By John W. WhiteheadThe Rutherford Institute
“All men having power ought to be mistrusted.”—James MadisonAmerica’s next president will inherit more than a financial catastrophe when he assumes office. He will also inherit a shadow government—one that is fully staffed by unelected officials, fully operational and ready to take over the running of the country at a moment’s notice.
This so-called shadow government is not a new development. It has been a long time in the making. Yet it has been so shrouded in secrecy, even from those elected to represent the American people in Congress, that it essentially exists and functions contrary to any concept of democratic government. The little that has leaked out merely serves to reinforce concerns that an authoritarian government waits in the wings. All it will take is the right event—another terrorist attack, for example—for such a regime to emerge from the shadows.
It might not even require an actual attack, as President Bush ensured when he stealthily issued National Security Presidential Directive 51 and Homeland Security Presidential Directive 20 in May 2007. Comprising the country’s Continuity of Government (COG) plan, these directives, which do not need congressional approval, provide a skeletal outline of the actions the executive will take in the event of a “national emergency.” In fact, they go so far as to grant the president the power to unilaterally declare a national emergency, which is loosely defined 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.”
Just what sort of actions the president will take once he declares a national emergency can barely be discerned from the barebones directives. However, one thing is clear—in the event of a national emergency, the president will become a dictator because while the Bush directives ensure the continuity of executive branch functions, they do not provide for repopulating or reconvening Congress or the Supreme Court.
Thus, a debilitating attack would give unchecked executive, legislative and judicial power to the executive branch and its unelected minions. The country would be subjected to martial law by default, and the Constitution and the Bill of Rights would be suspended. (This adds an ominous note to the disconcerting news that for the first time ever, U.S. military forces, trained in domestic police tactics and crowd control, are being deployed inside the U.S.)
Originally devised as a plan for quickly restoring constitutional government, the COG concept arose during the Cold War. The fear was that a nuclear strike would paralyze the federal government.
These concerns continued into the 1980s. Under President Ronald Reagan, an elaborate plan was created in which three teams consisting of a cabinet member, an executive chief of staff and military and intelligence officials would practice evacuating and directing a counter nuclear strike against the Soviet Union from a variety of high-tech, mobile command vehicles. If the president and vice president were both killed, one of these teams would take control, with the ranking cabinet official serving as president. Among those Reagan handpicked to advise an inexperienced and potentially incompetent successor in a time of crisis were Congressman Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld, then a business executive with G. D. Searle & Co. At least once a year during the 1980s, Cheney and Rumsfeld vanished on top-secret training missions, where each of the teams practiced evacuating and directing a counter nuclear strike against Russia.
This all changed after the attacks of September 11, 2001, when it became clear that the assumptions that drove COG planning during the Cold War no longer applied. There would be no warning against a terrorist attack. Thus, instead of relying on part-time bureaucrats and evacuation schematics, the Bush administration permanently appointed executive officials, stationed outside the capital, to run a shadow government.
The plans for the shadow government are more elaborate than many realize. Massive underground bunkers the size of small cities are sprinkled throughout the country for the government elite to escape to in the event of a national emergency. Mount Weather, near Bluemont, Va., is one of a number of such facilities. Built into the side of a mountain, this bunker contains, among other things, a hospital, crematorium, dining and recreation areas, sleeping quarters, reservoirs of drinking and cooling water, an emergency power plant and a radio/television studio. There is also an Office of the Presidency at Mount Weather, which regularly receives top-secret national security information from all the federal departments and agencies. This facility was largely unknown to everyone, including Congress, until it came to light in the mid-1970s. Military personnel connected to the bunker have refused to reveal any information about it, even before congressional committees. In fact, Congress has no oversight, budgetary or otherwise, on Mount Weather, and the specifics of the facility remain top-secret.
What is the bottom line here? We are, for all intents and purposes, one terrorist attack away from having a full-fledged authoritarian state emerge from the shadows, at which time democratic government will be dissolved and the country will be ruled by an unelected bureaucracy. And because so much of this shadow government remains under wraps, there is much we don’t know about it. Yet that does not diminish the threat it poses to democratic government.
In his 1961 Farewell Address to the Nation, Dwight D. Eisenhower tried to warn us that a nefarious military-industrial complex had emerged in America. “The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists and will persist,” he said. Eisenhower realized that after World War II, America had become a national security state that operated largely in secret and answered to practically no one.
The Bush administration, in fact, has refused to reveal the classified details of COG, even to members of Congress. Representative Peter DeFazio (D-Ore.), a member of the Committee on Homeland Security, requested access to COG plans. Members of Congress are supposedly allowed to view such documents in a secure “bubble room” in the Capitol Building. However, White House staff refused to release the documents. Understandably, DeFazio was livid.
