The calendar may say 2008, but, increasingly, we’re living in 1984. America may not have concentration camps yet, but we’re sure enough working on ‘em.
A close examination reveals that many of these references lack sufficient facts to support their conclusions; however, taken as a whole, there is an abundance of factual information showing an alarming trend in the deployment of federal and military forces to restrain and detain American citizens.
Among the Internet sites are those listing between 600 and 800 locations in the United States where the government is establishing "concentration camps." Many of these are former or active military bases; however, several provide detailed information about their location and improvements, including maps, videos, and satellite photographs.
A former Amtrak facility located in Beech Grove, Indiana, is featured in a widely viewed video on Youtube. From the audio description and video images, it is easy to imagine that the site could be used as a detention facility; however, a telephone call to the desk officer of the Beech Grove Police Department reveals that much of the evidence, including helicopter landing facilities and radio towers, actually belong to the police department that is located adjacent to the now largely abandoned facility. The desk officer, who also happens to be a local city councilman, was unaware of any federal involvement at the location. "It’s a straight facility," he said.
There are a number of photographs depicting a site in northern Michigan with a double row of chainlink fencing topped with barbwire and elevated guard towers. The area is part of Camp Grayling, the largest installation of the Michigan National Guard, which deploys several military police commands and trains more than 100 law enforcement agencies from Northern Michigan. The photographs clearly show an outdoor detention facility, and recent comments by an undercover observer confirm that it is currently maintained. However, there is an e-mail on the Internet dated January 20, 1999, from a base Deputy Public Affairs Officer who said: "The ‘camps’ you are referring to are used by our Military Police for training. One of their war-time missions is to process and care for prisoners of war (POWs). The photos you saw are of that training site."
Perhaps the most disturbing images show a Department of Homeland facility known as Swift Luck Green located in Central Wyoming. The five satellite photographs are labeled as having been taken on January 23 and March 24, 2006, by DigitalGlobe and are annotated as "DHS Facility (SLG)." Labels include: prisoner housing, restaurant for DHS personnel; 3-story dormitory for prisoners; guard towers; and prison cells. Various blogs further identify the location as a closed coal mine near Hanna, Wyoming, in Carbon County.
There is nothing comparable to the photographs visible on GoogleEarth at the listed coordinates, and desk officers at the local sheriff’s office and the police department are unaware of any local DHS or FEMA facilities. An e-mail to DigitalGlobe’s media relations contact about the photographs received this reply: "they were in a report called ‘the hidden gulag,’ a report on secret nk [North Korean] prison camps." The report and original photographs can be viewed at the U.S. Committee for Human Rights in North Korea’s website, www.hrnk.org.
This is what fear has wrought. First, our own government has done everything in its power to make us fearful so we will support its illegal and unconstitutional activities, and then in our fear, we have come to distrust everything our government says and does -- for good reason.
The facts are undisputed.
Commencing in the late Sixties, following urban riots in Los Angeles, Detroit, Newark, Cleveland, Seattle, Cincinnati and Milwaukee, and in response to a recommendation of the National Advisory Commission on Civil Disorders, the U.S. military initiated plans to assist local and state civil authorities during urban unrest. Collectively, the response was known as "Operation Garden Plot," and each military branch established its own plans, which have evolved over the years.
In 1984, a military "Disturbance Plan" defined its targets as "disruptive elements, extremists or dissidents perpetrating civil disorder," which in turn is defined as "riot, acts of violence, insurrections, unlawful obstructions or assemblages, or other disorders prejudicial to public law and order." It concludes, "spontaneous civil disturbances which involve large numbers of persons and/or which continue for a considerable period of time, may exceed the capacity of local civil law enforcement agencies to suppress. Although this type of activity can arise without warning as a result of sudden, unanticipated popular unrest . . . it may result from more prolonged dissidence . . . This would most likely be the outgrowth of serious social, political or economic issues which divide segments of the American population. Such factionalism could manifest itself through repeated demonstrations, protest marches and other forms of legitimate opposition but which would have the potential for erupting into spontaneous violence with little or no warning."
