by Peter Dale Scott
May 19, 2010
Peter Dale Scott, a former Canadian diplomat and English Professor at the
University of California, Berkeley, is the author of Drugs Oil and War, The
Road to 9/11, and The War Conspiracy: JFK, 9/11, and the Deep Politics of
His book, Fueling America's War Machine: Deep Politics and the CIA’s
Global Drug Connection is in press, due Fall 2010 from Rowman & Littlefield.
In July 1987, during the Iran-Contra Hearings grilling of Oliver North, the
American public got a glimpse of “highly sensitive” emergency planning North
had been involved in.
Ostensibly these were emergency plans to suspend
the American constitution in the event of a nuclear attack (a legitimate
concern). But press accounts alleged that the planning was for a more
generalized suspension of the constitution.
As part of its routine Iran-contra coverage, the following exchange was
printed in the New York Times, but without journalistic comment or
[Congressman Jack] 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?
Both North’s attorney and Sen. Daniel Inouye, the
Democratic Chair of
the Committee, responded in a way that showed they were aware of the
Brendan Sullivan [North's counsel, agitatedly]: Mr. Chairman?
[Senator Daniel] Inouye: I believe that question touches upon a highly
sensitive and classified area so may I request that you not touch upon
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.
But we have never heard if there was or was not
an executive session, or if the rest of Congress was ever aware of the
According to James Bamford,
“The existence of
the secret government
was so closely held that Congress was completely bypassed.”
individuals in Congress were almost certainly aware.)
Brooks was responding to a story by Alfonzo Chardy in the
Chardy’s story alleged that Oliver North was involved with the
Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) in plans to take over federal, state and
local functions during a national emergency.
This planning for “Continuity
of Government” (COG) called for,
“suspension of the Constitution, turning
control of the government over to the Federal Emergency Management Agency,
emergency appointment of military commanders to run state and local
governments and declaration of martial law.”
To my knowledge no one in the public (including myself) attached enough
importance to the Chardy story. Chardy himself suggested that Reagan’s
Attorney General William French Smith, had intervened to stop the COG plan
from being presented to the President.
Seven years later, in 1994, Tim
reported in the New York Times that what he called “The Doomsday
Project” - the search for,
“ways to keep the Government running after a
sustained nuclear attack on Washington” - had “less than six months to
To say that nuclear attack planning was over was correct. But this statement
was also very misleading.
On the basis of Weiner’s report, the first two
books on COG planning, by James Bamford and James Mann, books otherwise
excellent and well-informed, reported that COG planning had been
abandoned. They were wrong.
Mann and Bamford did report that, from the beginning, two of the key COG
planners on the secret committee were Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld, the
two men who implemented COG under
What they and Weiner did not
report was that under Reagan the purpose of COG planning had officially
it was no longer for arrangements “after a nuclear war,” but for
any "national security emergency."
This was defined in
Executive Order 12656
of 1988 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.”
In other words extraordinary emergency measures, originally designed for an
America devastated in a nuclear attack, were now to be applied to anything
the White House considered an emergency.
Thus Cheney and Rumsfeld continued
their secret planning when Clinton was president; both men, both
Republicans, were heads of major corporations and not even in the government
at that time.
Moreover, Andrew Cockburn claims that the Clinton
administration, according to a Pentagon source, had,
“no idea what was going
(As I shall explain later, this sweeping claim needs some
The expanded application of COG to any emergency was envisaged as early as
1984, when, according to Boston Globe reporter Ross Gelbspan,
Lt. Col. Oliver North was working with officials of the Federal Emergency
Management Agency... to draw up a secret contingency plan to surveil
political dissenters and to arrange for the detention of hundreds of
thousands of undocumented aliens in case of an unspecified national
The plan, part of which was codenamed
Rex 84, called for the
suspension of the Constitution under a number of scenarios, including a U.S.
invasion of Nicaragua.
Clearly 9/11 met the conditions for the imposition of COG measures, and we
know for certain that COG planning was instituted on that day in 2001,
before the last plane had crashed in Pennsylvania.
The 9/11 Report confirms
this twice, on pages 38 and 326.
It was under the auspices of COG that
Bush stayed out of Washington on that day, and other government leaders like
Paul Wolfowitz were swiftly evacuated to Site R, inside a hollowed out
mountain near Camp David.
What few have recognized is that, nearly a decade later, some aspects of COG
remain in effect. COG plans are still authorized by a proclamation of
emergency that has been extended each year by presidential authority, most
recently by President Obama in September 2009.
