Good point. And then there are the final two provisions of the NSPD, which mysteriously refer to unseen secret "annexes" to the directive. Needless to say, if what they've made public is so shameless in its disregard for the Constitution, the following two sections on secret provisions don't allay suspicion:
(23) Annex A and the classified Continuity Annexes, attached hereto, are hereby incorporated into and made a part of this directive.
(24) Security. This directive and the information contained herein shall be protected from unauthorized disclosure, provided that, except for Annex A, the Annexes attached to this directive are classified and shall be accorded appropriate handling, consistent with applicable Executive Orders.
So, how many secret annexes are there in addition to "annex A," and what kinds of things do they say that even the paranoia-inducing public document can't include?
Here's where Jeff Kosseff of the Portland Oregonian comes in. In an e-mail to me, he said he believed he was the first mainstream media reporter to pursue the classified annex issue (although Charles Savage reported on the disturbing public aspects of the directive itself in the Boston Globe in May).
Kosseff told me he got onto the story when Oregon Rep. Peter DeFazio expressed puzzlement that he was having trouble seeing what was in the classified "annexes." DeFazio was a member of the homeland security committee and cleared to read classified material in a supersecure "bubble room" designed to prevent any kind of surveillance. But DeFazio's initial request was, as Kosseff reported, "denied" by the White House, which cited national security concerns.
DeFazio said this was the first time he had been denied access to classified documents. He brought in the chairman of the Committee on Homeland Security, Bennie Thompson, and the chairman of the Homeland Security Subcommittee on Management, Investigation and Oversight, Chris Carney, to back his request for access to the classified annexes.
In a phone conversation, Jeff Kosseff told me the latest development. In August, these requests were denied as well. On grounds of "national security."
I don't want to be alarmist, I have no evidence there's a coup brewing. But I think the American people and their congressional reps deserve some say in how they will be ruled when the ordinary rules go out the window in a national emergency. For one thing, what will happen to the Bill of Rights' guarantees of individual liberty and the courts that are supposed to enforce them?
If you ask me, setting aside any paranoid fantasies, it is clear on the most basic level—read it yourself—that NSPD-51 is the creation of irresponsible incompetents, bulls in the china shop of our constitutional framework. It is a recipe for disaster. For a catastrophe of governance that would match whatever physical catastrophe it followed and threaten the re-establishment of constitutional democracy. It would make the partisan warfare over the 2000 election in Florida seem like child's play. We might recover from a disaster but we might never recover from the "continuity coordination" that followed, "coordination" that could forever undermine any faith in the actual continuity of constitutional liberty in America since it would put it at the mercy of any president who wants to "coordinate continuity" rather than govern legally.
I think it's urgent that we bring these questions out of the shadows of phony comity. I'd urge readers to call or e-mail their members of Congress and senators now. Call for an emergency joint congressional hearing to end this farce, give us some transparency about what our government will do if we suffer another 9/11. Let all branches of government participate in the attempt to reach some consensus on rational and effective continuity planning. Something more specific and sophisticated than the clumsy but dangerously Orwellian "Continuity Coordination Committee."