Dated November 1985, a United States Army field manual entitled, "Civil Disturbances," says, "If there are more detainees than civil detention facilities can handle, civil authorities may ask the [military] control forces to set up and operate temporary facilities. . . . These temporary facilities are set up on the nearest military installation or on suitable property under federal control . . . supervised and controlled by MP officers and NCOs trained and experienced in Army correctional operations."
At the same time as these plans and manuals were being developed and issued, President Reagan authorized a secret program for the imposition of martial law and massive detentions. First revealed by Oliver North during his congressional testimony, the plan was known as Readiness Exercise 1984, or REX 84. The program was originally intended to confront a "mass exodus" of illegal aliens across the Mexican-U.S. border, and to provide confinement facilities where they could be locked up by FEMA.
Otherwise known as a continuity of government plan, REX 84 involved an actual civil readiness exercise in April 1984 by FEMA in association with 34 other federal agencies. In a combined exercise with the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Night Train 84 involved multi-emergency scenarios at play inside and outside the U.S. Confronted with civil disturbances, major demonstrations and labor strikes that would affect continuity of government and/or resource mobilization, and to fight subversive activities, the military was authorized to arrest as many as 400,000 people and to move them to military facilities for confinement.
In 1985, FEMA’s director was Louis Giuffrida, who in 1970 had called for the imposition of martial law in case of a national uprising by black militants. He envisioned "assembly centers or relocation camps" for at least 21 million "American Negroes." Regarding martial law, he later wrote, "No constitution, no statute or ordinance can authorize Marital Rule. . . . The significance of Martial Rule in civil disorders is that it shifts control from civilians and to the military completely and without the necessity of a declaration, proclamation or other form of public manifestation. . . . Martial Rule is limited only by the principle of necessary force."
As reported by the Miami Herald on July 5, 1987, "These camps are to be operated by FEMA should martial law need to be implemented in the United States and all it would take is a presidential signature on a proclamation and the attorney general’s signature on a warrant to which a list of names is attached."
The Defense Department has developed a "Strategy for Homeland Defense and Civil Support" against terrorism that pledges to "transform US military forces to execute homeland defense missions in the . . . US homeland." The Pentagon is presently collecting files on antiwar protesters and is prepared to maximize "threat awareness" and to seize "the initiative from those who would harm us." The Pentagon’s National Counterterrorism Center’s central repository now includes the names of 325,000 "terrorist" suspects.
In October 2003, Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld approved a secret "Information Operations Roadmap" calling for "full spectrum" information operations, including a strategy for seizing the Internet and controlling the flow of information. It views the worldwide web as a potential military adversary and speaks of "fighting the net."
The U.S. Army Internet website displays information about the Pentagon’s "Civilian Inmate Labor Program," including "policy and guidance for establishing civilian inmate labor programs and civilian prison camps on Army installations." The program underwent a "rapid action revision" on January 14, 2005, to provide a "template for developing agreements" between the Army and corrections facilities for the use of civilian inmate labor on Army installations.
In yet another exercise in September 2005, the Pentagon’s U.S. Northern Command conducted a top secret operation known as Granite Shadow that involved emergency military operations within the continental United States without civilian supervision or control. Under the plan, military special forces units operating under unique rules of engagement involving deadly force were deployed to enforce "unity of command."
The original mission of FEMA was to assure the survival of the United States government in the case of nuclear attack, with a secondary responsibility to coordinate the federal response to natural disasters. However, FEMA has come to operate as a secret government in waiting, with powers far beyond that of any other federal agency.
Specific and detailed executive orders now empower FEMA to: take over all transportation, highways and seaports; seize and operate all communications media; take over all electric, gas and petroleum power, fuels and minerals; take over all airports and aircraft; take over all railroads, inland waterways and public storage facilities; take over all farms and food resources; register all persons and force civilians into work brigades; take over all health, education and welfare functions; and establish control over the mechanisms of production and distribution of energy sources, wages, salaries, credit and the flow of money in all U.S. financial institutions.
