President Obama is looking to further tighten the federal grip on a functioning America for the sake of “security,” this time getting more heavily involved in state and local private operations.
Last Friday, he signed an executive order “Establishing the White House Homeland Security Partnership Council.” Its purpose according to the order: “to advance the Federal Government’s use of local partnerships to address homeland security challenges.” Local partnerships would be formed among the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), other federal agencies, and nongovernmental organizations, foundations, and community-based organizations. It’s Obama’s third major executive order implemented this year regarding national security.
Obama wants Homeland Security to form the local partnerships “to address homeland security priorities, from responding to natural disasters to preventing terrorism, by utilizing diverse perspectives, skills, tools, and resources…’and we will support them through enhanced opportunities for engagement, coordination, transparency, and information sharing,’ ” according to the order. “This approach recognizes that, given the complexities and range of challenges, we must institutionalize an all-of-Nation effort to address the evolving threats to the United States.”
The president is about to get his chance to see how the federal government responds to natural disasters as Hurricane Sandy threatens the entire East Coast.
The executive order comes less than a month after the U.S. Senate issued a scathing report on Homeland Security and its local efforts: “Federal Support for and Involvement in State and Local Fusion Centers” was released Oct. 3 by the U. S. Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations. The report found that Department of Homeland Security efforts to engage state and local intelligence fusion centers “has not yielded significant useful information to support federal counterterrorism intelligence efforts,” according to a release from Sen. Carl Levin’s (D-Mich.) office. Levin is the subcommittee’s chairman. The fusion centers reportedly have combined efforts of federal, state, and local security authorities.
Senator Tom Coburn, the subcommittee’s Republican ranking member who initiated the investigation, also stated, “It’s troubling that the very ‘fusion’ centers that were designed to share information in a post-9/11 world have become part of the problem. Instead of strengthening our counterterrorism efforts, they have too often wasted money and stepped on Americans’ civil liberties.”
The Department of Homeland Security has estimated spending between $289 million and $1.4 billion in public funds to support state and local fusion centers since 2003, “broad estimates that differ by over $1 billion,” according to the Senate release. “The investigation raises questions about the value this amount of funding and the nation’s more than 70 fusion centers are providing to federal counterterrorism efforts.”
Friday’s executive order calls for a partnership council chaired by the Assistant to the President for Homeland Security and Counterterrorism, or a designee from the National Security Staff. A steering committee would consist of representatives from 19 different federal departments including State, Treasury, Defense and Justice. The steering committee will establish selection criteria for state and local committee members.
Two Emergency Orders
Obama’s involving major federal departments in the partnership council resembles two other executive orders he issued earlier this year.
In July, he gave the executive branch emergency control of America’s communications including the Internet and media outlets, binding more citizens’ freedoms under federal government emergency authority. He ordered that emergency control of communications would occur under an executive committee made up of “heads of the Departments of State, Defense, Justice, Commerce, and Homeland Security, the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (DNI), the General Services Administration, and the Federal Communications Commission, as well as such additional agencies as the Executive Committee may designate. The designees of the Secretary of Homeland Security and the Secretary of Defense shall serve as Co-Chairs of the Executive Committee.”
The Secretary of Homeland Security would oversee communications at every level of government throughout the nation. The secretary’s other duties also include power to “maintain a joint industry-Government center that is capable of assisting in the initiation, coordination, restoration, and reconstitution of NS/EP communications services or facilities under all conditions of emerging threats, crisis, or emergency.”
Homeland Security also will exercise authority over telecommunications, wireless and “next generation” service.
In May, a Homeland Security attorney indicated that the department was planning to eventually take control of the Internet. Such a move by government logically would end citizens’ Constitutional right to freedom of expression, including limiting them to sharing only government-approved information.
Bruce McConnell, a senior cybersecurity counselor with DHS, reported to a cybersecurity gathering in Washington on May 2 that DHS will establish “institutions” on the Internet to govern it, including working with other nations to determine what content is “proper.”
In March, Obama signed an executive order on “National Defense Resources Preparedness.”
Edwin Black in The Huffington Post says that the order “renews and updates the president’s power to take control of all civil energy supplies, including oil and natural gas, control and restrict all civil transportation, which is almost 97 percent dependent upon oil; and even provides the option to re-enable a draft in order to achieve both the military and non-military demands of the country.”
The president indicates in the orders that the department functions he outlines are designated by law. Also, Congress has provided the president with vast powers under the National Emergencies Act.
What’s the unstated significance of these two orders involving “emergency preparedness?” Obama again placed the nation under a year’s limited emergency in September, an extension of yearly limited emergencies begun with President George W. Bush since 2001, based on America’s worldwide “war on terror.” So, since we’re under a state of emergency, it would seem Obama could activate the orders and take emergency control at any time.