Insanity or comedy

Atlantic:

Like all emergency powers, the laws governing the conduct of war allow the president to engage in conduct that would be illegal during ordinary times. This conduct includes familiar incidents of war, such as the killing or indefinite detention of enemy soldiers. But the president can also take a host of other actions, both abroad and inside the United States.

These laws vary dramatically in content and scope. Several of them authorize the president to make decisions about the size and composition of the armed forces that are usually left to Congress. Although such measures can offer needed flexibility at crucial moments, they are subject to misuse. For instance, George W. Bush leveraged the state of emergency after 9/11 to call hundreds of thousands of reservists and members of the National Guard into active duty in Iraq, for a war that had nothing to do with the 9/11 attacks. Other powers are chilling under any circumstances: Take a moment to consider that during a declared war or national emergency, the president can unilaterally suspend the law that bars government testing of biological and chemical agents on unwitting human subjects.

The president could seize control of U.S. internet traffic, impeding access to certain websites and ensuring that internet searches return pro-Trump content as the top results.

One power poses a singular threat to democracy in the digital era. In 1942, Congress amended Section 706 of the Communications Act of 1934 to allow the president to shut down or take control of “any facility or station for wire communication” upon his proclamation “that there exists a state or threat of war involving the United States,” resurrecting a similar power Congress had briefly provided Woodrow Wilson during World War I. At the time, “wire communication” meant telephone calls or telegrams. Given the relatively modest role that electronic communications played in most Americans’ lives, the government’s assertion of this power during World War II (no president has used it since) likely created inconvenience but not havoc.

We live in a different universe today. Although interpreting a 1942 law to cover the internet might seem far-fetched, some government officials recently endorsed this reading during debates about cybersecurity legislation. Under this interpretation, Section 706 could effectively function as a “kill switch” in the U.S.—one that would be available to the president the moment he proclaimed a mere threat of war. It could also give the president power to assume control over U.S. internet traffic.

The potential impact of such a move can hardly be overstated. In August, in an early-morning tweet, Trump lamented that search engines were “RIGGED” to serve up negative articles about him. Later that day the administration said it was looking into regulating the big internet companies. “I think that Google and Twitter and Facebook, they’re really treading on very, very troubled territory. And they have to be careful,” Trump warned. If the government were to take control of U.S. internet infrastructure, Trump could accomplish directly what he threatened to do by regulation: ensure that internet searches always return pro-Trump content as the top results. The government also would have the ability to impede domestic access to particular websites, including social-media platforms. It could monitor emails or prevent them from reaching their destination. It could exert control over computer systems (such as states’ voter databases)

How about both? HT: BB (And while we’re on the subject, here’s more.)

One Response to “Insanity or comedy”

  1. feeblemind Says:

    Lotta hyperventilating going on here.

    One wonders if they were as alarmed when Barry Hussein was POTUS?

Leave a Reply