July 12, 2004

Continuity of Government: Republican Style

Digby has a post up about how both Dick Cheney and Don Rumsfeld had been chosen during the Reagan days to be key players in the permanent backup government. Laid out last May in the Atlantic Monthly is an eye-opening article called The Armageddon Plan about the planning and simulations that Cheney and Rumsfeld were involved in during the 80s in case there was a direct attack on the nation’s capital that wiped out much of the Congress, Senate and other government agencies. Mann thought that this doomsday plan from the Reagan government explained a lot about the behavior of Cheney, Rumsfeld and Bush during 9/11.

Rumsfeld and Cheney were principal actors in one of the most highly classified programs of the Reagan Administration. Under it U.S. officials furtively carried out detailed planning exercises for keeping the federal government running during and after a nuclear war with the Soviet Union. The program called for setting aside the legal rules for presidential succession in some circumstances, in favor of a secret procedure for putting in place a new “President” and his staff. The idea was to concentrate on speed, to preserve “continuity of government,” and to avoid cumbersome procedures; the speaker of the House, the president pro tempore of the Senate, and the rest of Congress would play a greatly diminished role.

Reading this article and thinking about the trial balloon of postponing the elections raised by Tom Ridge in the case of a terrorist attack reminded me of how Ronald Reagan’s FEMA mission was distorted by Oliver North to ensure order in case of a national emergency.

Under Reagan, FEMA’s charter was switched from helping communities in case of natural disaster to a more sinister agenda of enacting the permanent government that the Reagan crew was setting up.

It was in the early 1980s, during the first years of the Reagan administration, when FEMA delved into controversial pursuits that tainted the agency with suspicions that linger to this day. President Reagan had selected an old crony, Louis Giuffrida, to serve as FEMA director. Reagan and Guiffrida had originally hooked up during the protest movements of the Vietnam War era. While serving as governor of California, Reagan searched for methods to contain the rising tide of dissent. He turned to Guiffrida, a former National Guard officer with a penchant for population control. Under their leadership, the state government concocted and sometimes implemented draconian anti-subversive plans.

With this team in power in Washington, it wasn’t long before federal policy began to feel the tug of totalitarianism. Giuffrida established strict order at FEMA and then set about establishing a predominant role for the agency in worst-case disaster planning.

In October 1984, just as Reagan was about to run for re-election, journalist Jack Anderson dropped a bombshell in one of his columns. He had discovered that FEMA officials drafted “standby legislation” to present to Congress if the United States was faced with domestic chaos or a state of total war (presumably against the Soviet Union). The proposal, according to Anderson, would have stripped away the essentials of U.S. democracy; it would “suspend the Constitution and the Bill of Rights, effectively eliminate private property, abolish free enterprise, and generally clamp Americans in a totalitarian vise.”

Suddenly FEMA wasn’t Mr. Nice Guy any more. Additional press reports heightened the concerns of the growing number of FEMA-watchers. It became public knowledge that FEMA administered “continuity of government” facilities such as the one beneath Virginia’s Mount Weather, a massive underground complex that would shelter national leaders in the event life above ground should become too hazardous.

We all know that Cheney disappears into a secret hideaway at times, so perhaps it is one of these described in this piece on FEMA.

Under the aegis of FEMA, top government brass have the benefit of rather more lavish excavations, with the crown jewel being a top-secret underground fortress built during the early 1950s (and predating the elaborate James Bond movie sets) at a cost of more than $1 billion. The Facility, as it is known, is a sort of nuclear winter White House situated beneath the solid granite of Mount Weather in Bluemont, Virginia, forty-five miles west of Washington. It has been described as an “underground city”, complete with roads and a battery-powered subway. It boasts office buildings and hospitals, private apartments and dormitories, and a power plant and artificial lake illuminated by fluorescent light. Rounding out the science fiction furnishings are a color video phone system and one of the world’s most powerful supercomputers.

In the event of a major nuclear or other catastrophe, surviving feds would run the country from The Facility as well as from FEMA’s underground command center in Olney, Maryland, and up to fifty regional bunkers salted throughout the nation. There’s even an underground Pentagon more than six hundred feet below solid granite just north of Camp David.

Unfortunately, during a national catastrophe the feds administering the former United States might not be familiar names to you. FEMA’s COG scheme involves about three thousand unelected, unaccountable people recruited and trained by FEMA “to serve in executive positions in the federal government in time of national security emergency.”

And don’t forget it was just last November that General Tommy Frank talked about the effect of another terrorist strike on our constitution.

“It means the potential of a weapon of mass destruction and a terrorist, massive, casualty-producing event somewhere in the Western world – it may be in the United States of America – that causes our population to question our own Constitution and to begin to militarize our country in order to avoid a repeat of another mass, casualty-producing event. Which in fact, then begins to unravel the fabric of our Constitution. Two steps, very, very important.”

These guys have been planning for their post-constitution government for quite awhile. I don’t think it takes much to be very nervous about what is the next move they have up their sleeves. If you are not yet convinced, read Maureen Farrell’s article from last February on The Nature of the Threat.

[Ed: x-posted from the American Street.]

Posted by Mary at July 12, 2004 01:41 PM | US Politics | Technorati links |