Are people still able to pe

  • "Maury, I am out of control. Yeah, I use drugs. I can do what I waunt, biatch! Yeah, I have sex, and I don't use protection! It's my hot body; I'll do what I waunt! I don't go to school and I kill people! What-evah! I'll do what I waunt!" - Eric Cartman
  • by slimjim8094 (941042) <slashdot3NO@SPAMjustconnected.net> on Tuesday July 10, 2012 @11:32AM (#40603349)

    I thought the Federal government already had the power to pre-empt normal communications infrastructure in a time of national emergency. For example, pretty much every radio or TV station, as well as all cable systems, must be able to be activated to broadcast a message from the President. It's part of the EAS that's usually used for severe weather warnings. I thought that the government also had the authority to "commandeer" those facilities if necessary for communications

    Isn't this more-or-less extending that same power to the internet? Talking about "continuity of government" sounds like "when we've been hit by a nuclear bomb, we're going to make sure we can communicate by whatever means necessary". You know, the cold-war era thinking about second strike capability and command and control [wikipedia.org] and so on.

  • Yahoo is currently running this Reuters article [yahoo.com], in which we are told quite the assortment of lies about US spy agency operations. The spokesman expresses acute concern about respecting the privacy of US Citizens, and claims that US Spy Agencies do not spy on US Citizens except as absolutely needed for anti-terrorism operations. Wow, what a pack of lies!

    I wish to, once again, remind readers about ECHELON [wikipedia.org], the UK/USA global signals intelligence system. We already know, from numerous leaks that have occ

    • by DarkOx (621550)

      absolutely needed for anti-terrorism operations.

      Which would be just fine if the FEDs used the same definitions for "absolutely" and "needed" the rest of us do.

  • Every time I think our President can't go any further in breaching civil liberties, he manages to do it again.
  • Obama is signing his own political death warrant.

  • In b4... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by squidflakes (905524) on Tuesday July 10, 2012 @11:42AM (#40603505) Homepage

    ...what? A conspiracy theory as the first comment? Well damn.

    I always love coming in to these threads and seeing the internet tough-guy Libertarian/Survivalist bravado and lack of reading comprehension.

    This order mostly pertains to emergency management and is directing the DHS to consolidate disaster communications and to appropriate civilian and commercial assets when necessary. You know, like during an emergency.

    Which they already have the power to do.

    Which isn't a conspiracy, because this is exactly the sort of thing that government does when force majeure is at work.

    But hey, don't let me rain on your parade. The frothing at the mouth end-is-nigh rants are precious, as are the "Don't Tread On Me" breathless defenses of your individual liberties, which only seem to be important when Democrats are in office.

    • Most days, I think that when we have a post about politics on this site, that the hordes from cnn.com and Fox News come here to troll.
  • The Usurper [penny-arcade.com]

  • Crap. I just ordered a new router. Why can't the Prez just buy one of his own instead of pinching mine?
  • He's doing a great job protecting us! I hope he uses the internet to hunt down each and everyone of you racist haters and turn you into the IRS! Or send you to Gitmo! Or just fuck you up!

  • Is this the best they could come up with in light of the poor showing of the Emergency Alert System during the national activation test a while back?
  • by RLBrown (889443) on Tuesday July 10, 2012 @11:48AM (#40603591) Homepage
    Upon a careful reading of the actual executive order, I find, in my humble opinion, that the order does none of things that are being ranted about. First, the bulk of the order are instructions to DHS to develop policies and procedures to ensure that communications will survive in the event of a national emergency. Second, it does allude to ensuring that federal needs will have priority during emergencies, a privilege the government already enjoys. Third, it carefully notes that the authority of the FCC is not being superseded by the order, and that the FCC has control over any communications channels that have been assigned to the federal government, i.e. DHS does not. Frankly, it reads as a get your act together directive, not a sweeping grab of new federal powers.
  • by b5bartender (2175066) on Tuesday July 10, 2012 @11:53AM (#40603681)
    "Executive order grants US government new powers." Funny, I thought only the Constitution had that authority.
    • That dichotomy you sense is because the summary is complete baloney.

      This is just a routine directive regarding emergency communications facilities run by the US government.

      Ignore the summary and EPIC article, and go read the actual executive order. It is a routine band piece of administrative boredom.

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