9/11 questions remain unanswered Pt.2 Peter Dale Scott

Story Transcript

PAUL JAY, SENIOR EDITOR, TRNN: Welcome back to The Real News Network. I’m Paul Jay in Washington. We’re talking about 9/11 and elements of that story, which are more or less taboo to talk about—you’re not supposed to question the official version of 9/11, or apparently you become a member of a cult called the Truthers, and if you are, then you’re supposed to stay off to the sidelines, I suppose, and be—.

PROF. PETER DALE SCOTT: [inaudible] cognitive penetration, according to Cass Sunstein, who’s now in the White House. He’s advocated penetration of the movement to break it up.

JAY: Well, now speaking is Peter Dale Scott, who jumped in before I introduced him. Peter Dale Scott is an author, he’s a retired professor from the University of Berkeley, and he was a former Canadian diplomat, and he’s an author, and he’s author of the book, upcoming book, American War Machine: Deep Politics, the Global Drug Connection, and the Road to Afghanistan. Thanks for joining us again, Peter.

SCOTT: Thank you. Glad to be here.

JAY: We left off the first segment of our interview with talking about something called continuation of government, which concerns you very much and a lot of people when they discuss the 9/11 events. So what exactly are we talking about?

SCOTT: We’re talking about some secret planning that goes back to at least as far as the first year of the Reagan presidency, 1981-82, and perhaps earlier, even. A small group of people were empowered by President Reagan to plan—they began with these legitimate plans for a response to an atomic attack, but from the very beginning it was clear they were secret plans to suspend parts of the Constitution in response to any attack. And they made this official with—Reagan, when he was leaving, belatedly issued an executive order which redefined the purpose of COG (continuity of government) planning to be in response to any emergency. So that’s why very extreme responses, such as bypassing the Constitution on the succession to the presidency, were planned by a group of people that—they included Cheney and [Donald] Rumsfeld. And in the 1980s, you know, Rumsfeld wasn’t even in the government. He was the head of a drug company. Yet he was being given these powers to supersede the Constitution.

JAY: In what ways would this supersede the Constitution?

SCOTT: Congressional oversight, for example, it was very severely limited by this planning. It’s very hard to know, because one of the few sources we have on it was a story, I think a leaked story, to Alfonso Chardy back in 1987, and he said in effect it was planning for massive detention, warrantless detention of people in the thousands and the establishment of military government. And the third thing, which you can read into it, was warrantless surveillance of Americans. Those three things—warrantless surveillance, warrantless detention, and planning for a military government—they’ve all happened since 9/11. I think Americans are not really aware of the enormous significance that the army has now set up a command center for NORTHCOM (US Northern Command), which has the powers to bypass the so-called Posse Comitatus Act and get involved in law enforcement and surveillance, all these kind of 1984 activities.

JAY: Now, hang on for a sec. There’s a few things. So, number one, the act would allow American forces to get involved in domestic policing in the United States, which was supposed to be illegal.

SCOTT: Yeah, Paul, you’re being very old-fashioned when you say an act. An act is something passed by Congress. All of this has bypassed Congress. Congress has not been able to even find out what’s happening. That’s one of the clearest proofs that we have in fact in place a supersession of the Constitution and replacement by something else is that they’re supposed to see these things. And Congressman DeFazio asked to see the COG regulations that Bush was—.

JAY: COG meaning continuity of government.

SCOTT: Meaning continuity of government. And he was told he didn’t have the right to see them. And he was on the House Homeland Security Committee, and he sent a written letter signed by his chairman. They were told they couldn’t see them.


REP. PETER DEFAZIO (D-OR): Most Americans would agree that it would be prudent to have a plan to provide for the continuity of government and the rule of law in case of a devastating terrorist attack or natural disaster, a plan that provides for the cooperation, coordination, and continued functioning of all three branches of the government. The Bush administration tells us they have such a plan. They introduced a little sketchy public version that’s clearly inadequate and doesn’t really tell us what they have in mind, but they said, don’t worry, there’s a detailed classified version. But now they’ve denied the entire Homeland Security Committee of the United States House of Representatives access to their so-called detailed plan to provide for continuity of government.


