What's the gist of this Executive Order, and why might my cousin characterize it as "evil"?

I’m really not much good at reading these things. The title is “ASSIGNMENT OF NATIONAL SECURITY AND EMERGENCY PREPAREDNESS COMMUNICATIONS FUNCTIONS” and it appears to supersede a prior version of an E.O. written for the same purpose in 1984 (which in turn superseded one signed by President Kennedy).

Well Obama is black, so that makes it a gazillion times worse than when white presidents did it. If it weren’t for the fact that Obama has seized all the guns already I expect that there would be armed revolt.

Missed the edit window: My cousin linked to it from the blog of someone named Al Kresta. He said he read it, and remarked: I have a pit in the bottom of my stomach thinking of just how evil this is.

Hence, my question.

Here’s what Freepers are claiming:

There’s a bit more, but you get the gist. Because Obama thinks it’s necessary for the government to have systems in place to communicate with the private sector, he’s therefore “officially control[ling] the Internet and everything you own on it.”

I’ll take “paranoid misreads of government documents” for $100.

Edit: I went to look at Al Kresta’s blog, and got a malware warning. Now I’ve got a pit in the bottom of my stomach, too.

Thanks, but I was thinking of the gist of the EO itself, not the gist of the RW reaction.

Sounds like an extension (or would enhancement be a better word?) of Executive Oder 12919, which conspiracy theorists also like to have conniptions over. They’re planning ahead for emergencies. Every president since Truman has issued orders like these; they’re contingency plans no one expects to need but want to have “just in case.”

Considering that these same people would probably be screaming bloody murder about administrative irresponsibility if something did happen that hadn’t been planned for, my reaction is pretty much, “oh, good grief, people, get a life.”

Right, this is nothing new. When Bush was President he enacted several EOs that were all just continuations or renewals of other EOs, that essentially every President back to Eisenhower had drafted. All of them basically pertain in some way to continuity of government and its essential functions in a grave national disaster.

If you read them without a general understanding of the history behind them or the actual constitutional and legal aspects of the U.S. government and you’re a little pre-disposed to conspiracy theories it’s easy to get scared. Especially if you take parts of them out of context.

Not to derail too much from this specific EO, but when Bush II was in office his COG EO (continuity of government, and Clinton, Bush I and etc etc all had one) was considered so dangerous because it would have “allowed him to circumvent Congress” and people said it was some evil backdoor “enabling act.” However the actual legal situation is that EOs only govern actions of the executive branch of the U.S. government and only insofar as the executive has to give specific directions to enact legislation which is usually a little too vague to serve that purpose. Any major conflict between the substance of an EO and the substance of a statute passed by Congress and the EO is what gives way, not the law. So no President could hope to just use an EO to go all Nazi Germany enabling act on the United States.

Thanks to all.


There might be (I’m sorry but I’m a little too lazy to answer your question directly), and in fact considering it relates to communications and is from 1984 it probably did need updating, but I just wanted to point out the COG EOs virtually every President signs and updates over his predecessor often are only different from the previous EO on very trivial and minor points. So they really do reissue this kind of thing quite often sometimes and for trivial reasons, but that isn’t necessarily a sign of any nefarious intent.

Thanks, Martin Hyde, that’s my sense, too.

I’ll just keep holding out hope that a professional Executive Order evaluator comes along to help out with the thread. :slight_smile:

OK, I’ll do my best …

Sec. 1: The federal government needs to have effective telecommunication capacity with other parts of the government, even (or especially) during major emergencies.

Sec. 2: The Directors of the OSTP and of Homeland Security are responsible for providing regular status updates to the President and the Executive Committee on the current telecomm infrastructure available.

Sec. 3: The Executive Committee will have representation from the State, Defense, Justice, Commerce, Homeland Security, GSA, DNI, and the FCC. Defense and Homeland Security are in charge. They’re responsible for making a plan to meet the needs from Sec. 1, and providing that plan and estimates for how much it will cost to the President and the OMB.

