Sam Smith: The Amazing, Scary History Of FEMA
Undernews Extra - The Amazing, Scary History Of FEMA
Compiled by Prorev.com Editor Sam Smith
September 11, 2005
This Undernews extra gives background on the amazing, scary history of FEMA and a bizarre funeral scandal that involves George Bush, one of his major contributors, the former head of FEMA and the corporation just named to handle body removal in New Orleans
THE AMAZING, SCARY HISTORY OF FEMA
WIKIPEDIA - Rex 84, short for Readiness Exercise 1984, was a plan by the United States federal government to accommodate the detention of large numbers of American citizens during times of emergency. Through Rex-84 an undisclosed number of concentration camps were set in operation throughout the United States, for internment of dissidents and others potentially harmful to the state. Existence of the Rex 84 plan was first revealed during the Iran-Contra Hearings in 1987, and subsequently reported by the Miami Herald on July 5, 1987
MINDFULLY, 2004 - There over 800 prison camps in the United States, all fully operational and ready to receive prisoners. They are all staffed and even surrounded by full-time guards, but they are all empty. These camps are to be operated by FEMA should martial law need to be implemented in the United States and all it would take is a presidential signature on a proclamation and the attorney general's signature on a warrant to which a list of names is attached. . . The Rex 84 Program was established on the reasoning that if a "mass exodus" of illegal aliens crossed the Mexican/US border, they would be quickly rounded up and detained in detention centers by FEMA. Rex 84 allowed many military bases to be closed down and to be turned into prisons.
Operation Cable Splicer and Garden Plot are the two sub programs which will be implemented once the Rex 84 program is initiated for its proper purpose. Garden Plot is the program to control the population. Cable Splicer is the program for an orderly takeover of the state and local governments by the federal government. FEMA is the executive arm of the coming police state and thus will head up all operations. The Presidential Executive Orders already listed on the Federal Register also are part of the legal framework for this operation.
The camps all have railroad facilities as well as roads leading to and from the detention facilities. Many also have an airport nearby. The majority of the camps can house a population of 20,000 prisoners. Currently, the largest of these facilities is just outside of Fairbanks, Alaska. The Alaskan facility is a massive mental health facility and can hold approximately 2 million people.
RITT GOLDSTEIN, SYDNEY MORNING HERALD, JULY 27 2002 - Recent pronouncements from the Bush Administration and national security initiatives put in place in the Reagan era could see internment camps and martial law in the United States. When president Ronald Reagan was considering invading Nicaragua he issued a series of executive orders that provided the Federal Emergency Management Agency with broad powers in the event of a "crisis" such as "violent and widespread internal dissent or national opposition against a US military invasion abroad". They were never used.
But with the looming possibility of a US invasion of Iraq, recent pronouncements by President George Bush's domestic security chief, Tom Ridge, and an official with the US Civil Rights Commission should fire concerns that these powers could be employed or a de facto drift into their deployment could occur.
On July 20 the Detroit Free Press ran a story entitled "Arabs in US could be held, official warns". The story referred to a member of the US Civil Rights Commission who foresaw the possibility of internment camps for Arab Americans. FEMA has practiced for such an occasion.
FEMA, whose main role is disaster response, is also responsible for handling US domestic unrest. From 1982-84 Colonel Oliver North assisted FEMA in drafting its civil defence preparations. Details of these plans emerged during the 1987 Iran-Contra scandal.
They included executive orders providing for suspension of the constitution, the imposition of martial law, internment camps, and the turning over of government to the president and FEMA.
A Miami Herald article on July 5, 1987, reported that the former FEMA director Louis Guiffrida's deputy, John Brinkerhoff, handled the martial law portion of the planning. The plan was said to be similar to one Mr Giuffrida had developed earlier to combat "a national uprising by black militants". It provided for the detention "of at least 21million American Negroes"' in "assembly centres or relocation camps".
Today Mr Brinkerhoff is with the highly influential Anser Institute for Homeland Security. Following a request by the Pentagon in January that the US military be allowed the option of deploying troops on American streets, the institute in February published a paper by Mr Brinkerhoff arguing the legality of this.
He alleged that the Posse Comitatus Act of 1878, which has long been accepted as prohibiting such deployments, had simply been misunderstood and misapplied. The preface to the article also provided the revelation that the national plan he had worked on, under Mr Giuffrida, was "approved by Reagan, and actions were taken to implement it".
By April, the US military had created a Northern Command to aid Homeland defence. Reuters reported that the command is "mainly expected to play a supporting role to local authorities". However, Mr Ridge, the Director of Homeland Security, has just advocated a review of US law regarding the use of the military for law enforcement duties.
Disturbingly, the full facts and final contents of Mr Reagan's national plan remain uncertain. This is in part because President Bush took the unusual step of sealing the Reagan presidential papers last November. However, many of the key figures of the Reagan era are part of the present administration, including John Poindexter, to whom Oliver North later reported.
