Foreign news outlets cynically bash America's new emergency communications executive order

Foreign news outlets cynically bash America's new emergency communications executive order

Summary: Russian propaganda arm slams an American emergency communications plan. Many Americans unknowingly retweet Russia's headlines.

TOPICS: Government US

News is a funny thing, and yet, emergency preparedness is no laughing matter. As residents of the mid-Atlantic states have become all too aware, disasters do strike, communication systems do fail, and people do suffer because of it.

One of the missions of good governance is to provide support during times of emergency. The United States government is particularly good at this on a logistical level. Unfortunately, as we saw during Katrina, politicians can get in the way of a well-designed escalation system, causing systems to break down.

However, the bottom line is that the U.S. has implemented many forms of disaster management over the years, planning for everything from natural disasters to man-made disasters, to terrorist attacks, to the effects of war.

President Obama continued that management process last week with the issuance of the Executive Order Assignment of National Security and Emergency Preparedness Communications Functions.

It's an extension of previous emergency communications policies of the government, but this time it assigns specific responsibilities to the Departments of Defense and Homeland Security. It also sets up a new committee called National Security and Emergency Preparedness (NS/EP) consisting of key players from most of the major agencies.

This is a good thing. Emergency preparedness and escalation procedures are important. Assigning specific responsibilities ahead of time prevents turf battles, and helps restore critical services faster.

On the other hand, depending on where you read the news, you might get a completely different perspective. For example, take RT stands for Russia Today -- so you know their perspective. If you read RT's article, you'd read "Obama gives himself control of all communication systems in America."

I've represented America's strategic perspective as a guest on Russia Today's TV show (YouTube video), and I can tell you that it's an enormous, well-funded propaganda machine. As you might imagine, Russia's interests aren't always in line with what's good for America.

Or take the Centre for Research on Globalisation (CRG). These guys, based in Canada, write "Obama Seizes Control of All Communications Systems With Executive Order".

For some reasons, Canadians seem terribly upset with this particular executive order. The Canada Free Press screams, "Obama’s obsession with control".

Here in America we're no stranger to partisan bickering. But there's no real partisan juice in complaining about good emergency preparedness. National Journal sanely writes, "Obama Outlines Emergency Communications Authority", while FierceGovernmentIT calmly reports, "Obama establishes new emergency comms effort".

That's why it's important to carefully read beyond the headline. In the case of this Executive Order, it's not particularly difficult to read the entire thing from beginning to end.

I can't tell you exactly how it benefits other countries to bash America's communications preparedness. After all, in an increasingly globalized world, we all need to stay in touch and be prepared.

With Russia, of course, it makes the most sense. Russia has long run an anti-American propaganda machine, and Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin shows no signs of warming to the West. In fact, he seems ever more nationalistic in his own right.

The Canadians are a different story. I'm not sure what they have to gain in cynically trying to naysay American progress. Perhaps they're playing to their base, or trying to boost traffic on a particularly slow news day.

Like I said, news on the Internet is a funny thing. Whenever you can, explore beyond the 140-character Twitter headline and go to the source.

Otherwise, like many misinformed Twitter tweeters this week who retweeted RT's headlines, you may find yourself repeating Russian propaganda while thinking you're being a good American.

Topic: Government US


David Gewirtz, Distinguished Lecturer at CBS Interactive, is an author, U.S. policy advisor, and computer scientist. He is featured in the History Channel special The President's Book of Secrets and is a member of the National Press Club.

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  • Seriously?

    Get your head out of Obama's ass and wake up. You realize if he so chooses, he can cut the cord to the Internet and telecommunications for US citizens? You see this as being ok? This egotistical control freak sitting in the white house wants the government to run everything and is another step closer to keeping us uninformed. He's become a dictator not an American President. Just wait until you lose the ability to post on the web because Obama claims it's fit to cut Internet services. This was a free country but each day that this man is in office, we are gradually losing our freedoms. this topic has been commented on by other news and media outlets, Not just and portrayed exactly as it is. Obama has given himself permission to control all communication services in this country and the citizens should have an issue with this type of control on our communication access regardless of the excuse. A National Emergancy or Devistating weather event is no reason to be able to control our access, Period! Give me one justified reason for him to do so?
    • Re: Seriously?

      Because if a disaster reduces the facility and bandwidth/timeslots available to carry emergency communications for vital stuff, like police/fire/medical/emergency response coordination, then it's a wee bit more important to prioritize that over youtube, porn and facebook you twit. Or perhaps you would prefer to keep up on the latest batshiat crazy conspiracy theories and see funny pictures of cats while people die because the remaining facility that could be being used for 911 trunking is transporting residential bittorrenting traffic instead. Of course if your hatred for the talky black man is stronger than your ability to actually parse the publicly available order then this was a waste of my time anyway.
      • Really?

        1st of all The Military and The Government have their own lines of communication. There is no need to infring upon civilian usage. 2ndly this gives Homeland Security and The President the ability of pulling the plug as they see fit. If this is such an important matter why was it done secretly? Why are people concerned about privacy? This is just another unnecessary law to give the government more control. If you can't see the problem with the government reaching to control us, then you need to wake up. This administration walks all the Constitutional amenedments that give us our freedom and this is one step backwards not forward. I don't care how you put it, this is the governement being able to munipulate our communications as they see fit. I'm not happy with it and many other around the country aren't happy with it either. It has nothing to do with a black man ruining the country or people downloading porn or torrents. That's just a load of crap. Again, it's a ploy for the governement to take control of the Internet and telecommunications for reasons presently unknow to you or I.
        • It was done secretly, alright!

          So secretly that they posted a press release about it on Because no one would ever think to look there, right?

          Did you even read the thing yourself?
          Randy Reiser
      • yeah, seriously

        Bob, the military and emergency services all have their own communication backbones. The military's actually has the benefit of being much more secure than public communications infrastructure. There's absolutely no justification for handing over the ability to commandeer *private* communications systems to the government.

        Think about this: in cases of a national disaster or emergency that the White House might think warrants the implementation of this EO -- what are people who actually need to contact emergency services going to do if, as the law provides, privately-run wired and/or wireless telecom has been requisitioned by the government?
        r c h