America Might Be a More Gilded Cage than Egypt … But It Is Still a Cage
Feb 2, 2011
As the New York Times’ Lede wrote yesterday:
Here is an excerpt from “Why It Is Wrong to Believe a Word Mubarak said,” one Egyptian activist’s detailed response to President Hosni Mubarak’s speech on Tuesday:
What has Mubarak left out in his speech:
1. Emergency law is still effective, which means oppression, brutality, arrests, and torture will continue. How can you have any hope for fair democratic elections under emergency law where the police have absolute power?
America is obviously very different from Egypt. Or is it?
Let’s honestly compare and contrast the situation in the United States.
State of Emergency
The United States has been in a declared state of emergency from September 2001, to the present. Specifically, on September 11, 2001, the government declared a state of emergency. That declared state of emergency was formally put in writing on 9/14/2001:
A national emergency exists by reason of the terrorist attacks at the World Trade Center, New York, New York, and the Pentagon, and the continuing and immediate threat of further attacks on the United States.
NOW, THEREFORE, I, GEORGE W. BUSH, President of the United States of America, by virtue of the authority vested in me as President by the Constitution and the laws of the United States, I hereby declare that the national emergency has existed since September 11, 2001 . . . .
That declared state of emergency has continued in full force and effect from 9/11 to the present. President Bush kept it in place, and President Obama has also.
For example, on September 10, 2009, President Obama issued his continuation of the declaration of national emergency:
CONTINUATION OF NATIONAL EMERGENCY DECLARED BY PROC. NO. 7463
Notice of President of the United States, dated Sept. 10, 2009, 74 F.R. 46883, provided:
Consistent with section 202(d) of the National Emergencies Act, 50 U.S.C. 1622(d), I am continuing for 1 year the national emergency declared on September 14, 2001, in Proclamation 7463, with respect to the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, and the continuing and immediate threat of further attacks on the United States.
Because the terrorist threat continues, the national emergency declared on September 14, 2001, and the powers and authorities adopted to deal with that emergency, must continue in effect beyond September 14, 2009. Therefore, I am continuing in effect for an additional year the national emergency the former President declared on September 14, 2001, with respect to the terrorist threat.
This notice shall be published in the Federal Register and transmitted to the Congress.
An on September 10, 2010, President Obama declared:
Section 202(d) of the National Emergencies Act, 50 U.S.C. 1622(d), provides for the automatic termination of a national emergency unless, prior to the anniversary date of its declaration, the President publishes in the Federal Register and transmits to the Congress a notice stating that the emergency is to continue in effect beyond the anniversary date. Consistent with this provision, I have sent to the Federal Register the enclosed notice, stating that the emergency declared with respect to the terrorist attacks on the United States of September 11, 2001, is to continue in effect for an additional year.
The terrorist threat that led to the declaration on September 14, 2001, of a national emergency continues. For this reason, I have determined that it is necessary to continue in effect after September 14, 2010, the national emergency with respect to the terrorist threat.
The Washington Times wrote on September 18, 2001:
Simply by proclaiming a national emergency on Friday, President Bush activated some 500 dormant legal provisions, including those allowing him to impose censorship and martial law.
Is the Times correct? Well, it is clear that pre-9/11 declarations of national emergency have authorized martial law. For example, as summarized by a former fellow for the Hoover Institution and the National Science Foundation, and the recipient of numerous awards, including the Gary Schlarbaum Award for Lifetime Defense of Liberty, Thomas Szasz Award for Outstanding Contributions to the Cause of Civil Liberties, Lysander Spooner Award for Advancing the Literature of Liberty and Templeton Honor Rolls Award on Education in a Free Society:
In 1973, the Senate created a Special Committee on the Termination of the National Emergency (subsequently redesignated the Special Committee on National Emergencies and Delegated Emergency Powers) to investigate the matter and to propose reforms. Ascertaining the continued existence of four presidential declarations of national emergency, the Special Committee (U.S. Senate 1973, p. iii) reported:
These proclamations give force to 470 provisions of Federal law. . . . taken together, [they] confer enough authority to rule the country without reference to normal constitutional processes. Under the powers delegated by these statutes, 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.
(Most or all of the emergency powers referred to by the above-quoted 1973 Senate report were revoked in the late 1970′s by 50 U.S.C. Section 1601. However, presidents have made numerous declarations of emergency since then, and the declarations made by President Bush in September 2001 are still in effect).