SCOTT: And some of us have been protesting this. There’s also a National Emergencies Act. We’ve had an emergency ever since 2001. The law says that Congress is required—not just has the right but is required to review any emergency within six months and decide whether to terminate it or continue it. They have not done this once in the nine years. And one congressman explained to somebody that that law has now been superseded by—guess what—continuity of government measures.

JAY: Now let’s get clear on one thing. The continuity of government act, does it in some way eliminate the normal line of succession? Like, what about—how does it change the way—I mean, there already is a continuity of government. It’s called after the president comes the vice president, then there’s a whole line of succession after the vice president. Does this change that?

SCOTT: You’re talking about the Constitution and about statutes. You called it the continuity of government act. There is no act. This is something that was privately dreamed up and was secretly invoked on 9/11. Congress had nothing to do with it. And, yes, one of the things we are told, and we have very—.

JAY: I mean, how do we know there even is such a thing?

SCOTT: Well, The 9/11 Commission Report does say twice that continuity of government measures were invoked on September 11, 2001, and they have an interesting footnote in which they say that they decided not to look into this. So, in other words, they don’t tell us anything more in the report except that some of the senior people on the commission were briefed roughly about it.

JAY: Well, how do we know that’s [inaudible] isn’t any more than just language to do with continuity of government? I mean, one form of continuity of government is you protect the president, the vice president has to be in a different location, and so on and so on. How do we know it’s any more than that?

SCOTT: Well, another thing we know for a certainty, because Cheney, who I think is one of the big suspects here, said in a TV interview that the reason he told Bush to stay out of Washington was because of the continuity of government requirement that the two of them not be in the same place in the middle of an emergency. Now and then, you know, again, most people don’t know this, but in the weeks—according to The Washington Post, in the weeks after 9/11, Cheney spent most of his time inside a hollowed out mountain up near Camp David, which was in accordance with continuity of government plans. But the most important things are things which have not yet happened but which they can now institute at the drop of a hat. And one of these—well, [inaudible] one of the things is happening, I believe, because of COG—I cannot prove it, but it’s what Chardy was talking about back in 1987, is warrantless detention and what goes with it, warrantless surveillance. This is a very major change. We’ve had habeas corpus since the days of Magna Carta, and it ended in the United States on September 11—ended initially for foreign nationals, and then it ended for green card aliens like myself (I’m a dangerous Canadian, not a US citizen). And now, I think, according to one of the acts passed in the last three years, it’s even suspended for US citizens. These are very major changes, which are not being done by the legislative route, except for this last one. They were done by secret plans, secretly instituted, back on September 11.

JAY: Again, you say “secret”, but how do we know that they’re there if they’re so secret? Like, the issue of just having Bush in one place and Cheney in another, one could refer to it as continuity of government, but it seems a normal thing to do that you would separate the two main leaders of a country at times of emergency.

SCOTT: Yeah, [I’m not] saying it’s all bad.

JAY: Some of the people talking about this continuity of government have talked about how there’d be some sort of elimination of the normal progression of power from Cheney, for example, directly to some military. But how do we know any of that’s true?

SCOTT: Well, I think people have done—I may be guilty myself. A lot of us have done a lot of speculation about why COG was so important to the Bush-Cheney administration on that day, and the fact is we know very little. But the question of warrantless detention, which is very important, was in a news story about continuity of government back in 1987. And then there was this weird episode when a congressman asked—in the
Iran–Contra hearings, he asked Oliver North, he said, is it true you’ve been planning for the suspension of the US Constitution?


REP. JACK BROOKS (D-TX): Col. North, in your work at the NSC [National Security Council], were you not assigned at one time to work on plans for the continuity of government in the event of a major disaster?


SEN. DANIEL INOUYE (D-HI), COMMITTEE CHAIR: I believe that question touches upon a highly sensitive and classified area. So may I request that you not touch upon that, sir?

