End the State of Emergency!

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Common Dreams

End the State of Emergency!

On August 28, 2008, then President George W. Bush extended for another year the state of national emergency he first officially proclaimed on September 14, 2001.

In a notice published in the Federal Register and transmitted to Congress, the president wrote the following: "Because the terrorist threat continues, the national emergency declared on September 14, 2001, and the powers and authorities adopted to deal with that emergency, must continue in effect beyond September 14, 2008."

What are these "powers and authorities" that have been assumed by the executive branch? According to diplomat and author Dr. Peter Dale Scott, these "almost certainly include COG (Continuity of Government) rules."

COG rules supersede the Constitution and the Bill of Rights, and can be invoked to cover "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."

COG encompasses at least fourteen executive orders, which can be enacted by the president with the stroke of a pen. These orders allow for a take over of all modes of transportation, fuel, food resources and farms, the allowance for government to mobilize civilians into work brigades, the allowance for government to take over all health, education and welfare functions, and the institution of the Federal Emergency Preparedness Agency (FEMA) "to establish control over the mechanisms of production and distribution, of energy sources, wages, salaries, credit and the flow of money in U.S. financial institutions."

In 1987, it was revealed that FEMA, under director Louis Giuffrida, had prepared plans for the suspension of the Constitution along with detailed arrangements for the declaration of martial law. Although details remain classified, it is indisputable that the steps from a declared state of emergency to COG to martial law are firmly in place.

Under the 1976 National Emergencies Act (50 U.S.C. 1601-1651), a law enacted in the wake of extensive investigations by the Church Committee of executive branch abuses, Congress has not only the authority but the obligation to review presidentially declared emergencies. Specifically, "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."

This has not occurred in the eight years since the current declaration was put into effect.

The question now is whether President Obama will continue the Bush policy of annual extensions of the national state of emergency declared in 2001, or whether he will end it. Whether you are a liberal or a conservative, the question you need to ask is this: Do I want the executive branch of the government to retain dictatorial powers?

You might also ask whether Congress should be following the law by reviewing the current declaration rather than simply allowing the executive branch to smother it. Incredibly, Congress has not even been allowed to see the "classified Continuity Annexes" that are "protected from unauthorized disclosure" by the executive. House Homeland Security Committee Chairman Bennie Thompson and Oversight Subcommittee Chairman Christopher Carney, as well as committee member Rep. Peter DeFazio, have been denied permission to see these documents, being told that they lacked "the requisite clearances."

As DeFazio concluded, "Maybe the people who think there's a conspiracy out there are right."

This is the time for citizens, regardless of where they stand on the political spectrum, to stand for something bigger than partisanship; that is, the Constitution and the Bill of Rights. Don't allow the government to continue to hold the threat of martial law over our heads!

Lewis Seiler

Lewis Seiler is president of Voice of the Environment.

Dan Hamburg

Dan Hamburg, a former US congressman from California, is executive director of Voice of the Environment..

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