DHS emergency power extended, including control of private telecom systems
By Shaun Waterman
Thursday, July 12, 2012
The Obama administration has given the Department of Homeland Security powers to prioritize government communications over privately owned telephone and Internet systems in emergencies.
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.