COG plans are also the
probable source for the 1000-page
Patriot Act presented to Congress five
days after 9/11, and also for the Department of Homeland Security’s Project
Endgame - a ten-year plan, initiated in September 2001, to expand
camps, at a cost of $400 million in Fiscal Year 2007 alone.
At the same time we have seen the implementation of the plans outlined by
Chardy in 1987:
the warrantless detentions that Oliver North had planned for
in Rex 1984
the warrantless eavesdropping that is their logical
the militarization of the domestic United States under a
new military command, NORTHCOM.
NORTHCOM the U.S. Army now is
engaged with local enforcement to control America, in the same way that
CENTCOM it is engaged with local enforcement to control Afghanistan
We learned that COG planning was still active in 2007, when President Bush
issued National Security Presidential Directive 51 (NSPD 51).
This, for the
sixth time, extended for one year the emergency proclaimed on September 14,
2001. It empowered the President to personally ensure "continuity of
government" in the event of any "catastrophic emergency." He announced that NSPD 51 contains "classified Continuity Annexes" which shall "be protected
from unauthorized disclosure."
Under pressure from his 911truth
constituents, Congressman Peter DeFazio of the Homeland Security Committee
twice requested to see these Annexes, the second time in a letter signed by
the Chair of his committee. His request was denied.
The National Emergencies Act, one of the post-Watergate reforms that
Vice-President Cheney so abhorred, specifies that:
“Not later than six
months after a national emergency is declared, and not later than the end of
each six-month period thereafter that such emergency continues, each House
of Congress shall meet to consider a vote on a joint resolution to determine
whether that emergency shall be terminated”.
(50 U.S.C. 1622, 2002)
nine years Congress has not once met to discuss the State of Emergency
George W. Bush in response to 9/11, a State of Emergency that
remains in effect today.
Appeals to the Congress to meet its
responsibilities to review COG have fallen on deaf ears.
Former Congressman Dan Hamburg and I appealed publicly last year, both to Obama to terminate the emergency, and to Congress to hold the hearings
required of them by statute.
Obama, without discussion, extended the
9/11 Emergency again on September 10, 2009; and Congress has continued
to ignore its statutory obligations. One Congressman explained to a
constituent that the provisions of the National Emergencies Act have now
been rendered inoperative by COG. If true, this would seem to justify Chardy’s description of COG as suspension of the Constitution.
other parts of the Constitution that have been suspended? We do not know,
and the Chair of the Homeland Security Committee has been told he cannot
Plans drafted by a secret committee, including corporation heads not in the
government, have provided rules that allegedly override public law and the
separation of powers that is at the heart of the Constitution. Congress is
derelict in addressing this situation. Even Congressman Kucinich, the one
Congressman I have met, will not answer my communications on this subject.
Yet as I see it, the only authorization for the COG planning was a secret
decision by President Reagan (NSDD 55 of September 14, 1982) which in effect
federalized the counterinsurgency planning (called Cable Splicer), which he
had authorized in California when governor there.
It is clear that the planning by Cheney, Rumsfeld and others in the last two
decades was not confined to an immediate response to 9/11. The 1000-page
Patriot Act, dropped on Congress as promptly as the Tonkin Gulf Resolution
had been back in 1964, is still with us; Congress has never seriously
challenged it, and Obama quietly extended it on February 27 of this year.
We should not forget that the Patriot Act was only passed after lethal
anthrax letters were mailed to two crucial Democratic Senators - Senators
Daschle and Leahy - who had initially questioned the bill. After the anthrax
letters, however, they withdrew their initial opposition.
Someone - we
still do not know who - must have planned those anthrax letters well in
advance. This is a fact most Americans do not want to think about.
Someone also must have planned the unusual number of war games taking place
on 9/11. COG planners and FEMA had been involved in war games planning over
the previous two decades; and on 9/11
FEMA was again involved with other
agencies in preparing for Operation Tripod, a bioterrorism exercise in New
York City. 
Someone also must have planned the new more restrictive instructions, on
June 1, 2001, determining that military interceptions of hijacked aircraft
had to be approved “at the highest levels of government” (i.e. the
President, Vice-President, or Secretary of Defense).
attributes this order to a JCS Memo of June 1, 2001, entitled “Aircraft
Piracy (Hijacking) and Destruction of Derelict Airborne Objects.” But the
written requirements had been less restrictive before June 1, 2001, and I am
informed that the change was quietly revoked the following December.
The Road to 9/11 I suggest the change in the JCS memo came from the
National Preparedness Review in which President Bush authorized
Vice-President Cheney, together with FEMA,
“to tackle the… task of dealing
with terrorist attacks.”
