Working for the Clampdown
How many pipe bombs might it take to end U.S. democracy? Far fewer than it would have taken a year ago. The Defense Authorization Act of 2006, passed on September 30, empowers President George W. Bush to impose martial law in the event of a terrorist “incident” or if he or other federal officials perceive a shortfall of “public order” or even in response to antiwar protests that get unruly as a result of government provocations.
The media and most of Capitol Hill ignored or cheered on this grant of nearly boundless power. But now that the president’s arsenal of authority is swollen and consecrated, a few voices of complaint are being heard. Even the New York Times recently condemned the new law for “making martial law easier….”
Section 1076 of the John Warner National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2007 changed the name of the key provision in the statute book from Insurrection Act to Enforcement of the Laws to Restore Public Order Act. The Insurrection Act of 1807 stated that the president could deploy troops within the United States only “to suppress, in a State, any insurrection, domestic violence, unlawful combination, or conspiracy.” The new law expands the list to include “natural disaster, epidemic, or other serious public health emergency, terrorist attack or incident, or other condition”—and such “con- dition” is not defined or limited.
These new pretexts are even more expansive than they appear. FEMA proclaims the equivalent of a natural disaster when bad snowstorms occur and Congress routinely proclaims a natural disaster when there is a shortfall of rain in states with upcoming elections. A terrorist “incident” could be something as stupid as the flashing toys scattered around Boston last fall.
The new law also empowers the president to commandeer the National Guard of one state to send to another state for up to 365 days. Bush could send the New York National Guard to disarm the residents of Mississippi if they resisted a federal law that prohibited private ownership of semiautomatic weapons. Governors’ control of the National Guard can be trumped with a simple presidential declaration.
The story of how Section 1076 became law demonstrates how expanding government power is almost always the correct answer in Washington. Some people have claimed the provision was slipped into the bill in the middle of the night. In reality, the Administration signaled its intent and almost no one in the media or Congress tried to stop it.
The Katrina debacle appears to have drowned Washington’s resistance to military rule. Bush declared, “I want there to be a robust discussion about the best way for the federal government, in certain extreme circumstances, to be able to rally assets for the good of the people.”
His initial proposal generated only a smattering of criticism and there was no “robust discussion.” On August 29, 2006, the Administration upped the ante, labeling the breached levees “the equivalent of a weapon of mass effect being used on the city of New Orleans.” Nobody ever defined a “weapon of mass effect,” but the term wasn’t challenged.
Section 1076 was supported by both conservatives and liberals. Sen. Carl Levin (D-MI), the ranking Democratic member on the Senate Armed Services Committee, co-wrote the provision, along with committee chair Sen. John Warner (R-VA). Sen. Ted Kennedy (D-MA) openly endorsed it and Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-CA), then-chair of the House Armed Services Committee, was an avid proponent.
This is a very important article, you should click through and read the whole thing. Is the next 9/11 being set up as we speak. A lot of signs are pointing that way.