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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 (EO) 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 (USNORTHCOM), 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.
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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.
Under color of the 2008 National Defense Authorization Act, an unsavory piece of Bushist legislative detritus, "The President shall establish a bipartisan Council of Governors to advise the Secretary of Defense, the Secretary of Homeland Security, and the White House Homeland Security Council on matters related to the National Guard and civil support missions."
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The toothless Council, whose Executive Director will be designated by the Secretary of Defense no less, "shall meet at the call of the Secretary of Defense or the Co-Chairs of the Council."
Will such a Council have veto power over administration deliberations? Hardly. They are relegated "to exchange views, information, or advice with the Secretary of Defense; the Secretary of Homeland Security" and "the Assistant to the President for Homeland Security and Counterterrorism."
Additional entities covered by the EO with whom the Governors Council will "exchange views" include, "the Assistant to the President for Intergovernmental Affairs and Public Engagement; the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Homeland Defense and Americas’ Security Affairs; the Commander, United States Northern Command; the Chief, National Guard Bureau; the Commandant of the Coast Guard; and other appropriate officials of the Department of Homeland Security and the Department of Defense, and appropriate officials of other executive departments or agencies as may be designated by the Secretary of Defense or the Secretary of Homeland Security."
In other words, right from the get-go, the Council will serve as civilian cover for political decisions made by the Executive Branch and the security apparat. EO 13528 continues, "Such views, information, or advice shall concern: (a) matters involving the National Guard of the various States; (b) homeland defense; (c) civil support; (d) synchronization and integration of State and Federal military activities in the United States; and (e) other matters of mutual interest pertaining to National Guard, homeland defense, and civil support activities."
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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 (NGA).
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.
January 20, 2010
Tom Burghardt is a researcher and activist based in the San Francisco Bay Area. In addition to publishing in Covert Action Quarterly and Global Research, an independent research and media group of writers, scholars, journalists and activists based in Montreal, his articles can be read on Dissident Voice, The Intelligence Daily, Pacific Free Press and the whistleblowing website Wikileaks. He is the editor of Police State America: U.S. Military “Civil Disturbance” Planning, distributed by AK Press.