BROOKS: I was particularly concerned, Mr. Chairman, because I read in Miami papers and several others that there had been a plan developed by that same agency, a contingency plan in the event of emergency that would suspend the American Constitution. And I was deeply concerned about it and wondered if that was an area in which he had worked. I believe that it was and I wanted to get his confirmation.

INOUYE: May I most respectfully request that that matter not be touched upon at this stage. If we wish to get into this, I’m certain arrangements can be made for an executive session.


SCOTT: Well, that’s conceding that there were such plans, I mean, that there was a topic there to be talking about. And we got assurances back then. Oliver North was dropped from the government. We were told that the attorney general had overruled the plans. He may have overruled a specific plan, but the planning continued to the end of the Reagan administration. It continued under the George Bush first administration. And then, when we finally got two books about this, by James Mann and James Bamford, they both said it ended under Clinton. But it didn’t end under Clinton; it continued all through the ’90s. And according to Alexander Cockburn in his book about Rumsfeld, the difference now was that all the people doing the planning were Republicans who had contempt for Clinton. And at this point, by the late ’90s, Cheney and Rumsfeld were still doing the planning. Each of them was out of the government. One was the chairman of drug company; one was the chairman of Halliburton, which, by the way, has profited immensely—.

JAY: [inaudible] planning essentially is for a suspension of constitutional rights in the case of a national emergency.

SCOTT: What we can say with confidence is, what do you do if there is a constitutional emergency? And some of the things that they planned for, as you say, are quite straightforward: make sure that the president or vice president are not in the same place. But if Chardy was right—and in my book The Road to 9/11 I give a lot of reasons to think that he is right, including that some of the people that worked on that planning back then are part of the picture back in 2002, and not just Cheney and Rumsfeld but also at a lower level.

JAY: But, Peter, most countries have national emergency laws. Like, in Canada there’s the War Measures Act that was proclaimed in the fall of 1970. We saw, at this recent G-20 event in Toronto, they dragged out some law from 1939 called the Public Works Protection Act, which more or less gave martial law kind of powers anywhere near a designated building, but it could be any building. But they’re not secret. The ability to suspend constitutional rights, most countries have these emergency laws. Why do we then jump from that to saying it’s going to lead to a military coup?

SCOTT: I didn’t say myself it was going to lead to a military coup. Military government isn’t necessarily a military coup. I mean, we had phases of it in the 1960s and ’70s when Detroit went up in flames. They sent in the army. That was an emergency, clearly an emergency, and it was appropriate to deal with it in an emergency manner. But you yourself said what is very special here is all of this stuff was secret. It’s one thing that we the public are not allowed to know what’s going on, but when the duly constituted authorities in Congress are told that they can’t see what’s going on, then we have a constitutional crisis. And I think that—I feel this was a line in the sand that Congress, if it was doing its job, should have said, at a minimum, we need to know what these rules are. They should not have accepted a rebuff, where the Homeland Security Committee, which is the committee charged with oversight—which is the heart of the checks and balances which is the essence of the American Constitution when it comes to the separation of powers—that has been overridden, and they haven’t done anything about it. And the reason they haven’t, according to one congressman, is that COG rules override the Constitution on this matter.

JAY: I think the most important thing is we’re not afraid, shouldn’t be, to talk about taboo things. Certainly for me personally I’m left with many questions about all of this. Thanks very much for joining us, Peter.

SCOTT: Thank you.

JAY: Thank you for joining us on The Real News Network.

End of Transcript

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Peter Dale Scott

Peter Dale Scott a former Canadian diplomat and Professor of English at the University of California, Berkeley, is a poet, writer, and researcher. His most recent books are Drugs, Oil, and War (2005), The Road to 9/11: Wealth, Empire, and the Future of America (2007), The War Conspiracy: JFK, 9/11 and the Deep Politics of War (2008) and Mosaic Orpheus (poetry, 2009).