Monday, May 21, 2007

A Blood-Curdling Document

The National Continuity Policy directive is a load of bureaucratic gobbledygook, unintelligible on a quick read but when studied closely it is mostly meaningless twaddle. That is because the meat of the directive is top secret.

The purpose of the policy is to define the nature and scope and triggers of martial law where the President takes direct control of all aspects of government and private life. This being a democracy and all, one would expect that, above all else, such a document would be extremely public. However, among the few meaningful clauses in the document are the last two:

(23) Annex A and the classified Continuity Annexes, attached hereto, are hereby incorporated into and made a part of this directive.

(24) Security. This directive and the information contained herein shall be protected from unauthorized disclosure, provided that, except for Annex A, the Annexes attached to this directive are classified and shall be accorded appropriate handling, consistent with applicable Executive Orders.

Of course, not even Annex A is a publicly available document.

So, why is this a problem? Shouldn't the President take charge in the event of a massive attack like, say, in the movie Mars Attacks! when President Jack Nicholson reassured the nation, "I want the people to know that they still have 2 out of 3 branches of the government working for them, and that ain't bad."

That brings us to the other meaningful parts of this document. In Definitions:
(b) "Catastrophic Emergency" means 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;
The trigger can be limited in location. By this definition, Hurricane Katrina would have qualified, certainly there was mass damage. The 1995 bombing of the Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City qualifies as it disrupted government functions in that location. The triggering event can be anything. Even a nationwide Teamster's strike could be said to severely disrupt the economy. The impeachment of the President could be defined as an incident that disrupts government functions. Hence, Bush could use his own impeachment as a trigger to declare martial law.

The definition of a Catastrophic Emergency is so vague that, while it is not quite carte blanche (more like carte beige), virtually any significant event anywhere in the country could be used as an excuse for the President to grant himself dictatorial powers. And it is not just dictatorial power over government, the policy's stated purposed also includes control over "private sector organizations."

Then there is this clause:
(e) "Enduring Constitutional Government," or "ECG," means a cooperative effort among the executive, legislative, and judicial branches of the Federal Government, coordinated by the President
Under this policy, the President will declare himself first among equals, empowered to "coordinate" the actions of the legislative and judicial branches. They will still exist, but they will be subordinate to the President.

The real devil is in the details, so why are the details kept top secret? The only reason is to prevent the American people from knowing just exactly how our 200 year-old democracy will be terminated.

Other sites discussing this:
Daily Kos
Crooks and Liars
The Progressive
Democratic Underground
Postman Patel

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