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Profile: Continuity of Government (COG)
Continuity of Government (COG) was a participant or observer in the following events:
The Special Routing Arrangement Service (SRAS), which is run by the National Communications System (NCS), is turned on for “exercise mode,” meaning it is ready to be utilized the following day in response to the terrorist attacks. [9/11 Commission, 3/16/2004 ] The NCS, which is part of the Department of Defense, is a relatively small agency established by President John F. Kennedy in 1963, and which is intended to ensure the uninterrupted availability of critical communications networks during times of national crisis. It is mandated to insure that critical telephony and data continue to flow, even when the US is under attack. [Verton, 2003, pp. 136; Clarke, 2004, pp. 20; National Communications System, 10/21/2007]
System Is 'Miraculously' Ready to Function on September 11 - Brenton Greene, the director of the NCS, will tell the 9/11 Commission that “[o]n the 10th of September, miraculously, the SRAS… system was turned on for exercise mode, and thus it was ready to function on September 11.” A summary of Greene’s interview with the Commission will indicate that the SRAS is related to the highly secret Continuity of Government (COG) plan. [9/11 Commission, 3/16/2004 ] This plan aims to ensure that the federal government will continue to function in the event of an attack on the US, and it will be activated for the first time on September 11 (see (Between 9:45 a.m. and 9:56 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [Atlantic Monthly, 3/2004; ABC News, 4/25/2004] The SRAS reportedly provides “a vehicle for continuity of operations by providing survivable communications linkages to federal and defense end users over the public network.” [Department of Homeland Security, 5/2007 ] Whether the SRAS is turned on for “exercise mode” because the NCS or its National Coordinating Center (NCC) in Arlington, Virginia, are conducting or participating in a training exercise is unstated.
SRAS Relates to Continuity of Government Program - Greene will tell the 9/11 Commission that one of the NCS’s three main programs relates to COG. “The main communications system of the country must be kept going or no one can communicate,” he will say. Therefore, “There is a separate network linking the National Coordinating Center and the major carriers and networks as a backup.” According to Greene, “In the situation where Continuity of Government is put into play, there is a communications system where no one can trace the site of the call on either end.” (Presumably this is a reference to the SRAS.) This backup communications network, according to Greene, will prove “its value as a separate link on 9/11, because it coordinated network use between Network Operations Centers while the network was saturated.” [9/11 Commission, 3/16/2004 ]
NCS Plays Important Role on 9/11 - Robert Kenny, the director of media relations for the Federal Communications Commission’s Public Safety and Homeland Security Bureau, will later recall, “We found that [the NCS] program was very helpful during September 11.” [CNET News, 1/16/2009] The NCC will be activated that day in response to the attacks (see (8:48 a.m.) September 11, 2001) and will support subsequent recovery efforts. [9/11 Commission, 3/16/2004 ] Earlier that morning, the CIA will actually be giving a briefing to the NCS about the international terrorist threat to the US’s telecommunications infrastructure (see 8:00 a.m.-9:03 a.m. September 11, 2001). [Verton, 2003, pp. 135-139]
At some point after the White House is ordered to evacuate and while Air Force One is preparing to take off in Florida, counterterrorism “tsar” Richard Clarke activates the Continuity of Government (COG) plan. The coordinator for Continuity of Government has joined Clarke in the White House Situation Room. Clarke asks, “How do I activate COG?” Recalling this conversation, he will later comment, “In the exercises we had done, the person playing the president had always given that order.” But the coordinator replies, “You tell me to do it.” Soon after, Clarke instructs him, “Go.” [Clarke, 2004, pp. 8]
First Time COG Plan Activated - The Continuity of Government plan, which dates back to the Reagan administration, had originally prepared to set up a new leadership for the US in the event of a nuclear war. This is apparently the first time it has ever been put into effect. Clarke will recall, “Every federal agency was ordered… to activate an alternative command post, an alternative headquarters outside of Washington, DC, and to staff it as soon as possible.” Cabinet officers are dispatched around the country, and people in Congress are taken to alternative locations.
Clarke Regularly Particiated in COG Exercises - Since the 1980s, Clarke has in fact been a regular participant in secret COG exercises that rehearsed this plan (see (1984-2004)). [Washington Post, 4/7/2004; ABC News, 4/25/2004] Vice President Dick Cheney and Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld also participated (see 1981-1992). [Atlantic Monthly, 3/2004] Kenneth Duberstein, formerly President Reagan’s White House chief of staff, who took part in the exercises as well, will recall: “I said to myself, as we proceeded through the day [of 9/11], ‘It’s working.’ All those days of patriotic duty were coming back and they were working.” According to ABC News, “If executive branch leaders and large numbers of congressmen had been killed in an attack on the United States, the plan could have gone further, officials suggest, perhaps even with non-elected leaders of the United States taking control and declaring martial law.” [ABC News, 4/25/2004] According to a White House timeline of the events of 9/11, it is in fact Cheney that “orders implementation of Continuity of Government and Continuity of Operations procedures,” at 9:55 a.m., although, according to the Washington Post, Cheney only “officially implemented the emergency Continuity of Government orders,” rather than activating the plan. [White House, 2001; Washington Post, 1/27/2002]
President Bush issues a classified presidential directive updating the nation’s secretive post-disaster “National Continuity Policy.” The highly classified Continuity of Government (COG) and Continuity of Operations (COOP) plans are designed to keep the government functioning in times of national emergency. Bush’s presidential directive, officially titled National Security Presidential Directive 51 (NSPD-51)/Homeland Security Presidential Directive 20 (HSPD-20), is described by the Boston Globe as a “special kind of executive order that can be kept secret.” The non-classified portion of the directive is posted quietly on the White House website, with no explanation. The document states, “It is the policy of the United States to maintain a comprehensive and effective continuity capability composed of Continuity of Operations and Continuity of Government programs in order to ensure the preservation of our form of government.” The directive orders executive branch officials to establish a wide range of special protocols to keep the government running during an emergency. The directive stresses the importance of relocating to alternative facilities, delegating powers to emergency leaders, and securing and allocating the nation’s vital resources. According to NSPD-51, the special emergency plans should be ready to go at a moment’s notice, and incorporated into the daily operations of all executive departments and agencies. The special emergency protocols are designed for any “catastrophic emergency,” which NSPD-51 defines as “any incident, regardless of location, that results in extraordinary levels of mass casualties, damage, or disruption severely affecting the US population, infrastructure, environment, economy, or government functions.” Incidents falling into this category would not be limited to hostile attacks, the document makes clear, but would also include “localized acts of nature” and “accidents.” The new plan centralizes post-disaster planning in the White House, and appears to limit the powers of the legislative and judicial branches in times of emergency. The directive creates the position of national continuity coordinator, which is to be held by the assistant to the president for homeland security and counterterrorism. The secretary of homeland security and the national continuity coordinator are to oversee the development and implementation of the continuity plans. [Washington Post, 5/10/2007; US President, 5/14/2007 ; Progressive, 5/18/2007; Boston Globe, 6/2/2007]
Conservative Commentators Warn of 'Dictatorial Powers' - Conservative commentator Jerome Corsi says the directive appears to give the president a legal mechanism to seize “dictatorial powers” since it would not require consultation with Congress about when to invoke emergency powers, or when to relinquish them. It is also noted that the new plan does not explicitly acknowledge the National Emergencies Act, which gives Congress the authority to override the president’s determination that a national emergency still exists. James Carafano, a homeland security specialist at the Heritage Foundation, says that the lack of an explanation for the unexpected directive is “appalling.” [Boston Globe, 6/2/2007]
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