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UNDERNEWS

Undernews is the online report of the Progressive Review, edited by Sam Smith, who covered Washington during all or part of ten of America's presidencies and who has edited alternative journals since 1964. The Review, which has been on the web since 1995, is now published from Freeport, Maine. We get over 5 million article visits a year. See prorev.com for full contents of our site

January 20, 2010

OBAMA WEAKENS GOVERNORS' CONTROL OVER STATE NATIONAL GUARD

Tom Burghardt, Global Research - In the wake of the Flight 253 provocation, over-hyped terrorism panics, and last year's Big Pharma and media-engineered hysteria over the H1N1 flu pandemic, President Barack Obama signed Executive Order 13528 on January 11.

Among other things, the Executive Order 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 "national emergency."

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, created in 2002 by Bushist legislators in both capitalist parties under the pretext of imperialism's endless "War on Terror." 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 assistance.

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 "suppress rebellion."

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" America.

Like his predecessors in the Oval Office, stretching back to the 1960s with Pentagon "civil disturbance" plans such as Cable Splicer and Garden Plot, both of which are continuously updated, our "change" President will forge ahead and invest the permanent National Security bureaucracy with unprecedented power. . .

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.

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., wrote.

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 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 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 laughing matter.

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. 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, 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 that "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."

. . . 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. Scott wrote: "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. In 2008, Army Times reported, that the "3rd Infantry Division's 1st Brigade Combat Team 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 home."

Analyst 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." . . .




MISSION CREEP: THE MILITARIZING OF AMERICA

THE MILITARY AND MARSHAL LAW


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