Pres. Could Seize Radio, Internet, under New Exec. Order
President Obama continues to plan for emergencies in a way that aggrandizes the power of the Executive Branch.
Back in March, in a creepy executive order, entitled “National Defense Resources Preparedness,” Obama authorized the President and cabinet officials to take over crucial aspects of the national economy—not only during emergencies but also in peacetime.
Then, just 10 days ago, on July 6, Obama issued another executive order, entitled, “Assignment of National Security and Emergency Preparedness Communications Functions.”
The order says this is pursuant to section 706 of the Communications Act of 1934 (47 U.S. C. 6066), which states, in part:
“The President, if he deems it necessary in the interest of national security or defense, may suspend or amend, for such time as he may see fit, the rules and regulations applicable to any or all stations or devices capable of emitting electromagnetic radiations within the jurisdiction of the United States . . . and may cause the closing of any station for radio communication, or any device capable of emitting electromagnetic radiations between 10 kilocycles and 100,000 megacycles . . . and the removal therefrom of its apparatus and equipment, or he may authorize the use or control of any such station or device and/or its apparatus and equipment, by any department of the Government under such regulations as he may prescribe upon just compensation to the owners.”
Obama’s executive order authorizes the heads of Homeland Security and the Office of Science and Technology Policy to make recommendations to the President on how he might enforce that 1934 law.
It also empowers the head of Homeland Security to make sure, “in conditions of crisis or emergency,” that the executive branch maintains “priority communications requirements through the use of commercial, government, and privately owned communications resources.”
Does this mean the President can grab hold of the radio dial and the Internet?
Now I’m not doubting that the executive branch needs to prepare for emergencies, but I do worry about the accretion of power in the hands of the President—any President.
The Electronic Privacy Information Center notes that Obama tried to accomplish the aims of this executive order legislatively, but failed to do so.
“Under the executive order, the White House has also granted the Department [of Homeland Security] the authority to seize private facilities when necessary, effectively shutting down or limiting civilian communications,” the group notes. “ In 2011, Congress considered similar provisions in cybersecurity legislation, which would have allowed the government to disconnect communications traffic in times of national security. Following public protest, Congress abandoned the proposal.”
Congress needs to hold hearings on all the emergency planning that is under way.
And we, the people, have a right to know what our government has in store for us.
Before it opens that store.
If you liked this story by Matthew Rothschild, the editor of The Progressive magazine, check out his story “Obama Strikes Populist Chord on Taxes."
Follow Matthew Rothschild @mattrothschild on Twitter
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