by Tom Burghardt
January 17, 2010
In the wake of the Flight 253 provocation,
over-hyped terrorism panics, and last year's Big Pharma and media-engineered
the H1N1 flu pandemic, President
Executive Order 13528 on January 11.
Among other things, the Executive Order (EO)
established a Council of Governors, an "advisory panel" chosen by the
President that will rubber-stamp long-sought-after Pentagon contingency
plans to seize control of state National Guard forces in the event of a
According to the
White House press release, the ten member, bipartisan
Council was created,
"to strengthen further the partnership
between the Federal Government and State Governments to protect our
Nation against all types of hazards."
"When appointed" the announcement continues, "the Council will be
reviewing such matters as involving the National Guard of the various
States; homeland defense; civil support; synchronization and integration
of State and Federal military activities in the United States; and other
matters of mutual interest pertaining to National Guard, homeland
defense, and civil support activities."
Clearly designed to weaken the
Posse Comitatus Act of 1878 which bars the
use of the military for civilian law enforcement, EO 13528 is the latest in
a series of maneuvers by previous administrations to wrest control of armed
forces historically under the democratic control of elected state officials,
and a modicum of public accountability.
One consequence of moves to "synchronize and integrate" state National Guard
units with those of the Armed Forces would be to place them under the
effective control of United States Northern Command (USNORTHCOM),
created in 2002 by Bushist legislators in both capitalist parties under the
pretext of imperialism's endless "War
At the time, Defense Secretary Donald
Rumsfeld called USNORTHCOM's launch,
"the most sweeping set of changes since the
unified command system was set up in 1946."
The real-world consequences of those changes
weren't long in coming.
Following their criminal inaction during 2005's Hurricane Katrina
catastrophe, the Bush regime sought, but failed, to seize control of
depleted Gulf Coast National Guard units, the bulk of which had been sent to
Iraq along with equipment that might have aided the recovery. Bush demanded
that then Louisiana Governor Kathleen Blanco sign over control of the Guard
as well as state and local police units as the blood price for federal
At the height of the crisis, Bush cited presidential prerogatives for doing
so under the Insurrection Act, a repressive statute which authorizes the
President to federalize National Guard units when state governments fail to
How the plight of citizens engulfed by Katrina's
flood waters could be twisted into an act of "rebellion" was achieved when
Orwellian spin doctors, aided and abetted by a compliant media, invented a
new criminal category to cover traumatized New Orleans residents:
"Drowning while Black."
Fast forward five years.
Given the serious implications such proposals
would have for a functioning democracy, the media's deafening silence on
Obama's Executive Order is hardly surprising. Like their role as
cheerleaders in the escalating wars in Afghanistan and Pakistan, media
self-censorship tell us much about the state of affairs in "new normal"
Like his predecessors in the Oval Office, stretching back to the 1960s with
Pentagon "civil disturbance" plans such as
Cable Splicer and
both of which are continuously updated, our "change" President will forge
ahead and invest the permanent National Security bureaucracy with
Under color of the
2008 National Defense Authorization Act, an unsavory
piece of Bushist legislative detritus,
"The President shall establish a bipartisan
Council of Governors to advise the Secretary of Defense, the Secretary
of Homeland Security, and the White House Homeland Security Council on
matters related to the National Guard and civil support missions."
The toothless Council, whose Executive Director
will be designated by the Secretary of Defense no less,
"shall meet at the call of the Secretary of
Defense or the Co-Chairs of the Council."
Will such a Council have veto power over
administration deliberations? Hardly.
They are relegated,
"to exchange views,
information, or advice with the Secretary of Defense; the Secretary of
Homeland Security" and "the Assistant to the President for Homeland Security
Additional entities covered by the EO with whom the Governors Council will
"exchange views" include,
the Assistant to the President for
Intergovernmental Affairs and Public Engagement
the Assistant Secretary of Defense for
Homeland Defense and Americas' Security Affairs
the Commander, United States Northern
the Chief, National Guard Bureau
the Commandant of the Coast Guard
other appropriate officials of the
Department of Homeland Security and the Department of Defense
appropriate officials of other executive
departments or agencies as may be designated by the Secretary of
Defense or the Secretary of Homeland Security
In other words, right from the get-go, the
Council will serve as civilian cover for political decisions made by the
Executive Branch and the security apparat.
EO 13528 continues,
"Such views, information, or advice shall
matters involving the National Guard
of the various States
synchronization and integration of
State and Federal military activities in the United States
other matters of mutual interest
pertaining to National Guard, homeland defense, and civil
When news first broke last summer of Obama's
proposal to expand the military's authority to respond to domestic
disasters, it was opposed by the National Governors Association (NGA).
Congressional Quarterly reported that a letter sent on behalf of the NGA
opposed creation of the Council on grounds that it,
"would invite confusion on critical command
and control issues, complicate interagency planning, establish
stove-piped response efforts, and interfere with governors'
constitutional responsibilities to ensure the safety and security of
their citizens," Govs. Jim Douglas, R-Vt., and Joe Manchin III, D-W.Va.,
According to their August letter to Paul N.
