Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Comparing USA to Egypt... or why is the US under permanent State of Emergency and what does it mean

George Washington (Washington's Blog) has today an interesting review of the State of Emergency that rules the USA since 2001 and what it implies:

Just to introduce the matter, it may well happen that the reader is unaware that the USA has been under permanent State of Emergency since September 11 2001 (just like Egypt since even before).

The State of Emergency allows the US President to legally do as he wants:

... the President may: seize property; organize and control the means of production; seize commodities; assign military forces abroad; institute martial law; seize and control all transportation and communications; regulate the operation of private enterprise; restrict travel; and, in a plethora of particular ways, control the lives of all American citizens.

He then goes on to detail what is known of what is actually active in the States under this permanent State of Emergency:

One of the most striking is the Continuity of Government plan, which in fact creates a "shadow government". Even the Homeland Security Committee of US Congress has been denied information on all this continuity of government matter, though they theoretically have the right to access that information. One of its members, Peter De Fazio declared that:

Maybe the people who think there’s a conspiracy out there are right.

In this sense, Dale Scott warned that:

... if the White House is successful in frustrating DeFazio, then Continuity of Government planning has arguably already superseded the Constitution as a higher authority.
Importantly, CoG means that:
  • Normal laws and legal processes might largely be suspended, or superseded by secretive judicial forums
  • The media might be ordered by strict laws – punishable by treason – to only promote stories authorized by the new government
  • Military forces can be used for anything at presidential discretion even against US citizens.
  • Any type of dissidence or protest may eventually be labeled as terrorism or treason.
Essentially: the rule of law and freedom of speech are destroyed by the effect of a permanent state of emergency. This is the sad situation the USA has allowed itself in since 2001. 

Sometimes I have been questioned on the matter of the September 2001 Coup in the USA and Empire because "there was no coup". Sorry but the permanent State of Emergency and related Mubarak-style authoritarianism are the coup.

Who asked this seemed to think that only people in military fatigues can make coups and that these are obvious since day one because a Junta is officially constituted or something. Sorry but it is not that way: by effectively suppressing legal civil and human rights guarantees, freedom of speech, habeas corpus, etc. you are making a coup anyhow and suppressing all democracy except maybe a decorative pretense, pretense also enjoyed by the worst dictators of history.


  1. While there are legitimate concerns and actual abuses (mostly by intelligence agencies rather than the military), this post vastly overstates them.

    The "continuity of government" plan concerns are hyperbole and silly conspiracy theory stuff. Most of its is surmise, it isn't constitutional, the concerns involve areas where there are often specific laws prohibiting such activity, and most importantly, the alleged over reaching wouldn't be honored even if it did exist by the people in the government responsible for doing so. Indeed, socialization of Egyptian officers by U.S. military officers in military exchanges is probably one reason among many that the Army has been less than steadfast in its backing of the Egyptian regime.

    The authorization of the use of force that followed 9-11 and is the legal basis for the war in Afghanistan and broader anti-terrorist actions is not unbounded and efforts to use it against U.S. citizens have produced only a couple of equivocal test cases that have proven that for practical if not strictly legal purposes that a military approach doesn't work for domestic civilian U.S. citizen cases.

    The only areas where there is notable ongoing post-9-11 policy domestically is in stricter air travel security, greater use of warrantless intelligence agency wiretapping, and greater enforcement of civilian regulatory and criminal terrorism oriented laws particularly in money transfer transactions.

    There has been a radical shift in how the U.S. deals with perceived foreign terrorists which includes assassination orders for people abroad perceived to be terrorists who target the U.S. or its allies and citizens (whether those targets are U.S. citizen or not), that pay little attention to innocents such as family members and family servants who might be killed in such attempts. There are also significant foreign prison camps (most notably Baghram Air Force base) that are being used to prevent detained terrorism suspects from distant locations from being supervised by U.S. courts despite U.S. sole control of the facilities, although indefinite incapacitating detention of suspected insurgents connected to war activities in Afghanistan are much more common. But, even then, most of the military action is not particularly unusual for counterinsurgency war fighting. The exceptional activities (in terms of legality and human rights concerns) abroad have been by intelligence agencies, mostly the CIA, which is fighting, for example, the drone war in Pakistan.

  2. I realize that some people in the USA like to see it being other way, as if everything was still like in the 80s or 90s, so to say, but nope.

    I'm not too certain about CoG stuff, largely because it is a secretive thing. But I am certain that, without wavering, the emergency powers are used normally, to close internet sites without judiciary order, to impose indeed restrictions to travel, to declare wars without Congress approval, as well as other stuff you mention or not (wiretapping, preventive arrest, etc.)

    I am anyhow particularly concerned that the USHSD in particular, which has become all powerful in these last decade, is using the emergency powers, is actually issuing secret orders to companies under the cover of the emergency decree. There have been too many cases of Internet intervention without clear judiciary guarantees, notably in the last months against Wikileaks, but also against US citizens.

    And it's even possible that they are issuing secret gag orders to the media. Not that they really need to do it, because all media is in the hands of very few people, but sometimes you really wonder why they are remaining silent in certain issues like the Gulf Oil Massacre.

    But most important is that the decree allows for the use of such unlimited Hitler-like powers at whim and that Congress and the US People is being kept on the dark on these matters. So it's totally against the US constitution and the very concept of democracy.

  3. "to declare wars without Congress approval"

    Congress has yet to see a war that it doesn't like, expressly authorized the general scheme of military action that is being carried out by the U.S. government (in Afghanistan, against terrorist groups and in Iraq), holds the purse strings that could shut it down in short order (and has had minorities who have proposed to do so -- the war funding was only passed with Republican support and less than half of Democrats), and has specifically prevented President Obama from backtracking from George W. Bush administration policies that have violated human rights and led to international outrage (e.g. conducting criminal rather than military trials of suspected terrorists in Guantanamo Bay).

    To the extent that the U.S. is acting improperly, it is not really an executive branch usurpation of legislative power. Congress has been at least as eager as the Presidency to pursue to these policies and has dramatically expanded the resources available to agencies that have been acting in a questionable fashion.

  4. Fair enough about Congress - it's a wealthy people's club anyhow.

    But civil liberties' violations are becoming a constant. Without basic liberties, without real free press (other than blogs and such) and with all the power resorts in the hands of a handful of oligarchs, the status of the USA as a democracy is not as clear as it used to be.

    And most of it you have to blame to the 9-11 coup and special laws in force since then against a ghost enemy which is actually in the Pentagon.


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