Sec. 4: Homeland Security will provide the people who make this all happen, once budget and steps needed are approved.

Sec. 5: Each department represented on the Executive Committee has particular responsibilities for providing information and support to that committee. Here’s what they are.

Sec. 6: If the committee needs something in particular from any sector of the federal government, within the scope of their charter, please assist if you can, even if it’s not in the specific list above. That’s just the stuff they shouldn’t even have to ask for.

Sec. 7: Legal stuff–previous EO’s on this subject are revoked, nobody gets to sue anybody because this wasn’t done the way they want to, none of this supersedes any law or established departmental authority, etc.

Evil? Um, to the extent that bureaucracy is evil by nature, I guess … That’s all I see.

I agree with SCSimmons’s reading. As to why it might seem scary: It authorizes DHS to use private communications resources where necessary (sec. 5.2(e)), and to prioritize government communications when restoring systems (sec. 5.2(g)). The conspiracy-minded might read this as authorizing the seizure of private communications resources, but I don’t think that’s a defensible reading.

Also, it authorizes Commerce to set priorities for the use of the radio spectrum in a communications emergency (sec. 5.3(d-f)). I read this as extending only to parts of the spectrum already assigned to the government, and resolving conflicts simply among agencies, but someone who was looking for evil intent might read this as authorizing seizure of private radio broadcasting facilities or bandwidth.

Thanks very much, gentlemen. With your kind permission I will bring these up when I return to the discussion with my cousin.

The position of the Director of National Intelligence (DNI) and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) did not exist in 1984 when the EO was last updated. I’m far too lazy to do a side-by-side comparison of the previous and current EOs, but the EO would be worth revising even if all the new EO did was to change the terms for “Director, Central Intelligence Agency” to “DNI” and to make the appropriate wording changes for the roles now under DHS.

The Commerce subsection specifically states that it’s referring to the frequency ranges assigned to the federal government–there’s nothing at all implying a nationalization of EM bandwidth there. In the DHS subsection, it authorized that agency to decide that, in the case of a national disaster that knocks out big chunks of our telecom capacity, repair resources be directed to prioritize restoring the federal government communications over, say, ESPN. I hope we’re all on board with that … But the part talking about private resources refers to ‘using’ them–it’s pretty clear that they’re talking about the government signing up for, say, AT&T long distance service rather than building its own network when the former is more appropriate, not about nationalizing AT&T.

It’s actually a pretty substantial rewrite. And the 1984 order had already been amended to refer to DHS rather than FEMA; but telecommunications has changed even more than the government since 1984.

I feel compelled to add–executive orders are not law, they’re directives from the President instructing the bureaucracy that reports to him on the details of how to do their jobs, and delegating some of his authority to certain sub-groups for certain tasks. Nationalizing the Internet couldn’t be done by executive order, unless the President already had been given that authority by statute (i.e. by Congress), and he was just setting out the details on how the already-authorized nationalization was going to be implemented. Without that legal authority, the big companies that own the bandwidth and infrastructure are not about to just roll over and hand the keys to the feds; even with it, they’d probably sue the government first & try to get the federal courts to agree that the statute was unconstitutional.

My theory is they think they need it update the communications plan to consider how to communicate if Earth is swallowed by a black hole. I disagree. When the earth is swallowed, time will cease to exist for all intents and purposes. So there’s really no point to planning for the time when there is no time.

Are we talking about the same DHS, the Department of Homeland Security? It didn’t even exist until after the 2011 attacks, did it? Maybe Nancy Reagan’s fortune teller had a role in writing the 1984 order.

Well, if he’s doing his thinking with an empty pit instead of his brain, that explains it.

WE HAD ATTACKS IN 2011???!!! :eek:


I have been concerned that not watching the news on TV has left me out of the loop, but I had no idea it was THAT serious…