President Obama expands government power over all communications

In his latest Executive Order, dated July 6, 2012, and entitled “Assignment of National Security and Emergency Preparedness Communications Functions”, President Obama, under the auspices of organizing communications responsibilities in times of national crises, has expanded government reach. He writes:

Section 1. Policy. The Federal Government must have the United States President Barack Obamaability to communicate at all times and under all circumstances to carry out its most critical and time sensitive missions. Survivable, resilient, enduring, and effective communications, both domestic and international, are essential to enable the executive branch to communicate within itself and with: the legislative and judicial branches; State, local, territorial, and tribal governments; private sector entities; and the public, allies, and other nations. Such communications must be possible under all circumstances to ensure national security, effectively manage emergencies, and improve national resilience. 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) communications policies, programs, and capabilities.

The news site RT notes:

On the government’s official website for the National Communications Systems, the government explains that that “infrastructure includes wireline, wireless, satellite, cable, and broadcasting, and provides the transport networks that support the Internet and other key information systems,” suggesting that the president has indeed effectively just allowed himself to control the country’s Internet access.
In order to allow the White House to reach anyone within the US, the president has put forth a plan to establish a high-level committee calling from agents with the Department of Homeland Security, Pentagon, Federal Communications Commission and other government divisions to ensure that his new executive order can be implemented.
In explaining the order, the Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC) writes that the president has authorized the DHS “the authority to seize private facilities when necessary, effectively shutting down or limiting civilian communications.” [Emphasis added.]

Some will yawn as if this means nothing more than updating the Emergency Broadcast System, which might be accurate. However, the condition “ensure national security” is left undefined. The problem is not necessarily that President Barack Obama might declare a state of emergency thereby taking over all forms of communication, disallowing civilian-to-civilian communication, for instance. The problem is the door is left open for any present or future president to do such a thing. Based on the current constitutional abuse on Capitol Hill assertions of national emergencies could be claimed for something as simple as some president fearing a re-election loss.

In case you were wondering, President Obama is not the only president to abuse the use of Executive Orders. Former President George W. Bush famously used them to get around the Constitution and/or the Congress. Testifying before the Constitution Subcommittee of the U.S. Senate Judiciary in September 2008 on the subject “Restoring the Rule of Law” attorney John W. Whitehead told Senator Russell Feingold (D-Wisc.) and others:

Over the course of the past seven years, Bush has expanded presidential power to allow government agents to, inter alia, open the private mail of American citizens, assume control of the federal government and declare martial law, as well as to secretly listen in on the telephone calls of American citizens and read our e-mails. Bush has also declared that if he disagrees with a law passed by Congress, he can disregard it. The Bush Administration has repeatedly placed itself above the rule of law in order to justify warrantless wiretapping, the detainment and torture of individuals captured in the war on terror, excessive government secrecy, and claims to executive privilege, among other egregious acts.
This increase in presidential power has been largely carried out under the Bush Administration by way of presidential directives, executive orders and stealth provisions used as a means to lay claim to a host of unprecedented powers. Executive orders remain extant and can be used by future Presidents.

Additionally, President George W. Bush in May 2007 signed National Security Presidential Directive 51 and Homeland Security Presidential Directive 20, done, as with Obama’s signing above, “without fanfare.” What do these allow?

Comprising the country’s Continuity of Government (COG) plan, these directives, which do not need congressional approval, provide a skeletal outline of the actions the executive will take in the event of a “national emergency.” In fact, they go so far as to grant the president the power to unilaterally declare a national emergency, which is loosely defined as “any incident, regardless of location, that results in extraordinary levels of mass casualties, damage, or disruption severely affecting the U.S. population, infrastructure, environment, economy, or government functions.”
Just what sort of actions the president will take once he declares a national emergency can barely be discerned from the barebones directives. However, one thing is clear–in the event of a national emergency, the president will become a dictator because while the Bush directives ensure the continuity of executive branch functions, they do not provide for repopulating or reconvening Congress or the Supreme Court.
Thus, a debilitating attack would give unchecked executive, legislative and judicial power to the executive branch and its unelected minions. The country would be subjected to martial law by default, and the Constitution and the Bill of Rights would be suspended. (This adds an ominous note to the disconcerting news that for the first time ever, U.S. military forces, trained in domestic police tactics and crowd control, are being deployed inside the U.S.)

“Ominous” indeed.

Image: AFP PHOTO/POOL/Luke Sharrett

Marty Duren

Just a guy writing some things.