The Assignment of National Security and Emergency Preparedness Communication Functions executive order essentially gives President Barack Obama the power to control private communications when deemed a matter of national security. The details of President Obama’s latest executive order are posted on the White House website for all Americans to read while in a state of shock, with visions of a shredded Constitution dancing through our heads.
No one could argue against the necessity of a fully functional emergency alert system and the need for a president to address the nation in an emergency, but President Obama’s latest executive order goes far beyond the goal of achieving such a beneficial task. An Emergency Alert System already exists and the White House is networked into the system to allow a president to quickly address the entire country via television and radio stations. As previously reported by Off The Grid News, an IOActive review of the Emergency Alert System (EAS) revealed just how vulnerable the network is to cyber hackers. There is no logical reason to give the president the power to reach deeply into private sector communications networks.
An excerpt from the Assignment of National Security Emergency Preparedness Communication Functions order reads:
“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. 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. [This should be done by establishing a] joint industry-government center that is capable of assisting in the initiation, coordination, restoration and reconstitution of NS/EP [national security and emergency preparedness] communications services or facilities under all conditions of emerging threats, crisis or emergency.”
The Assignment of National Security and Emergency Preparedness Communication Functions executive order is 2,205 words long, and those of us who respect and cherish the Constitution need to read every single syllable very carefully. The communications infrastructure noted by President Obama in the executive order include satellite, wireless, wired, cable, and broadcasting, and those that provide the transport networks that support the Internet and other key information systems. The executive order essentially puts President Obama in charge of Internet access in the United States.
To ensure that the president will have the capability to reach every American household, he is reportedly putting together a plan to create a committee of experts and agents from within the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) the Department of Homeland Security, the Pentagon, and a handful of other federal departments.
An excerpt from the emergency communications executive order pertaining to the governing committee reads:
“The Executive Committee shall be composed of Assistant Secretary-level or equivalent representatives designated by the heads of the Departments of State, Defense, Justice, Commerce, and Homeland Security, the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (DNI), the General Services Administration, and the Federal Communications Commission, as well as such additional agencies as the Executive Committee may designate. The designees of the Secretary of Homeland Security and the Secretary of Defense shall serve as Co-Chairs of the Executive Committee. The responsibilities of the Executive Committee shall be to: (a) advise and make policy recommendations to the President, through the PPD-1 process, on enhancing the survivability, resilience, and future architecture of NS/EP communications, including what should constitute NS/EP communications requirements.”
When detailing the reach of the Assignment of National Security and Emergency Preparedness Communication Functions executive order, President Obama stated that the necessary technical support for the mandate will be overseen by the new committee. That same group of government staffers dispatches alerts to governmental entities via privately owned communication services.
During the next two months, the Department of Homeland Security will draft a plan detailing how the federal agency will “command” President Obama’s Emergency Telecommunications Service and related telecom conduits.
A section of President Obama’s executive order which many are finding the most concerning is the portion relating to maintaining maximum connectivity for the new emergency alert system at all times. Some have read between the lines and pondered if the new order means the president could shut down specific private communication systems in order to maintain the connectivity level desired for governmental purposes.
Another excerpt from the Assignment of National Security and Emergency Preparedness Communication Functions reads:
“[The executive order will] promote the incorporation of the optimal combination of hardness, redundancy, mobility, connectivity, interoperability, restorability, and security to obtain, to the maximum extent practicable, the survivability of NS/EP communications under all circumstances. [The committee will] recommend to the president, through the PPD-1 process, the regimes to test, exercise, and evaluate the capabilities of existing and planned communications systems, networks, or facilities to meet all executive branch NS/EP communications requirements, including any recommended remedial actions.”
The Secretary of Defense will also play a significant role in the development, sustainment, implementation, and testing of the NS/EP communications system.
According to the published details of President Obama’s executive order, the Secretary of Defense will:
“Oversee NS/EP communications that are directly responsive to the national security needs of the President, Vice President, and senior national leadership, including: communications with or among the President, Vice President, White House staff, heads of state and government, and Nuclear Command and Control leadership; Continuity of Government communications; and communications among the executive, judicial, and legislative branches to support enduring constitutional government.”
The Department of Homeland Security secretary will oversee NS/EP communications aspects which include communication systems that “support continuity of government” in a multitude of jurisdictions, including the non-military executive branch communications system. The federal official will also oversee infrastructure which protects such networks, paying particular attention to “prioritizations” and restoration issues. The DHS secretary will also have the authority to resolve any conflicts relating to prioritizations and a coordinated effort with the Secretary of Defense.
The Secretary of Commerce is even thrown into the alphabet soup of federal agency representatives which will have the power to dictate communications. The secretary is tasked with offering “advice and guidance” to President Obama’s NS/EP executive committee regarding the metrics and technical standards necessary to support the new version of the alert system.
The NS/EP executive order also grants the Secretary of Commerce the power to:
“Administer a system of radio spectrum priorities for those spectrum-dependent telecommunications resources belonging to and operated by the federal government and certify or approve such radio spectrum priorities, including the resolution of conflicts in or among such radio spectrum priorities during a crisis or emergency.”
The Federal Communications Commission’s already massive power to regulate communications could possibly be used to manipulate more resources to the federal government at the expense of the private sector and free-flow of information, all under the cloak of national security.
The Federal Communications Commission has the authority to:
“Perform such functions as are required by law, including: (a) with respect to all entities licensed or regulated by the Federal Communications Commission: the extension, discontinuance, or reduction of common carrier facilities or services; the control of common carrier rates, charges, practices, and classifications; the construction, authorization, activation, deactivation, or closing of radio stations, services, and facilities; the assignment of radio frequencies to Federal Communications Commission licensees; the investigation of violations of pertinent law; and the assessment of communications service provider emergency needs and resources; (b) and supporting the continuous operation and restoration of critical communications systems and services by assisting the Secretary of Homeland Security with infrastructure damage assessment and restoration, and by providing the Secretary of Homeland Security with information collected by the Federal Communications Commission on communications infrastructure, service outages, and restoration, as appropriate.”