The president signed an executive order on June 6th that was published in the Federal Registry this week which grants the Department of Homeland Security extended emergency powers to control communications. The Washington Times reports:
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 White House has said the new order updates a Cold War order signed by Ronald Reagan in 1984, and updated by George W. Bush in 2003 to reflect the new technological reality of communications. But libertarian and privacy advocate critics say the order is a prime example of overreach because the powers for the first time extend to private and commercial networks. James Harper of the Cato Institute tells the Times that the new order “extends Section 706 powers to the Internet,” comparing it to something that “might have made sense in the 1930s.”