Not noticed by the press was the fact that
Cheney and FEMA had already been working on COG planning as a team
throughout the 1980s and 1990s.
As I wrote above, it is necessary to qualify a Pentagon official’s claim (to
author Andrew Cockburn) that the Clinton administration had “no idea what
was going on” in COG.
Let me quote from my response to Cockburn’s book in my
own, The Road to 9/11:
[Weiner’s] article persuaded authors James Mann and James Bamford that
Reagan’s COG plans had now been abandoned, because “there was, it seemed, no
longer any enemy in the world capable of... decapitating America’s
In fact, however, only one phase of COG planning had been
terminated, a Pentagon program for response to a nuclear attack.
according to author Andrew Cockburn, a new target was found:
Although the exercises continued, still budgeted at over $200 million a year
in the Clinton era, the vanished Soviets were now replaced by terrorists...
There were other changes, too. In earlier times the specialists selected
to run the “shadow government” had been drawn from across the political
spectrum, Democrats and Republicans alike. But now, down in the bunkers, Rumsfeld found himself in politically congenial company, the players’ roster
being filled almost exclusively with Republican hawks...“
You could say
this was a secret government-in-waiting. The Clinton administration was
extraordinarily inattentive, [they had] no idea what was going on.”
Cockburn’s account requires some qualification.
Richard Clarke, a Clinton
Democrat, makes it clear that he participated in the COG games in the 1990s
and indeed drafted Clinton ’s Presidential Decision Directive (PDD) 67 on
“Enduring Constitutional Government and Continuity of Government.”
planning involved different teams for different purposes. It is quite
possible that the Pentagon official was describing the Department of Defense
team dealing with retaliation.
The Pentagon official’s description of a “secret government-in-waiting”
(which still included both Cheney and Rumsfeld) is very close to the
standard definition of a cabal, as a group of persons secretly united to
bring about a change or overthrow of government. In the same era Cheney and
Rumsfeld projected change also by their public lobbying, through the
for the New American Century, for a more militant Middle East policy.
light of how COG was actually implemented in 2001, one can legitimately
suspect that, however interested this group had been in continuity of
government under Reagan, under Clinton the focus of Cheney’s and Rumsfeld’s
COG planning was now a change of government.
Understandably there is great psychological resistance to the extraordinary
claim that Cheney and Rumsfeld, even when not in government, were able to
help plan successfully for constitutional modifications, which they
themselves implemented when back in power. Most people cannot bring
themselves even to believe the second, known half of this claim: that on
September 11, 2001,
COG plans overriding the constitution were indeed
This is why the first two print reviews of The Road to 9/11,
both favorable and intelligently written, both reported that I speculated
that COG had been imposed on 9/11. No, it was not a speculation: the 9/11
Commission Report twice confirms that COG was instituted on the authority of
a phone call between Bush and Cheney of which they could find no record.
record, I did speculate, because it took place on a secure COG phone outside
the presidential bunker - with such a high classification that the 9/11
Commission was never supplied the phone records.
A footnote in the 9/11 Report says
“The 9/11 crisis tested the U.S. government’s plans and capabilities to
ensure the continuity of constitutional government and the continuity of
government operations. We did not investigate this topic, except as needed
to understand the activities and communications of key officials on 9/11.
The Chair, Vice Chair, and senior staff were briefed on the general nature
and implementation of these continuity plans." 
The other footnotes confirm that no information from COG files was used to
document the 9/11 report.
At a minimum these files might resolve the mystery
of the missing phone call which simultaneously authorized COG, and (in
consequence) determined that Bush should continue to stay out of Washington
. I suspect that they might tell us a great deal more.
What is the first step out of this current state of affairs, in which the
constitution has in effect been superseded by a higher, if less legitimate
authority? I submit that it is to get Congress to do what the law requires,
and determine whether our present proclamation of emergency “shall be
terminated” (50 U.S.C. 1622, 2002).
An earlier polite, judiciously worded appeal to this effect failed. It may
be necessary to raise the issue in a larger, albeit more controversial
the scandal that a small cabal was able to supersede the
Constitution, and Congress has failed, despite repeated requests, to do
anything about it.
I would hope that Americans concerned about this matter
would raise it with all the congressional candidates in the forthcoming
At a minimum, candidates should promise to call for a full
discussion of the proclaimed national emergency, as the law requires.
 New York Times, July 14, 1987.
 James Bamford, A Pretext for War: 9/11, Iraq, and the Abuse of America’s
Intelligence Agencies (New York: Doubleday, 2004), 74: “The existence of the
secret government was so closely held that Congress was completely bypassed.
