CNN's Feds send first emergency message test to cell phones describes the system and includes simple explanations like:

It's called the "presidential alert," but the President doesn't actually write it. Instead, FEMA officials confer with other government agencies and the White House, select one of several pre-written messages, customize the message to fit the particular emergency and send it out.

"The President will not originate this alert, say, from his mobile device," a senior FEMA official told reporters on Tuesday. "You would not have a situation where any sitting president would wake up one morning and attempt to send a particular message."


FEMA officials use a device that's "very similar to a laptop computer," the senior FEMA official said. After filling in the message form, two other FEMA officials are asked to sign off on the alert -- a system designed to prevent false alarms, like the incorrect alert of an incoming missile that roused and terrified people in Hawaii earlier this year.

"Everything is secured, password-protected and then authenticated or checked by two people before that message is sent," the official said.

In the post-covfefe era there is some pushback against the system, possibly in part because of the word "Presidential" in the (nick?)name of the system. Lawsuit seeks to stop FEMA's "Presidential Alert" system to cellphones citing First Amendment violation

These explanations assume everyone acts as they are supposed to act. For example who does the asking in "two other FEMA officials are asked to sign off on the alert"? Do the issuer and both other officials each use a separate secret password, or is the issuer simply supposed to ask them for their approval? Do they all have to be in the room or access this one device in order to authorize, or can at least the two "authorizers" do that from home/remotely?

Question: How is the US' "Presidential Alert" safeguarded against inappropriate or unauthorized use?

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    I'm not sure there can be much of an answer to this. You described the process in your question. – Ryathal Oct 4 '18 at 11:58
  • To be clear, you're asking what checks are there, other than hoping that POTUS understands that this system is not his personal "Tweet Blast ++" toy? – PoloHoleSet Oct 4 '18 at 16:53
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    Tongue-in-cheek rhetorical question, meant to illuminate the fact that we're basically doomed. – PoloHoleSet Oct 4 '18 at 17:49
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    @Ryathal I described a description of the process by CNN who had it described to them by an unnamed senior official, so it's substantially diluted and possibly wrong, and even the quotes from the unnamed official use somewhat vague langue. I've given one example of this in the question: "For example who does the asking in 'two other FEMA officials are asked to sign off on the alert'?" I think there can certainly be an answer that goes beyond the quoted quotes. – uhoh Oct 4 '18 at 18:02
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    I was wondering, from the other side of the pond, why I had not heard any mention of what process was to be used to determine what was appropriate. There would have to be some sort of redress in the event that the system was used inappropriately. But it seems there is not any clear arrangement. Even though this is worrying in the democratic USA, what seems to be inevitable is the use of such a system in a non-democratic country. You immediately end with exactly the situation described in 1984 where the state can blast any message they want into your house and there is no off switch. – David Robinson Oct 5 '18 at 23:07

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