In case of an emergency in the United States, Congress has long had the power to declare an emergency and set in motion all the U.S. provisions that deal with emergencies. There are the Patriot Act and the War and Emergency Powers Act of 1933 and more. Presidents over the years have assumed more and more power by issuing a multitude of Executive Orders, many of them secret. There is nothing in the constitution to authorize these, but they are “the law” none-the-less. There is also a National Security Presidential Directive/NSPD 51 (http://www.whitehouse.gov/news/releases/2007/05/20070509-12.html) and a Homeland Security Presidential Directive/HSPD-20 (http://www.whitehouse.gov/news/releases/2007/05/20070509-12.html) which assigns all power to the executive branch in case of a catastrophic emergency.
The outlook for our democracy in case of emergency has always been bleak. Our democracy is in danger with all the above lurking. Once an emergency is declared, we will live in a dictatorship.
The situation today is MUCH WORSE than even the above would indicate. Prepare to UPDATE THE HORROR!
Congress has given Bush himself blanket authority to declare an emergency. Today the president can himself declare an emergency any time he wants to for ANY reason at all. We will live in the military dictatorship that follows. Congress can do nothing about it — ever. There will be no Congress.
There is no Act with a name for U.S. to look up. Bush got his new power in a way more devious than that.
A few paragraphs giving such authorization were slipped into the massive defense bill, the 591-page Defense Appropriations Act of 2006:
On September 30, 2006, the Congress modified the Insurrection Act as part of the 2007 Defense Authorization Bill. Section 1076 of the new law changes Sec. 333 of the “Insurrection Act,” and widens the President’s ability to deploy troops within the United States to enforce the laws. Under this act, the President may also deploy troops as a police force during a natural disaster, epidemic, serious public health emergency, terrorist attack, or other condition, when the President determines that the authorities of the state are incapable of maintaining public order. The bill also modified Sec. 334 of the Insurrection Act, giving the President authority to order the dispersal of either insurgents or “those obstructing the enforcement of the laws.” The new law changed the name of the chapter from “Insurrection” to “Enforcement of the Laws to Restore Public Order.” (Wiki)
The 2007 Defense Authorization Bill, with over $500 billion allocated to the military, and which also contained the changes to the Insurrection Act of 1807, was passed by a bipartisan majority of both houses of Congress: 398-23 in the House and by unanimous consent in the Senate. (Wiki) They amended U.S. martial law statutes. Maybe most in Congress have no idea what they did. There was no public debate or media attention. They were rushed through the Republican-controlled Congress before the 2006 elections and enacted into law.
Those paragraphs almost destroyed two acts which were obscure bulwarks of our liberty. One is the Posse Comitatus Act. The entire text of the Posse Comitatus Act is as follows:
“Whoever, except in cases and under circumstances expressly authorized by the Constitution or Act of Congress, willfully uses any part of the Army or the Air Force as a posse comitatus or otherwise to execute the laws shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than two years, or both”. (Wiki)
The other is the Insurrection Act of 1807:
The laws are chiefly contained in 10 U.S.C. § 331 – 10 U.S.C. § 335. The general aim is to limit Presidential power as much as possible, relying on state and local governments for initial response in the event of insurrection. Coupled with the Posse Comitatus Act, Presidential powers for law enforcement are limited and delayed.
Throughout U.S. history the latter had limited the president’s domestic use of the U.S. military against the American people in case of lawlessness, insurrection and rebellion. In order for military forces to be used under the provisions of the revised Insurrection Act, the following conditions must be met:
(1) The President may employ the armed forces, including the National Guard in Federal service, to–
(A) restore public order and enforce the laws of the United States when, as a result of a natural disaster, epidemic, or other serious public health emergency, terrorist attack or incident, or other condition in any State or possession of the United States, the President determines that–
(i) domestic violence has occurred to such an extent that the constituted authorities of the State or possession are incapable of maintaining public order; and
(ii) such violence results in a condition described in paragraph (2); or
(B) suppress, in a State, any insurrection, domestic violence, unlawful combination, or conspiracy if such insurrection, violation, combination, or conspiracy results in a condition described in paragraph (2).
(2) A condition described in this paragraph is a condition that–
(A) so hinders the execution of the laws of a State or possession, as applicable, and of the United States within that State or possession, that any part or class of its people is deprived of a right, privilege, immunity, or protection named in the Constitution and secured by law, and the constituted authorities of that State or possession are unable, fail, or refuse to protect that right, privilege, or immunity, or to give that protection; or
(B) opposes or obstructs the execution of the laws of the United States or impedes the course of justice under those laws. (Wiki)
Now after 2006 the president can use the military as a domestic police force. That is the first critical point.
The second is he can do it by declaring an “emergency” in response to a natural disaster, disease outbreak, terrorist attack, and “any other condition.” A blank check!! For any reason! Under the newly amended statute, Bush does not even have to notify Congress of his intent to use military force against the American people. He just has to notify Congress after he has done so.
Bush would take over by declaring a state of emergency, starting all the administrative procedures already in statutes and in the often secret Executive Orders and Directives. It will be a military dictatorship. Google “martial law.” The Constitution will be suspended overtly or in effect. The Bill of Rights will be null and void. Congress and Federal courts will have no power. There will be no rules, no protections, AND NO ELECTIONS.
In countless practices for responding to such an “emergency,” practices by Cheney as well as others in government, there was never any plan for reconstituting Congress. An “emergency” will end even the appearance of the United States as a democracy.
I greatly fear that those planning to demonstrate at the Conventions in August could precipitate a state of “emergency.” Or a terrorist attack somewhere in the US could precipitate same. Bush could declare an emergency for that or any other reason. There is some speculation that he might find an excuse to do so – to cancel the November 4 election if Obama looks like the winner.
Hold your breath until January 20th.