I attended a conference this weekend in Santa Cruz, CA, Understanding Deep Politics
, in which people of diverse political interests came together to try to make sense of the politics behind politics. What stories aren't being covered by the mainstream press, and how is the press being kept from covering them? What forces are served by the emasculation of Congress and the concentration of power in the Executive? Is it the CIA? The international bankers? Why does our country repeatedly stir up wars that We the People never asked for? And why are Constitutional human rights being rolled back, with bipartisan consensus that these are appropriate, even necessary measures?
I came away with a lot of suggestive tidbits, but still without clear answers to these questions.
I'll focus here on the final presentation Sunday, by Prof Peter Dale Scott of UC Berkeley. Dr Scott is a scholar of English literature, and has also been a peace activist and incisive political visionary across five decades.
I learned from Dr Scott about plans for "Continuity of Government" (CoG), originally conceived in the 1950s as emergency plans in the event of nuclear holocaust, but morphing into a plan to take over government and declare martial law in response to unspecified "emergency" situations, declared unilaterally by the President.
In 1987, Oliver North was grilled by a Senate panel on the Iran/Contra affair. At one point, Sen Jack Brooks (D-TX) asked North about work he had previously done working for FEMA on plans for CoG in the event of a national emergency. North, who had been cool as a cucumber while lying through his teeth, was suddenly unsettled. Sen Dan Inouye (D-HI), chairman of the committee, immediately squelched the question.
Brooks: Colonel North, in your work at the N.S.C. were you not assigned, at one time, to work on plans for the continuity of government in the event of a major disaster?
Brendan Sullivan [North's counsel]: Mr. Chairman?
Inouye: I believe that question touches upon a highly sensitive and classified area so may I request that you not touch upon that?
Brooks: I was particularly concerned, Mr. Chairman, because I read in Miami papers, and several others, that there had been a plan developed, by that same agency, a contingency plan in the event of emergency, that would suspend the American constitution. And I was deeply concerned about it and wondered if that was an area in which he had worked. I believe that it was and I wanted to get his confirmation.
Inouye: May I most respectfully request that that matter not be touched upon at this stage. If we wish to get into this, I'm certain arrangements can be made for an executive session.
There is no public record that Brooks's question was ever pursued.
Dr Scott went on: There's nothing wrong with disaster planning. But there's no reason it should be secret. After all, the time when we were worried about a threat of nuclear annihilation by Soviet missiles is long gone. The disasters for which they're now planning are hurricanes, earthquakes, and ... and multiple plane hijackings: a scenario which was the specific subject of FEMA plans developed during the Clinton years, but by a panel of people with hard-right connections, including Donald Rumsfeld.
Then on the morning of 9/11, there was a "war games" exercise, simulating multiple airplane hijackings, with practice implementing the CoG contingency. Remarkably, four real hijackings occurred right in the middle of those exercises, and the games "went live" in real time.
According to the 9/11 Commission Report (p. 326; cf. p. 38), "Contingency plans for the continuity of government" were implemented on September 11, 2001. (6) But what measures were invoked remains unclear.
State of emergency was declared by Bush, and emergency powers were assumed immediately. Three days later, Congress ratified the state of emergency.
Congress is required by statute to review the state of emergency periodically, and to take a vote whether it needs to continue. But here we are 8 years on, and Congress has yet to take up this issue. Scott reported that his own letters to Dennis Kucinich on this subject have gone unanswered.
In 2007, President Bush arrogated from Congress the power to continue the state of emergency. With a National Security Directive (NSPD 51, May 2007), he unilaterally declared that the President shall have the exclusive right to decide what constitutes a state of emergency, and when to invoke emergency powers.
Are we still in a state of emergency? Is this a question that we might ask our Congressional representatives to address? The questions acquire more and more relevance as we hear of new terrorist emergencies day by day, and the nation grows used to Federal military responses (in defiance of Posse Comitatus
.) Dr Scott asks whether we are sliding toward a permanent state of martial law.
"We are the immune system of the body politic."
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