Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Martial Law - First Step to President for Life

Those of you who hang on every word I write (all one of you) will remember a little thing I wrote back in late June called He's Not Leaving, which was published on Buzzflash.

I got a lot of good feedback on the piece, which I confess surprised me a little, since even I thought it was a bit farther outside the box than I was usually comfortable with. If you have any interest in reading some of that feedback, here is the article as it appeared on this blog:

However, subsequent events and legislation only made me believe what I said in that column even more. And the following article all but cements it - Bush is planning to stay on in the White House beyond January 20, 2009.

Here's one of quite a few ways he's going to do it:

It’s amazing what you can find if you turn over a few rocks in the anti-terrorism legislation Congress approved during the election season.

Take, for example, the John W. Warner Defense Authorization Act of 2006, named for the longtime Armed Services Committee chairman from Virginia.

Signed by President Bush on Oct. 17, the law (PL 109-364) has a provocative provision called “Use of the Armed Forces in Major Public Emergencies.”

The thrust of it seems to be about giving the federal government a far stronger hand in coordinating responses to Katrina-like disasters.

But on closer inspection, its language also alters the two-centuries-old Insurrection Act, which Congress passed in 1807 to limit the president’s power to deploy troops within the United States.


That law has long allowed the president to mobilize troops only “to suppress, in a State, any insurrection, domestic violence, unlawful combination, or conspiracy.”

But the amended law takes the cuffs off.

Specifically, the new language adds “natural disaster, epidemic, or other serious public health emergency, terrorist attack or incident” to the list of conditions permitting the President to take over local authority — particularly “if domestic violence has occurred to such an extent that the constituted authorities of the State or possession are incapable of maintaining public order.”

Since the administration broadened what constitutes “conspiracy” in its definition of enemy combatants — anyone who “has purposely and materially supported hostilities against the United States,” in the language of the Military Commissions Act (PL 109-366) — critics say it’s a formula for executive branch mischief.

Yet despite such a radical turn, the new law garnered little dissent, or even attention, on the Hill.

One of the few to complain, Sen. Patrick J. Leahy, D-Vt., warned that the measure virtually invites the White House to declare federal martial law.

It “subverts solid, longstanding posse comitatus statutes that limit the military’s involvement in law enforcement, thereby making it easier for the President to declare martial law,” he said in remarks submitted to the Congressional Record on Sept. 29.

“The changes to the Insurrection Act will allow the President to use the military, including the National Guard, to carry out law enforcement activities without the consent of a governor,” he said.

Moreover, he said, it breaks a long, fundamental tradition of federal restraint.

“Using the military for law enforcement goes against one of the founding tenets of our democracy.”

And he criticized the way it was rammed through Congress.

It “was just slipped in the defense bill as a rider with little study,” he fumed. “Other congressional committees with jurisdiction over these matters had no chance to comment, let alone hold hearings on, these proposals.”

No matter: Safely tucked into the $526 billion defense bill, it easily crossed the goal line on the last day of September.

Silence

The language doesn’t just brush aside a liberal Democrat slated to take over the Judiciary Committee come January. It also runs over the backs of the governors, 22 of whom are Republicans.

The governors had waved red flags about the measure on Aug. 1, sending letters of protest from their Washington office to the Republican chairs and ranking Democrats on the House and Senate Armed Services committees.

No response. So they petitioned the party heads on the Hill — Sens. Bill Frist, R-Tenn., and Harry Reid, D-Nev., Speaker of the House J. Dennis Hastert, R-Ill., and his Democratic opposite, Nancy Pelosi of California.

“This provision was drafted without consultation or input from governors,” said the Aug. 6 letter signed by every member of the National Governors Association, “and represents an unprecedented shift in authority from governors . . .to the federal government.”

“We urge you,” they said, “to drop provisions that would usurp governors’ authority over the National Guard during emergencies from the conference agreement on the National Defense Authorization Act.”

Again, no response from the leadership, said David Quam, the National Governors Association’s director of federal relations.

On Aug. 31, the governors sent another letter to the congressional party leaders, as well as to Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld, who had met quietly with an NGA delegation back in February.

The bill “could encroach on our constitutional authority to protect the citizens of our states,” they protested, complaining again about how the provision had been dumped on a midnight express.

“Any issue that affects the mission of the Guard in the states must be addressed in consultation and coordination with governors,” they demanded.

“The role of the Guard in the states and to the nation as a whole is too important to have major policy decisions made without full debate and input from governors throughout the policy process.”

More silence.

“We did not know until the bill was printed where we stood,” Quam said.

That’s partly the governors’ own fault, said a Republican Senate aide.

“My understanding is that they sent form letters to offices,” she said. “If they really want a piece of legislation considered they should have called offices and pushed the matter. No office can handle the amount of form letters that come in each day.”

Quam disputed that.

“The letter was only the beginning of the conversation,” he said. “The NGA and the governors’ offices reached out across the Hill.”

Blogosphere

Looking back at the government’s chaotic response to Katrina, it’s not altogether surprising that the provision drew so little opposition in Congress and attention from the mainstream media.

And of course, it was wrapped in a monster defense bill related to the emergency in Iraq.

But the blogosphere, of course, was all over it.

A close analysis of the bill by Frank Morales, a 58-year-old Episcopal priest in New York who occasionally writes for left-wing publications, spurred a score of liberal and conservative libertarian Web sites to take a look at it.

But a search of The Washington Post and New York Times archives, using the terms “Insurrection Act,” “martial law” and “Congress,” came up empty.

That’s not to say the papers don’t care: There’s just too much going on in the global war on terror to keep up with, much less write about such a seemingly insignificant provision. The martial law section of the Defense Appropriation Act, for example, takes up just a few paragraphs in the 591-page document.

What else is in there? More intriguing stuff, it looks like — and I’m working my way through it.

1 comment:

fyi said...

Rich, Great thread! Very pointed and articulate. I saw on BGR that you wanted to know what Nickolas deleted on his thread about Lunsford. Appears that the deleted post has shown up on other blogs, in its entirety, as a cut & paste before Mark deleted it, but pointing out that Mark deleted it.

You can find it if you check out: conservachick.com in a thread titled, "Jibjabbing 2006."

You can also find it on Kentucky Progress, in the thread titled, "President Gilmore."

I took your advise on BGR Rich, I decided not to cut & paste the deleted post cuz I knew Nickolas would just delete it again and maybe even ban me from posting. I wish he would stop banning people - I like hearing all the ideas - even the ones that are far out.