A new Presidential Emergency Action Document, (PEAD), currently under review includes the emergency authorities contained in Section 706 of the Communications Act when Congress granted the president authority to shut down or seize control of “any facility or station for wire communication” upon proclamation “that there exists a state or threat of war involving the United States.” This specified “wired communications” which at the time of Section 706, World War II, would limit the use of telephone calls and telegrams. This document, as interpreted today, with tensions between Russia and China, can give the President a broad use of powers including the complete shutdown of the internet.
Today, however, a president can try the limits of authority to interpret “wire communications” to encompass the internet — and thus create a “kill switch” over all electronic communications.
The Bush administration noted that the powers of Section 706 were “very broad,” as one official in the National Security Council scribbled, and it went beyond “broader than common carriers in FCC [Federal Communications Commission] jurisdiction.”
As with any archival expedition, the silences are often the most telling. William Arkin, a noted expert on PEADs, reviewed the new materials disclosed by the library and observed that they relate primarily to civil agencies — few, if any, touch on the role of the military in times of crisis. He suggests that this “black side” would have been discussed at a higher level of classification. By implication, the most daring claims to presidential power may have been entirely excluded from this tranche of documents.
Notably missing from the records is any evidence that the Bush administration communicated with Congress during its review. Presidents have traditionally kept PEADs secret, not only from the American public but from lawmakers as well. The lack of disclosure effectively blocks a coequal branch of government from overseeing emergency protocols.
This blocks Congress.to serve its constitutional role as a check on the executive branch. What this means is there the possibility that Americans’ constitutional rights and the rule of law would be sacrificed in the name of emergency planning.
Sen. Ed Markey has introduced the appropriately named REIGN Act is one that Congress should pass, which has been incorporated into the Protecting Our Democracy Act and the National Security Reforms and Accountability Act, which is designed to specifically bring these “shadowy” powers to account.
Presidential Emergency Action Documents (PEADs) are executive orders, proclamations, and messages to Congress that are prepared in anticipation of a range of emergency scenarios, so that they are ready to sign and put into effect the moment one of those scenarios comes to pass. First created during the Eisenhower Administration as part of continuity-of-government plans in case of a nuclear attack, PEADs have since been expanded for use in other emergency situations where the normal operation of government is impaired. As one recent government document describes them, they are designed “to implement extraordinary presidential authority in response to extraordinary situations.”
PEADs are classified “secret,” and no PEAD has ever been declassified or leaked. Indeed, it appears that they are not even subject to congressional oversight. Although the law requires the executive branch to report even the most sensitive covert military and intelligence operations to at least some members of Congress, there is no such disclosure requirement for PEADs, and no evidence that the documents have ever been shared with relevant congressional committees.
Although PEADs themselves remain a well-kept secret, over the years a number of unclassified or de-classified documents have become available that discuss PEADs. Through these documents, we know that there were 56 PEADs in effect as of 2017, up from 48 a couple of decades earlier. PEADs undergo periodic revision; although we do not know what PEADs contain today, we know that PEADs in past years—
- Authorized detention of “alien enemies” and other “dangerous persons” within the United States; (Like “white supremacists“)
- Suspended the writ of habeas corpus by presidential order; (the guarantee against any detention that is forbidden by law – Jan 6?)
- Provided for various forms of martial law;
- Issued a general warrant permitting search and seizure of persons and property; (Sound Familiar?)
- Established military areas such as those created during World War II;
- Suspended production of the Federal Register;
- Declared a State of War; (keep your eyes on Ukraine, China and Russia), and
- Authorized censorship of news reports. (Sound Familiar?)
It sends chills up my spine to think that Joe Biden and a Democrat Congress even thinks about this. Oh wait….
This article may contain commentary which reflects the author’s opinion.
The only good thing about this Administration is that it increased my yearning for Moshiach a thousandfold.
May we see the Geulah bekarov!!!!
an internet kill switch would actually be the best thing to happen ever. Mashiach would come right after that
I always wondered why we needed a shofar to sound Mashaich when with today’s internet any big news would be spread worldwide in seconds. Now I know the answer….
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