HOMELAND SECURITY, CODE RED
"You will be assumed by authorities to be the enemy if you so much as venture outside of your own home."
This is not a line by Snake Plisskin, the hero of the end-time thriller Escape from New York, but a statement by Sid Caspersen, NJ director of the office of counter-terrorism, explaining what will happen when "the nation escalates to 'red alert'."
Every American knows the color-coded Homeland Security Advisory System... but few know what would really happen during a "Code Red."
"Red means all non-critical functions cease," said Caspersen in a 2003 interview that was published by the Gannett State Bureau. "Non-critical would be almost all businesses, except health-related." He warned that "government agencies would run at a very low threshold," but added that the situation would be "no different than if you had a state of emergency with a snowstorm."
Except, we may add, that we haven't heard of a snowstorm where you risk getting shot for walking out into your front yard.
"The state police and the emergency management people would take control over the highways. You literally are staying home, is what happens, unless you are required to be out... The reason being is, what we're saying is, 'Everybody sit down!' If you are left standing, you are probably a terrorist. And if you are not law enforcement or emergency response, that's how we're going to catch you. You're not going to have a seat to go to. That's the basic premise of it."
We from WWNK find it rather presumptuous to assume that a terrorist would be the only person with no place to go. As we well know, the 9/11 hijackers had inconspicuously lived in the U.S. for years.
Nonetheless, the prospect of such draconian actions certainly seems scary. Only one month before Caspersen's speech at a news conference, the Washington Post ran an article on the measures schools in the Washington area would take.
"[Most] school districts told parents that they would be prevented, or strongly discouraged, from picking up their children in the event of a biological or chemical attack," reported the Post. "Schools would be locked down and signs posted on the doors in Spanish and English saying that nobody would be allowed to enter or exit."
Sounds an awful lot like martial law to us--but is that really the case?
Fortunately, in the United States, martial law is limited by legal provisions stemming from the Civil War and World War II. In its landmark decision Ex Parte Milligan 71 US 2 1866, the Supreme Court established that military rule could not supersede the civil courts in areas where the civil courts and government remained open and operational.
Comforting as that sounds, federal law provides a great many powers to the President that he can exercise in the event of a national emergency. "Under the powers delegated by such statutes," says the CRS report, "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 communication, regulate the operation of private enterprise, restrict travel, and, in a variety of ways, control the lives of United States citizens."
To get a better idea of the magnitude of these powers, read Executive Orders 12919 (power to seize all water resources, farm equipment, food, fuel, minerals, transportation, construction materials, etc.), and 12656 (seizing private property, wage and price controls, prohibiting assets from being moved out of the country, creating a draft, restrict travel, and much more).
Executive Orders 12919 http://www.archives.gov/federal_register/executive_orders/pdf/12919.pdf
Executive Orders 12656 http://www.archives.gov/federal_register/codification/executive_order/12656.html
Of course, there is no proof that this is what would really happen during a "Code Red." For all we know, a state of emergency could be confined to the immediate area of a strike; airports closed, schools shut down for a few hours, residents a bit inconvenienced, and roadblocks set up for a day or two. Hopefully, the end of the story.
Then again, with the current environment, and the latitude given the government, it seems that almost anything could happen, especially with people like Sid Caspersen holding the reins of power.