Friday, July 13, 2012

President Grants DHS Emergency Power Over Private Communication Networks

The Obama administration has given the Department of Homeland Security powers to prioritize government communications over privately owned telephone and Internet systems in emergencies.

An executive order signed June 6 “gives DHS the authority to seize control of telecommunications facilities, including telephone, cellular and wireless networks, in order to prioritize government communications over private ones in an emergency,” said Amie Stephanovich, a lawyer with the Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC).

The White House says Executive Order 13618, published Wednesday in the Federal Register, is designed to ensure that the government can communicate during major disasters and other emergencies and contains no new authority.

“The [order] recognizes the creation of DHS and provides the Secretary the flexibility to organize the communications systems and functions that reside within the department as [she] believes will be most effective,” White House spokeswoman Caitlin Hayden said in an email. “The [order] does not transfer authorities between or among departments.”
And the statutory authority for the order?
Ms. Hayden said the legal basis for the order is Section 706 of the 1934 Communications Act. The section authorizes the president to “cause the closing of any facility or station for wire communication” and gives him “control of any such facility or station” if a state of war, or the threat of one, exists.
Not sure how they can justify the use of the term "state of war" (which is specific) to mean the more general "emergency." I guess its good to be the King.

This is yet another example of why there should be a Constitutional amendment placing a sunset clause on all legislation and regulations.

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