Citizens receiving offers of national and local emergency alerts on their cell phones, brace yourselves for the new emergency nanny state. At least you are on the distribution list. The executive branch is moving close to full control over all forms of communication at government discretion, without even the passage of new legislation.
President Barack Obama has enabled the federal government by executive order now to take and exercise control of communications nationwide “under all circumstances to ensure national security, effectively manage emergencies, and improve national resilience.” This builds on earlier moves in this direction by former President Ronald Reagan. On Dec. 4, 1981, he granted extended powers to all U.S. intelligence agencies in the communications sector.
Obama’s order empowers the government further in making all federal agencies comply with direction from intelligence agencies, including information requests from the Central Intelligence Agency.
All communication avenues now must allow for the receipt, integration and dissemination of National Security or Emergency Preparedness information that is supplied by the U.S. government and intended for American citizens. Regardless of private or public sector, all communications resources may be usurped by the president, and in turn by any number of governmental agencies.
Relevant supporting entities like the Government Emergency Telecommunications Service, Wireless Priority Service, Telecommunications Service Priority and Next Generation Network Priority programs will provide organizational and management structure with the CEC, SHS and the president. In the event of an “emergency”, the Secretary of Commerce will allow for the takeover of radio, television and digital communications. These communicative abilities are now “belonging to and operated by the federal government” as resources to be utilized “during a crisis or emergency”.
This follows the August 2011 announcement of the new Presidential Alert. Commissioners of the FCC may require that television, radio and cable systems, including satellites, redirect broadcasting if the president wants to “alert Americans of impending danger”.
By executive discretion, all radio and digital communications can and may be intercepted with recommendation by the assistant to the president for Homeland Security and Counter-terrorism and the Director of the Office of Science and Technology Policy. Executive authority in this regard derives from the Communications Act of 1934, as amended, 47 USC 606, section 706.
Key U.S. governmental agencies involved in this are the Departments of Justice, Defense, State, Commerce and Homeland Security; and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, General Services Administration and Federal Communications Commission.
The executive order in its entirety can be downloaded from whitehouse.gov.