Prof Peter Dale Scott
Journal of 9/11 Studies
Wed, 14 Sep 2016
In 1993 I wrote a book, Deep Politics and the Death of JFK, in which I said at the outset I was not going to try to solve the mystery of JFK's murder but to examine the politics of it.
I wish to argue here for similar research into the politics of 9/11. For the political consequences of 9/11 have been toxic, regardless of how the towers fell or who was responsible. The unusual process of their implementation deserves close study, a study which I believe will cast more light on 9/11 itself.
I hope in this paper to show that Dick Cheney responded to 9/11 by using devious means to install a small cabal of lawyers - most notoriously John Yoo - who proceeded conspiratorially in the next weeks to exclude their superiors, while secretly authorizing measures ranging from warrantless surveillance and detention to torture.
Some of these were measures which Cheney and Rumsfeld had previously been preparing for almost two decades, as central figures in the secret agency planning for so-called Continuity of Government (COG). It was revealed in the 1980s that these plans aimed at granting a president emergency powers, uncurbed by congressional restraints, to intervene abroad, and also to detain large numbers of those who might protest such actions.
On 9/11, the 9/11 Report confirms, COG was implemented. As we shall see, Cheney promptly ordered the three top figures in the Justice Department out of Washington to a designated COG site buried deep underground.
This allowed Cheney's cabal to deal instead, starting that same afternoon, with John Yoo in the Justice Department command center. At that time John Yoo, a 34-year-old distinguished chiefly for his repeated defense of Cheney's eccentric views on presidential authority, had only been in the government for two months.
As a consequence, since 9/11 we have seen warrantless surveillance, suspension of habeas corpus, and the militarization of homeland security, on an unprecedented scale that is not just illegal but an erasure of rights specified in the U.S. constitution.
Furthermore, the secrecy and speed of the manner in which our rights were drastically subverted is itself an affront to the ideals of America as an open society: one in which major changes to our political fabric are only made through authorized channels, and after debate.
The Background: Continuity of Government Planning
The origin of many of these measures - both their content and their secret planning outside of channels - was the secret Continuity of Government (COG) planning that Rumsfeld and Cheney had been engaged in since 1982.
In the 1980s three secret COG provisions were roughly identified by Alfonso Chardy of the Miami News and Ross Gelbspan of the Boston Globe. According to Chardy in 1987,
the plans envisaged suspension of the Constitution, turning control of the government over to the Federal Emergency Management Agency [FEMA], emergency appointment of military commanders to run state and local governments and declaration of martial law during a national crisis."
Gelbspan added that North was also working with FEMA officials on a secret contingency plan to surveil political dissenters and to arrange for the detention of hundreds of thousands of undocumented aliens in case of an unspecified national emergency.
The detention planning was clearly aimed at protesters, many of them Hispanic, who objected to Reagan's policies in Nicaragua and El Salvador. (Col. Oliver North, who coordinated the planning, was also at the center of a "three-year operation aimed at monitoring the activities of U.S.-based opponents of Reagan's Central America policies.")
Between them, the two journalists thus pointed to the content of the surveillance, detention, and militarization measureswhich, after over a decade of further refinement, were finally implemented on 9/11.
They also indicated how secret, extra-constitutional, and unaccountable was the process of the COG planning. Chardy accurately referred to North's network as "a virtual parallel government outside the traditional Cabinet departments and agencies almost from the day Reagan took office."
Four years later, in 1991, CNN revealed for the first time that North and FEMA were under a secret National Program Office (NPO) in charge of Continuity of Government (COG) planning, known in the Pentagon as "the Doomsday Project." It called the NPO a "shadow government . . . about which you know nothing." And in 2004 two authors, James Mann and James Bamford, wrote that in the 1980s two central figures guiding North in the Doomsday planning, which Mann called "extralegal and extraconstitutional," had been Donald Rumsfeld and Dick Cheney.
The new details from Bamford and Mann about this multi-billion program were invaluable. But unfortunately both men believed, because of a very misleading story in the New York Times, that under Clinton "officials decided to abandon the program as an outdated legacy of the cold war."
Both men were wrong: all that had been abandoned was the original and completely honorable purpose of COG planning under Truman and Eisenhower - to deal with the catastrophe of an atomic attack. Under Reagan the planning, from the outset, had shifted to dealing with any emergency. Not only did the planning by Rumsfeld and Cheney continue under Clinton, it was augmented.
How very true, then, was Mann's observation that
Cheney and Rumsfeld were, in a sense, a part of the permanent hidden national-security apparatus of the United States—inhabitants of a world in which Presidents come and go, but America keeps on fighting.
This situation was particularly disturbing under Clinton, when Rumsfeld (and possibly Cheney) continued to plan for subordination of the constitution, even though at this time neither man was in the government. Both men were now CEOs of large private corporations (as Rumsfeld had been since recruited in 1982 for the task). And one of the planners told Andrew Cockburn that the Clinton administration had "no idea what was going on." (Such phenomena persuaded me to analyze 9/11 as a deep event, to be analyzed in the context of the American deep state.)
Private corporation leaders had been brought into COG planning under Eisenhower, because recovery from a nuclear attack would have required a corporate as well as government response. Ike could hardly have foreseen that under Reagan private people would begin to plan for the extralegal surveillance and detention of their fellow citizens, still less that these plans would finally be implemented by two of the central planners — Rumsfeld and Cheney — on September 11, 2001.
The Implementation of COG Measures on 9/11
As the 9/11 Report confirms (pp. 38, 226), on 9/11 COG plans were indeed implemented, before the last plane had crashed in Pennsylvania. It was under the auspices of COG that Bush stayed out of Washington on that day, and other government leaders like Paul Wolfowitz were swiftly evacuated to COG's Site R, inside a hollowed out mountain near Camp David.
These emergency measures were soon followed by two White House Declarations of Emergency: Executive Order 13223 of September 14, 2001 ("Ordering the Ready Reserve of the Armed Forces to Active Duty"), and Executive Order 13224 of September 23, 2001 ("with respect to persons who commit, threaten to commit, or support terrorism").
There was much more to come.
Within hours of the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon on Sept. 11, 2001, Dick Cheney in effect took command of the national security operations of the federal government. Quickly and instinctively, he began to act in response to two longstanding beliefs: that the great dangers facing the United States justified almost any response, whether or not legal; and that the presidency needed vastly to enhance its authority, which had been unjustifiably and dangerously weakened in the post-Vietnam, post-Watergate years.
James Mann has argued that COG implementation was the "hidden backdrop" to Cheney's actions on 9/11, when he "urged President Bush to stay out of Washington," and later removed himself to more than one "'undisclosed location'".
According to Jane Mayer, Cheney's chief aide that day in revamping government was his long-time legal assistant David Addington (a veteran with Cheney of COG planning). All sources follow theWashington Post in asserting that Addington initially walked away when the order was given to vacate the White House, then was summoned back by Cheney. Yet Mayer writes that "Within minutes of the September 11 terrorist attacks, Addington began to assert himself as the war on terror's indispensable man."