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Published On: Sat, Jul 14th, 2012

Emergency Control of phone networks granted to Homeland Security

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

President Barack Obama meets with Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano in the Oval Office, May 9, 2011. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

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.”

She said the order replaced one originally signed in 1984 by President Reagan and amended in 2003 by President George W. Bush after DHSwas set up and took responsibility for emergency response and communications.

The new order “address[es] a world in which our economy and government are far more reliant on communications technologies to maintain essential functions than we were then,” she wrote.

At issue is a provision of the four-page order that says Homeland Security Secretary Janet A. Napolitano “shall … satisfy [federal] priority communications requirements through the use of commercial, government, and privately owned communications resources.”

“The previous orders did not give DHS those authorities over private and commercial networks,” Ms. Stepanovich said. “That’s a new authority.”

“This should have been done by Congress, so there could have been proper debate about it,” she added. “This is not authority that should be granted by executive order.”

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About the Author

- Writer and Co-Founder of The Global Dispatch, Brandon has been covering news, offering commentary for years, beginning professionally in 2003 on Crazed Fanboy before expanding into other blogs and sites. Appearing on several radio shows, Brandon has hosted Dispatch Radio, written his first novel (The Rise of the Templar) and completed the three years Global University program in Ministerial Studies to be a pastor. To Contact Brandon email [email protected] ATTN: BRANDON

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  1. Ideal Living says:

    Of course Lieberman is in on this.

    I think it is important to note that the other major world power that does this is a Communist dictatorship. Take a moment and think about that, America.

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