Stockton, Assistant Secretary of Defense for Homeland Defense and
Americas' Security Affairs, Douglas and Manchin III argued that,
"without assigning a governor tactical
control" of military forces during a natural disaster such as a flood or
earthquake, or an unnatural disaster such as a terrorist attack or other
mass casualty event, the "strong potential exists for confusion in
mission, execution and the dilution of governors' control over
situations with which they are more familiar and better capable of
handling than a federal military commander."
With slim prospects of congressional
authorization for the scheme, in fact the 2008 language was removed from
subsequent Defense spending legislation, other means were required.
Playing bureaucratic hardball with the
governors, this has now been accomplished by presidential fiat, further
eroding clear constitutional limits on Executive Branch power.
These maneuvers as I have previously written, have very little to do with
responding to a catastrophic emergency. Indeed, EO 13528 is only the latest
iteration of plans to expand the National Security State's writ and as such,
have everything to do with decades-old Continuity of Government (COG)
programs kept secret from Congress and the American people.
Derided by neocons, neoliberals and other corporatists as a quaint backwater
for "conspiracy theorists" railing against "FEMA
concentration camps," Continuity of Government, and the nexus of
"civil support" programs that have proliferated like noxious weeds are no
Indeed, even members of Congress are considered "unauthorized parties"
denied access "to information on COG plans, procedures, capabilities and
facilities," according to a Pentagon document published by the
whistleblowing web site
Wikileaks, as are the classified annexes of
National Security Presidential Directive 51 and Homeland Security
Presidential Directive 20 (NSPD
In a new twist on administration promises of
transparency and open government, even the redacted version of these
documents have been
removed from the White House web site.
As Antifascist Calling previously reported (see: "Vigilant Shield 09: A
Cover for Illegal Domestic Operations?"), the
Congressional Research Service
issued a 46-page
report in 2008 that provided details on the COG-related
National Exercise Program, a "civil support" operation that war games
various disaster scenarios.
Among other things, the document outlines the serious domestic implications
of military participation in national emergency preparedness drills.
CRS researchers pointed to the Reagan-era
Executive Order 12656 (EO
"directs FEMA to coordinate the planning,
conduct, and evaluation of national security emergency exercises."
EO 12656 defines a national security emergency
as "as any occurrence, including natural disaster, military attack,
technological emergency, or other emergency that seriously degrades or
seriously threatens the national security of the United States."
Such programs, greatly expanded by the Bush-era Homeland Security
Presidential Directive 8 (HSPD-8), also removed from the White House web
"a national program and a multi-year
planning system to conduct homeland security preparedness-related
"The program is to be carried out in
collaboration with state and local governments and private sector
The Defense Department's role during such
emergencies were intended to focus "principally on domestic incident
management, either for terrorism or non terrorist catastrophic events."
DoD would play a "significant role" in the
overall response. Such murky definitions cover a lot of ground and are ripe
with a potential for abuse by unscrupulous securocrats and their corporate
The primary DoD entity responsible for "civil support," a focus of Obama's
EO is USNORTHCOM and its active combat component, U.S. Army North. However,
as with almost everything relating to COG and current plans under EO 13528
that propose to "synchronize and integrate State and Federal military
activities," USNORTHCOM's role is shrouded in secrecy.
As researcher Peter Dale Scott revealed in 2008, when Congressman
Peter DeFazio, Homeland Security Committee Chairman Bennie
Thompson and Oversight Subcommittee Chairman Christopher
Carney sought access to classified COG annexes, their request was denied
by the White House.
"DeFazio's inability to get access to the
NSPD Annexes is less than reassuring. If members of the Homeland
Security Committee cannot enforce their right to read secret plans of
the Executive Branch, then the systems of checks and balances
established by the U.S. Constitution would seem to be failing."
One hammer blow followed another.
Times reported, that the,
"3rd Infantry Division's 1st Brigade Combat
Team [BCT] has spent 35 of the last 60 months in Iraq patrolling in full
battle rattle, helping restore essential services and escorting supply
convoys. Now they're training for the same mission - with a twist - at
Michel Chossudovsky commented,
"What is significant in this redeployment of
a US infantry unit is the presumption that North America could, in the
case of a national emergency, constitute a 'war theater' thereby
justifying the deployment of combat units."
According to Chossudovsky,
"The new skills to be imparted consist in
training 1st BCT in repressing civil unrest, a task normally assumed by
civilian law enforcement."
"It is noteworthy, the
World Socialist Web Site commented, "that the
deployment of US combat troops 'as an on-call federal response force for
natural or manmade emergencies and disasters'... coincides with the
eruption of the greatest economic emergency and financial disaster since
the Great Depression of the 1930s."
"Justified as a response to terrorist threats," socialist critic
Van Auken averred, "the real source of the growing preparations for the
use of US military force within America's borders lies not in the events
of September 11, 2001 or the danger that they will be repeated. Rather,
the domestic mobilization of the armed forces is a response by the US
ruling establishment to the growing threat to political stability."
Since USNORTHCOM's deployment of a combat
brigade on U.S. soil, the capitalist crisis has deepened and intensified.
With unemployment at a post-war high and the
perilous economic and social conditions of the working class growing grimmer
by the day, EO 13258 is a practical demonstration of ruling class consensus
when it comes to undermining the democratic rights of the American people.
After all, where the defense of wealth and privileges are concerned
corporate thugs and war criminals have no friends, only interests...