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Obama quietly gives gov’t control of US communications. Foreign press spooked while American press snoozes.

“President Obama has quietly issued an executive order that, in a state of emergency, prioritizes government communication over civilian.” So states CNN Newsroom (“Government re-prioritizing US communication,” July 9, 2012) in a sentence whose single adverb, “quietly,” resounds with unsettling connotations to complement its already unsettling informational content.

Dana Kerr elaborates for CNET:

President Barack Obama signed an executive order last week that could give the U.S. government control over the Internet. With the wordy title “Assignment of National Security and Emergency Preparedness Communications Functions,” this order was designed to empower certain governmental agencies with control over telecommunications and the Web during natural disasters and security emergencies. Here’s the rationale behind the order: “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. Such communications must be possible under all circumstances to ensure national security, effectively manage emergencies, and improve national resilience.”

…[C]ritics of the order are concerned with Section 5.2, which is a lengthy part outlining how telecommunications and the Internet are controlled…[They] say this gives Obama the on/off switch to the Web.

— Dana Kerr, “Obama Signs Order Outlining Emergency Internet Control,” July 10, 2012

Here’s a video report on the whole thing. Note that one of the interviewees, Amie Stepanovich of the Electronic Privacy Information Center, doesn’t agree that the term “total control” accurately describes the effect of the new order. But also note the reporting journalist’s observation that many are saying the order was not Obama’s to make, and should rightfully have gone through Congress.

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