While everyone in the media is salivating over Mitt Romney’s tenure at Bain and his speech to the NAACP, Obama has given the government more power over our communication systems in the event of an emergency.
On July 6, Obama signed an executive order called the “Assignment of National Security and Emergency Preparedness Communications Functions,” which allows the Executive Branch to have “access” to all private and public forms of communication in the event of an emergency — or terrorist attack.
The WhiteHouse.gov states that the this order is necessary because:
“The Federal Government must have the ability to communicate at all times and under all circumstances to carry out its most critical and time sensitive missions.”
According to Section 2.2c, the Executive Office’s responsibilities include access to:
“[…] all appropriate information related to the test, exercise, evaluation, and readiness of the capabilities of all existing and planned NS/EP communications systems, networks, and facilities to meet all executive branch NS/EP requirements.”
As reported by RT.com and explained by the Electronic Privacy Information Center, these communication systems, networks and facilities include:
“[…] wireline, wireless, satellite, cable, and broadcasting, and provide the transport networks that support the Internet and other key information systems.”
Simply put, the Executive Branch has granted itself access over the Internet in times of national security and/or emergency preparedness. Specifically, it is still unclear how the president, the Pentagon, the DHS, the FCC and other departments of the government will use this power.
Section 7c of the order is a disclaimer that promises this new access will not be abused. It states,
“This order shall be implemented consistent with applicable law and subject to the availability of appropriations.”
Despite the president’s disclaimer questions still remain because in matters relating to national security, laws have a tendency to lose their power over government officials. Will the government still grant the public access to the Internet in an emergency or will they shut down the Internet all together with a kill switch? Will the government patrol the Internet for dissenting voices during a crisis and persecute them?
Not to be outdone by the PATRIOT Act passed under the Bush administration, this executive order will transcend powers that presidents and governments have previously been granted. Access, or control, over the Internet means control over vital information the public is able to access in times of crises. Politicians very rarely let a crisis go to waste.
Crises create desperation and when there’s desperation, the public has a difficult time thinking critically and rationally. This creates opportunities for the government to disseminate misinformation and persuade the masses to make decisions that may not be in their best interest.