THREE TIMES FEMA STOOD BY READY FOR EMERGENCY
In April 1984, President Reagan signed Presidential Director Number 54 that allowed FEMA to engage in a secret national “readiness exercise” under the code name of REX 84. The exercise was to test FEMA’s readiness to assume military authority in the event of a “State of Domestic National Emergency” concurrent with the launching of a direct United States military operation in Central America. The plan called for the deputation of U.S. military and National Guard units so that they could legally be used for domestic law enforcement. These units would be assigned to conduct sweeps and take into custody an estimated 400,000 undocumented Central American immigrants in the United States. The immigrants would be interned at 10 detention centers to be set up at military bases throughout the country.
REX 84 was so highly guarded that special metal security doors were placed on the fifth floor of the FEMA building in Washington, D.C. Even long-standing employees of the Civil Defense of the Federal Executive Department possessing the highest possible security clearances were not being allowed through the newly installed metal security doors. Only personnel wearing a special red Christian cross or crucifix lapel pin were allowed into the premises. Lt. Col. North was responsible for drawing up the emergency plan, which U.S. Attorney General William French Smith opposed vehemently. The plan called for the suspension of the Constitution, turning control of the government over to FEMA, appointment of military commanders to run state and local governments and the declaration of Martial Law. The Presidential Executive Orders to support such a plan were already in place. The plan also advocated the rounding up and transfer to “assembly centers or relocation camps” of a least 21 million American Negroes in the event of massive rioting or disorder, not unlike the rounding up of the Jews in Nazi Germany in the 1930s.
The second known time that FEMA stood by was in 1990 when Desert Storm was enacted. Prior to President Bush’s invasion of Iraq, FEMA began to draft new legislation to increase its already formidable powers. One of the elements incorporated into the plan was to set up operations within any state or locality without the prior permission of local or state authorities. Such prior permission has always been required in the past. Much of the mechanism being set into place was in anticipation of the economic collapse of the Western World. The war with Iraq may have been conceived as a ploy to boost the bankrupt economy, but it only pushed the West into deeper recession.
The third scenario for FEMA came with the Los Angeles riots after the Rodney King brutality verdict. Had the rioting spread to other cities, FEMA would have been empowered to step in. As it was, major rioting only occurred in the Los Angeles area, thus preventing a pretext for a FEMA response.
On July 5, 1987, the Miami Herald published reports on FEMA’s new goals. The goal was to suspend the Constitution in the event of a national crisis, such as nuclear war, violent and widespread internal dissent, or national opposition to a U.S. military invasion abroad. Lt. Col. North was the architect. National Security Directive Number 52 issued in August 1982, pertains to the “Use of National Guard Troops to Quell Disturbances.”
The crux of the problem is that FEMA has the power to turn the United States into a police state in time of a real crisis or a manufactured crisis. Lt. Col. North virtually established the apparatus for dictatorship. Only the criticism of the Attorney General prevented the plans from being adopted. But intelligence reports indicate that FEMA has a folder with 22 Executive Orders for the President to sign in case of an emergency. It is believed those Executive Orders contain the framework of North’s concepts, delayed by criticism but never truly abandoned.
The crisis, as the government now see it, is civil unrest. For generations, the government was concerned with nuclear war, but the violent and disruptive demonstrations that surrounded the Vietnam War era prompted President Nixon to change the direction of emergency powers from war time to times of domestic unrest. Diana Raynolds, program director of the Edward R. Murrow Center, summed up the dangers of FEMA today and the public reaction to Martial Law in a drug crisis: “It was James Madison’s worst nightmare that a righteous faction would someday be strong enough to sweep away the Constitutional restraints designed by the framers to prevent the tyranny of centralized power, excessive privilege, an arbitrary governmental authority over the individual. These restraints, the balancing and checking of powers among branches and layers of government, and the civil guarantees, would be the first casualties in a drug-induced national security state with Reagan’s Civil Emergency Preparedness unleashed. Nevertheless, there would be those who would welcome NSC (National Security Council) into the drug fray, believing that increasing state police powers to emergency levels is the only way left to fight American’s enemy within. In the short run, a national security state would probably be a relief to those whose personal security and quality of life has been diminished by drugs or drug related crime. And, as the general public watches the progression of institutional chaos and social decay, they too may be willing to pay the ultimate price, one drug free America for 200 years of democracy.”