Many people have expressed outrage at NSPD-51 -- a presidential directive that gives Bush dictatorial powers in the event of a national emergency.
For example, well-known conservative writer Jerome Corsi writes:
President Bush, without so much as issuing a press statement, on May 9 signed a directive that granted near dictatorial powers to the office of the president in the event of a national emergency declared by the president.
The "National Security and Homeland Security Presidential Directive," with the dual designation of NSPD-51, as a National Security Presidential Directive, and HSPD-20, as a Homeland Security Presidential Directive, establishes under the office of president a new National Continuity Coordinator.
That job, as the document describes, is to make plans for "National Essential Functions" of all federal, state, local, territorial, and tribal governments, as well as private sector organizations to continue functioning under the president's directives in the event of a national emergency.
The directive loosely defines "catastrophic emergency" as "any incident, regardless of location, that results in extraordinary levels of mass casualties, damage, or disruption severely affecting the U.S. population, infrastructure, environment, economy, or government functions."
When the president determines a catastrophic emergency has occurred, the president can take over all government functions and direct all private sector activities to ensure we will emerge from the emergency with an "enduring constitutional government."
Translated into layman's terms, when the president determines a national emergency has occurred, the president can declare to the office of the presidency powers usually assumed by dictators to direct any and all government and business activities until the emergency is declared over.
Ironically, the directive sees no contradiction in the assumption of dictatorial powers by the president with the goal of maintaining constitutional continuity through an emergency.
The directive specifies that the assistant to the president for Homeland Security and Counterterrorism will be designated as the National Continuity Coordinator.
Further established is a Continuity Policy Coordination Committee, chaired by a senior director from the Homeland Security Council staff, designated by the National Continuity Coordinator, to be "the main day-to-day forum for such policy coordination."
A Congressional Research Service study notes that under the National Emergency Act, the president "may seize property, organize and control the means of production, seize commodities, assign military forces abroad, institute martial law, seize and control all transportation and communication, regulate the operation of private enterprise, restrict travel, and, in a variety of ways, control the lives of United States citizens."
NSPD-51/ HSPD-20 appears to supersede the National Emergency Act by creating the new position of National Continuity Coordinator [within the White House] without any specific act of Congress authorizing the position.
NSPD-51/ HSPD-20 also makes no reference whatsoever to Congress. The language of the May 9 directive appears to negate any a requirement that the president submit to Congress a determination that a national emergency exists, suggesting instead that the powers of the executive order can be implemented without any congressional approval or oversight.
Most writers, like Corsi, are justifiably concerned that Bush can more or less "make up" a national emergency so as to invoke martial law authority under NSPD-51.
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