Executive Order 11921 provides that, once a state of emergency has been declared by the president, the action cannot be reviewed by Congress for six months.
The John W. Warner Defense Authorization Act of 2007 contains a provision entitled "Use of the Armed Forces in Major Public Emergencies." One effect of the provision is to expand the president’s limited power to deploy the military within the United States only "to suppress, in a State, any insurrection, domestic violence, unlawful combination, or conspiracy" to include "natural disaster, epidemic, or other serious public health emergency, terrorist attack or incident."
The act authorized the president to assume local authority "if domestic violence has occurred to such an extent that the constituted authorities of the State or possession are incapable of maintaining public order." The president now has the power, without any advance notice to Congress, to declare marital law in any city experiencing a civil disturbance or riot similar to any of those experienced in the past 40 years and to deploy the military, irrespective of the wishes or consent of local and state authorities.
On May 9, 2007, President Bush signed a "National Security and Homeland Security Presidential Directive" defining the "Catastrophic Emergency" leading to "Continuity of Government coordinated efforts by the Executive Branch to ensure that National Essential Functions continue to be performed." Such emergencies include "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." Continuity of Operations includes the continuation of mission-essential functions "during a wide range of emergencies, including localized acts of nature, accidents, and technological or attack-related emergencies."
In its definition of "Enduring Constitutional Government," the presidential directive envisions a "cooperative effort among the executive, legislative, and judicial branches of the Federal Government;" however, it (the effort) is to be "coordinated by the President, as a matter of comity with respect to the legislative and judicial branches . . ." Comity is defined by Black’s Law Dictionary as, "Courtesy; complaisance; respect; a willingness to grant a privilege, not as a matter of right, but out of deference and good will." In other words, the "Enduring Constitutional Government" will be run by the president and any "cooperative" role played by Congress and the judiciary will be at his pleasure.
Even though Article I, Section 1 of the Constitution provides that, "All legislative powers herein granted shall be vested in a Congress of the United States . . . , " President Bush has, pursuant to his own directives, given himself the unrestrained power to declare whatever he imagines to be an emergency. Once he does so, he alone controls the entire apparatus of government. He will become responsible for arranging for the "orderly succession" and the "appropriate transition of leadership" of the other two branches of government, and he will do all of this with the able assistance of his vice president, who has the primary job of coordinating things.
Conceivably, at his or her sole discretion, existing and future presidents have the power to use any provocation, including the election of a successor president hostile to his or her existing policies, to declare a state of emergency and to seize and operate the government as a dictatorship for an indefinite period of time.
More realistically, an increase in street and campus protests against the Iraq War, similar to those of the '60s, could easily lead to the imposition of martial law in the Unites States as an extension of the War on Terrorism. Or, as the current recession deepens into a depression with wide spread unemployment, hunger and civil unrest, martial law could be imposed and military work camps established. Irrespective of how it plays out, every scenario involves mass preventative detentions, without trial, by the military and requires federal confinement facilities.
Accepting the fact that the president has the power to detain as many American citizens as he chooses, is the government actually building facilities to concentrate them?
In January 2006, the Department of Homeland Security awarded a $385 million contract to former Halliburton subsidiary Kellogg Brown & Root (KBR) to provide detention centers in the United States to deal with "an emergency influx of immigrants into the US, or to support the rapid deployment of new programs." Unexplained were these "new programs" and why they require a major expansion of detention centers.
A clue to the definition of "new programs" can be found in President Bush’s claim that "the territory of the United States is part of the battlefield" against terrorism and that he has the power as commander-in-chief to detain indefinitely any American citizen he designates as an enemy combatant. He signed the Military Commissions Act in October 2006 that suspends habeas corpus rights for everyone he deems to be an enemy combatant and allows him to confine them indefinitely without trial or access to counsel. Once detained under the act, "no court, justice, or judge shall have jurisdiction to hear or consider any claim or cause for action whatsoever. . . ."