Rather than through legislation, it was created by Top Secret presidential
fiat. In fact, Congress would have no role in the new wartime
administration. ‘One of the awkward questions we faced,’ said one of the
participants, ‘was whether to reconstitute Congress after a nuclear attack.
It was decided that no, it would be easier to operate without them.’” Cf.
James Mann, The Rise of the Vulcans: The History of Bush’s War Cabinet (New
York: Viking, 2004), 145.
 Miami Herald, July 5, 1987. In October 1984 Jack Anderson reported that
FEMA’s plans would “suspend the Constitution and the Bill of Rights,
effectively eliminate private property, abolish free enterprise, and
generally clamp Americans in a totalitarian vise.”
 Tim Weiner, New York Times, April 17, 1994.
 Bamford, A Pretext for War, 74; cf. James Mann, The Rise of the Vulcans:
The History of Bush’s War Cabinet (New York: Viking, 2004), 138-45.
 Scott, The Road to 9/11: Wealth, Empire, and the Future of America
(Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 2007), 183-87.
 The provisions of Executive Order 12656 of Nov. 18, 1988, appear at 53
FR 47491, 3 CFR, 1988 Comp., p. 585, http://www.archives.gov/federal-register/codification/executive-order/12656.html.
The Washington Post (March 1, 2002) later claimed, falsely, that Executive
Order 12656 dealt only with “a nuclear attack.” Earlier there was a similar
misrepresentation in the New York Times (November 18, 1991).
 Andrew Cockburn, Rumsfeld: His Rise, Fall, and Catastrophic Legacy ( New
York : Scribner, 2007), 88.
 Ross Gelbspan, Break-ins, Death Threats, and the FBI (Boston: South End
Press, 1991), 184; cf. New York Times, November 18, 1991.
 9/11 Commission Report, 38, 326; Scott, Road to 9/11, 228-29.
 Alfred Goldberg et al., Pentagon 9/11 (Washington: Department of
Defense, 2007), 132.
 Scott, Road to 9/11, 238, 240-41.
 U.S. Department of Defense, “U.S. Northern Command,” http://www.globalsecurity.org/military/agency/dod/northcom.htm.
Cf. John R. Brinkerhoff, PBS, Online Newshour, 9/27/02: “The United States
itself is now for the first time since the War of 1812 a theater of war.
That means that we should apply, in my view, the same kind of command
structure in the United States that we apply in other theaters of war.”
Brinkerhoff had earlier developed the martial law provisions of REX 84 in
the Reagan era.
 Cf. Peter Dale Scott and Dam Hamburg , “To All Readers: Help Force
Congress To Observe the Law on National Emergencies!!!,” 911Truth.org, March
24, 2009, http://www.911truth.org/article.php?story=20090324183053848).
 Peter Dale Scott, "To All Readers: Help Force Congress To Observe the
Law on National Emergencies!!!" (with Dan Hamburg), http.//www.truth.org,
March 24, 2009, http://www.911truth.org/article.php?story=20090324183053848#r7.
 White House Press Release, September 10, 2009, http://www.whitehouse.gov/the_press_office/Notice-of-continuation-from-the-president-regarding-the-emergency-declared-with-respect-to-the-September-11-2001-terrorist-attacks/.
A press briefing by Obama’s spokesman Robert Gibbs the same day did not
mention the extension.
 Cf. Time, Nov. 26, 2001: "While Daschle, the Senate majority leader,
could have been chosen as a representative of all Democrats or of the entire
Senate, Leahy is a less obvious choice, most likely targeted for a specific
reason. He is head of the Senate Judiciary Committee, which is involved in
issues ranging from antitrust action to antiterror legislation” [emphasis
added]. See also Anthony York, “Why Daschle and Leahy?” Salon, November 21,
 Brian Michael Jenkins and Frances Edwards-Winslow, “Saving City
Lifelines: Lessons Learned in the 9-11 Terrorist Attacks” (San Jose, CA:
Mineta Transportation Institute, San José State University, 2003).
 9/11 Report, 17; cf. fn. 101, 458.
 Houston Chronicle, May 9, 2001; Road to 9/11, 209.
 James Mann, The Rise of the Vulcans: The History of Bush’s War Cabinet
(New York: Viking, 2004), 139; James Bamford, A Pretext for War: 9/11, Iraq,
and the Abuse of America’s Intelligence Agencies (New York: Doublesday,
 Mann, Rise of the Vulcans, 144.
 Scott, The Road to 9/11, 186-87.
 9/11 Commission Report, 555.