Those who drafted the Constitution never contemplated, nor would they have tolerated, a nonelected, secretive shadow government. All government officials under the U.S. Constitution are accountable to the elected representatives. Otherwise, democratic government, for all intents and purposes, ceases to exist.
Rumsfeld Updated Army’s Continuity of Operations Plan before 9/11
Ten months before the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld approved an updated version of the U.S. Army’s secret operational Continuity of Government (COG) plans.
A draft document published by the whistleblowing website Wikileaks entitled, “Army Regulation 500-3, Emergency Employment of Army and Other Resources. Army Continuity of Operations (COOP) Program,” dated 19 January 2001, spells out changes in Army doctrine.
Issued by Headquarters, Department of the Army and signed off by Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld and the Secretary of the Army, the document is affixed with a warning: “Destruction Notice: Destroy by any method that will prevent disclosure of contents or reconstruction of the document.” The restricted document as published by Wikileaks states:
History. This regulation is a revision of the original regulation that was effective on 10 July 1989. Since that time, no changes have been published to amend the original.
Summary. This regulation on the Army Continuity of Operations (COOP) Program has been revised to update Army COOP policy and extend the requirement for all-hazards COOP planning to all Army organizations. Classified information contained in the 1989 version of this AR has been removed and placed in a classified HQDA Operations Plan (OPLAN).
Applicability. This regulation applies to the Active Army, the U.S. Army Reserve (USAR), and when federalized to the Army National Guard (ARNG). In the event of conflict between this regulation and approved OSD or JCS publications, the provisions of the latter will apply. (”Army Regulation 500-3, Emergency Employment of Army and Other Resources. Army Continuity of Operations (COOP) Program,” 19 January 2001, p. 3) [emphasis added]
“All-hazards COOP planning” is described as the means by which “the Army remains capable of continuing mission-essential operations during any situation, including military attack, terrorist activities, and natural or man-made disasters.” While the Army stresses the updates described in AR 500-3 relate to chemical, biological, nuclear attacks, “natural disasters” and “technical or man-made disasters or accidents,” current Army doctrine is also heavily weighted towards contingency planning for “civil disturbances.”
Two national “civil disturbance” plans, Garden Plot and Cable Splicer have been operational since the 1960s. Researcher Frank Morales has detailed how,
Under the heading of “civil disturbance planning,” the U.S. military is training troops and police to suppress democratic opposition in America. The master plan, Department of Defense Civil Disturbance Plan 55-2, is code-named, “Operation Garden Plot”. Originated in 1968, the “operational plan” has been updated over the last three decades, most recently in 1991, and was activated during the Los Angeles “riots” of 1992, and more than likely during the recent anti-WTO “Battle in Seattle.” …
Equipped with flexible “military operations in urban terrain” and “operations other than war” doctrine, lethal and “less-than-lethal” high-tech weaponry, US “armed forces” and “elite” militarized police units are being trained to eradicate “disorder”, “disturbance” and “civil disobedience” in America. Further, it may very well be that police/military “civil disturbance” planning is the animating force and the overarching logic behind the incredible nationwide growth of police paramilitary units, a growth which coincidentally mirrors rising levels of police violence directed at the American people, particularly “non-white” poor and working people. (Frank Morales, “U.S. Military Civil Disturbance Planning: The War at Home,” in Police State America, ed. Tom Burghardt, Toronto/Montreal: Arm The Spirit/Solidarity, 2002, P. 59)
AR 500-3 should be viewed in this context. Plans for Continuity of Government have been in place since the 1950s. Originally conceived during the Cold War when fears of a nuclear strike envisaged by atomic war-gamers at the RAND Corporation, believed that an immobilization of government functions and a breakdown of civilian rule would follow a nuclear attack. But from their inception, COG planning has been shrouded in secrecy.
In addition to constructing nuclear-proof underground facilities where the civilian leadership could escape a decapitation strike, other COG provisions included a series of executive orders designating which officials would assume Cabinet-level posts and other Executive Branch positions. Officials so designated would constitute a “shadow government” should office holders be killed in an attack “or otherwise incapacitated.”
However, when these and other Pentagon “civil disturbance” plans surfaced in the 1980s during the Iran-Contra hearings, they were roundly criticized by members of Congress, civil liberties groups and the media before disappearing once again, down Orwell’s “memory hole.” The inherent dangers implicit in such plans are that unelected Executive Branch officers could assume the Presidency and other appointed offices subject neither to congressional scrutiny nor judicial oversight.
Exercising sweeping emergency powers buried within Presidential Decision Directives (PDDs), unelected officials could suspend the Constitution, declare martial law and create an Executive Branch dictatorship that rests solely on the power of the U.S. military.
Most troubling, Executive Branch officials under secret rules of a COG regime could suppress and usurp the lawful powers of Congress and the Judicial Branch (by force of arms if deemed necessary) as a means of ensuring “cooperation” under a “unitary executive.”