Monday, May 12, 2008

NSPD-51 and HSPD-20 and Removing Or Suspending Your Rights In An Emergency

Some people are very concerned about what is known as the National Continuity Policy.
Should we be concerned about NSPD-51 and NSPD-20 which establishes this policy by Executive Order?

An Executive order, does have the force of law when made in pursuance of certain Acts of Congress, when those acts give the President discretionary powers. It becomes law, or a directive, simply by its publication in the Federal Registry. Congress can be bypassed in a manner of speaking. This from Wiki -
There is no Constitutional provision or statute that explicitly permits this, aside from the vague grant of "executive power" given in Article II, Section 1 of the Constitution and the statement "take Care that the Laws be faithfully executed" in Article II, Section 3. Most executive orders are orders issued by the President to US executive officers to help direct their operation, the result of failing to comply being removal from office.
An executive order was how FEMA was born, April 1, 1979. (That was an odd date to choose, wasn't it?) FEMA is now under the auspices of the Department of Homeland Security.

But let's turn our attention to NSPD-51: Read this.

National Security Presidential Directive 51 - signed by President Bush in 2007.

Read HSPD-20 too.

National Security and Homeland Security Presidential Directive - signed by President Bush in 2007.

Here is what the White House Executive Order on this continuity policy said:
"This directive establishes a comprehensive national policy on the continuity of Federal Government structures and operations and a single National Continuity Coordinator responsible for coordinating the development and implementation of Federal continuity policies. This policy establishes "National Essential Functions," prescribes continuity requirements for all executive departments and agencies, and provides guidance for State, local, territorial, and tribal governments, and private sector organizations in order to ensure a comprehensive and integrated national continuity program that will enhance the credibility of our national security posture and enable a more rapid and effective response to and recovery from a national emergency."
That sounds nice - it is good to be prepared, however none of this had to be done when 9-11 happened did it? We recovered government and business functions quite quickly, even for New York City! Companies initiated their disaster recovery plans and government also had their disaster plans in place (save for the radio system malfunctions). We learned a lot from that unfortunate attack. Our front line responders were incredible. So, why the need for this type of heavy handed directive from the President? Why are the annexes to this directive classified information?

This type of directive basically also suspends the Constitution and Bill of Rights if the entity in charge, the President or his lead agent (the head of Homeland Security), decides to do so. That person will be in the position to control and coordinate ALL three branches of government in the event of a disaster. Several bills and directives , even some that have been in place since the 60's, combined also allow the government to seize airports and means of transportation, railroads, waterways, communication media, utilities, farms and food supplies, and more, in an event of a "catastrophic emergency". But now exactly what constitutes a catastrophic emergency seems to have been clarified.

The Bush directive defines a "Catastrophic Emergency" 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;

That could mean another 9-11 (God forbid), an earthquake, a hurricane, an influenza epidemic, or chemical spill, and even the crash of our economy. And since this also includes "a wide range of emergencies, including localized acts of nature, accidents, and technological or attack-related emergencies; this attack can happen in any location in the world as well.

Essentially,as many see it, President Bush, signed on May 9 2007 (over a year ago) a directive that grants near dictatorial power to the office of the president in the event of a national emergency declared by the president. What do you make of that?

Some say that NSPD51 clearly protects the operations of Constitutional government and it is regarded as a “good business practice,” and part of the fundamental mission of agencies as responsible and reliable public institutions. Others give the opinion that it was nothing more than a power grab.

People are now just talking about this again, primarily because we are hearing warnings from Chertoff and various articles about his fears are popping up.

This directive came almost 6 years after 9-11 happened.
So what's with the timing of this?

Let's hope that no national emergency happens prior to the national elections. Or ever! But if it does, why do we need the President to basically assume a type of dictatorial power? You know - The Constitution did not change after 9-11. Our rights are not supposed to evaporate after an emergency, and government should be able to operate unless many key elected officials are incapacitated, and even then we have rules on the lines of succession.

Here's what the Washington Post said about it in May 2007.(Administration, Not DHS, Would Run Shadow Government)

While some see this compilation of Executive Orders as being proactive and necessary, others find it to be very dangerous. Watch this and see what you think.

It certainly is enough to give anyone food for thought. Martial law is not a pretty prospect. People have certainly used disasters to wrest rights away from citizens in order to obtain power in the past. Roman rulers did it. Our Founders knew about that history too. That's why they believed checks and balances to be so important.

A recent story talks about the military powers of Governors during disasters. It says:
Among the most striking recommendations made by the commission is its proposal to hand governors control over active-duty troops, such as disaster response teams from the U.S. Army or Air Force, in the immediate aftermath of a catastrophe. Governors now command state National Guard units during crises on American soil, but the president remains commander in chief of active-duty forces.

That division of power “places the nation at risk of a disjointed federal and state military response to a catastrophe,” the report concluded.
Additionally - read this post and notice that Canadian troops can also help US troops in an emergency.

So what do you make of all of this? Is it an attempt to co-ordinate efforts in the face of a calamity or to seize power and control? One of the more important aspects is that we as citizens should be aware of these reports, recommendations, and executive directives and how they relate to what our US Constitution specifies. Read the articles stating different points of view, and understand the concept of fear based policy making might take away your rights.

"Those who would give up essential Liberty, to purchase a little temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety"
BENJAMIN FRANKLIN, Pennsylvania Assembly: Reply to the Governor, November 11, 1755.—The Papers of Benjamin Franklin, ed. Leonard W. Labaree, vol. 6, p. 242 (1963)

This quotation, slightly altered, is also inscribed on a plaque in the stairwell of the pedestal of the Statue of Liberty: “They that can give up essential liberty to obtain a little safety deserve neither liberty nor safety.