The KBR contract is open-ended and authorizes a payment of up to $385 million per deployment. It is administered by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, which envisions the development of at least four detention centers, each detaining up to 5,000 single males and females, families with children, and the sick and criminal. Established at "unused military sites or [leased] temporary structures," each facility will be able to accommodate the sick and criminals for extended detentions and to arrange for the "rendition" of potential terrorists to sites outside the continental United States.
Cops have an old saying that you’re not paranoid if someone really is following you. We cannot forget that our president has already seized extraordinary dictatorial powers and that he really is spending millions of dollars for the construction of detention facilities to support the "rapid development" of his "new programs." Nor, can we ignore that, contrary to international law, the United States government is in fact detaining hundreds of "unlawful combatants" in prison facilities in Guantanamo Bay and at other secret locations around the world. Finally, we have to accept: that our government is abusing and torturing these detainees to obtain information that will be used against them should they ever come to trial; that they have no access to the federal courts to appeal their detentions; that they cannot consult with counsel without the presence of military monitors, who also read their legal mail; that they cannot review or challenge the "classified" evidence against them; and that they cannot confront or cross examine the witnesses against them.
There’s another old saying, "If you snooze, you lose." We have a very narrow window of opportunity between the time we recognize a deadly threat and when we do something about it. Given the highly advanced technological age we live in and the ready availability of overwhelming military force, once our freedoms are lost, they will be gone forever, whether or not every single one of us is "bearing arms."
Two weeks ago, Congress took an important first step in restricting the president’s power by repealing a largely unrecognized section of the 2007 Defense Appropriations Act that, last year, effectively transferred command of the National Guards from state governors to the president. With the unanimous support of the National Governors Association, the National Sheriffs’ Association and other law enforcement agencies, Congress restricted the power of the president to order the National Guard of any state to be used within that state or in any other state without the consent of the appropriate state governors.
We must immediately stop the deployment of National Guard troops to fight the illegal war in Iraq and bring them all home where they belong. Remaining under the control of state governors and given time to rest and the resources to re-equip, a well-trained and properly deployed National Guard, acting in support of local law enforcement, will be able to maintain order in most, if not all, domestic disturbances, natural disasters and terrorists attacks. If we survived the assassinations and riots of the '60s without martial law, we should be able to get by today without military intervention or the president’s help.
There is no time to lose! Congress must immediately hold hearings on the power of the president to declare martial law, to deploy the military within the United States, and to detain American citizens, without trial or benefit of habeas corpus. Congress must establish the constitutional limits of presidential power by statute, rather than to allow the president to do so by his own executive orders.
The incursions on civil liberties in the United States in the past 25 years, and particularly since 9-11, are mind-boggling. It matters not whether you are a Democrat or Republican, rich or poor, conservative or liberal, you have been deprived of substantial freedoms guaranteed by the Bill of Rights, unnecessarily, in the War on Terrorism. Fear the loss, perceive the danger, and do something about it!
The calendar may say 2008, but, increasingly, we’re living in 1984. America may not have concentration camps yet, but we’re sure enough working on ‘em.
* William John Cox is a retired supervising prosecutor for the State Bar of California. Acting as a public interest, pro bono, attorney, he filed a class action lawsuit in 1979 on behalf of every citizen of the United States petitioning the Supreme Court to order the other two branches of the federal government to conduct a National Policy Referendum; he investigated and successfully sued a group of radical right-wing organizations in 1981 that denied the Holocaust; and he arranged in 1991 for the publication of the suppressed Dead Sea Scrolls. His 2004 book, You’re Not Stupid! Get the Truth: A Brief on the Bush Presidency is reviewed at www.yourenotstupid.com, and his political writings are collected at www.thevoters.org.
William John Cox