At the time of the Reagan initiatives, the then attorney-general, William French Smith, wrote to the national security adviser, Robert McFarlane: "I believe that the role assigned to the Federal Emergency Management Agency in the revised Executive Order exceeds its proper function as a coordinating agency for emergency preparedness ... this department and others have repeatedly raised serious policy and legal objections to an 'emergency czar' role for FEMA."
ALFONSO CHARDY, MIAMI HERALD, JUL 5, 1987 - Some of President Reagan's top advisers have operated a virtual parallel government outside the traditional Cabinet departments and agencies almost from the day Reagan took office, congressional investigators and administration officials have concluded. Investigators believe that the advisers' activities extended well beyond the secret arms sales to Iran and aid to the contras now under investigation.
Lt. Col. Oliver North, for example, helped draw up a controversial plan to suspend the Constitution in the event of a national crisis, such as nuclear war, violent and widespread internal dissent or national opposition to a U.S. military invasion abroad. When the attorney general at the time, William French Smith, learned of the proposal, he protested in writing to North's boss, then-national security adviser Robert McFarlane.
The advisers conducted their activities through secret contacts throughout the government with persons who acted at their direction but did not officially report to them. The activities of those contacts were coordinated by the National Security Council, the officials and investigators said.
There appears to have been no formal directive for the advisers' activities, which knowledgeable sources described as a parallel government. In a secret assessment of the activities, the lead counsel for the Senate Iran-contra committee called it a "secret government-within-a-government."
The arrangement permitted Reagan administration officials to claim that they were not involved in controversial or illegal activities, the officials said. "It was the ultimate plausible deniability," said a well-briefed official who has served the Reagan administration since 1982 and who often collaborated on covert assistance to the Nicaraguan contras.
The roles of top-level officials and of Reagan himself are still not clear. But that is expected to be a primary topic when North appears before the Iran-contra committees beginning Tuesday. Special prosecutor Lawrence Walsh also is believed to be trying to prove in his investigation of the Iran-contra affair that government officials engaged in a criminal conspiracy.
Much of the time, Cabinet secretaries and their aides were unaware of the advisers' activities. When they periodically detected operations, they complained or tried to derail them, interviews show. But no one ever questioned the activities in a broad way, possibly out of a belief that the advisers were operating with presidential sanction, officials said.
Reagan did know of or approve at least some of the actions of the secret group, according to previous accounts by aides, friends and high-ranking foreign officials. . .
Officials say the genesis may have been an October 1980 decision by Casey, Reagan's campaign manager and a former officer in the World War II precursor of the CIA, to create an October Surprise Group to monitor Jimmy Carter's feverish negotiations with Iran for the release of 52 American hostages. The group, led by campaign foreign policy adviser Richard Allen, was founded out of concern Carter might pull off an "October surprise" such as a last-minute deal for the release of the hostages before the Nov. 4 election. . .
From 1982 to 1984, [Oliver] North assisted FEMA, the U.S. government's chief national crisis-management unit, in revising contingency plans for dealing with nuclear war, insurrection or massive military mobilization. North's involvement with FEMA set off the first major clash between the official government and the advisers and led to the formal letter of protest in 1984 from then- Attorney General Smith. . .
FEMA's clash with Smith occurred over a secret contingency plan that called for suspension of the Constitution, turning control of the United States over to FEMA, appointment of military commanders to run state and local governments and declaration of martial law during a national crisis. The plan did not define national crisis, but it was understood to be nuclear war, violent and widespread internal dissent or national opposition against a military invasion abroad. . .
The martial law portions of the plan were outlined in a June 30, 1982, memo by Guiffrida's deputy for national preparedness programs, John Brinkerhoff. A copy of the memo was obtained by The Herald. The scenario outlined in the Brinkerhoff memo resembled somewhat a paper Guiffrida had written in 1970 at the Army War College in Carlisle, Pa., in which he advocated martial law in case of a national uprising by black militants. The paper also advocated the roundup and transfer to "assembly centers or relocation camps" of at least 21 million "American Negroes."
When he saw the FEMA plans, Attorney General Smith became alarmed. He dispatched a letter to McFarlane Aug. 2, 1984 lodging his objections and urging a delay in signing the directive. "I believe that the role assigned to the Federal Emergency Management Agency in the revised Executive Order exceeds its proper function as a coordinating agency for emergency preparedness," Smith said in the letter to McFarlane, which The Herald obtained. "This department and others have repeatedly raised serious policy and legal objections to the creation of an 'emergency czar' role for FEMA."
It is unclear whether the executive order was signed or whether it contained the martial law plans. Congressional sources familiar with national disaster procedures said they believe Reagan did sign an executive order in 1984 that revised national military mobilization measures to deal with civilians in case of nuclear war or other crisis.
PROGRESSIVE REVIEW, 1996 - The issue arose again during the Iran-Contra affair, but even in the wake of all the copy on that scandal, the public got little sense of how far some America's soldiers of fortune were willing to go to achieve their ends. When the Iran-Contra hearings came close to the matter, chair Senator Inouye backed swiftly away. Here is an excerpt from those hearings. Oliver North is at the witness table:
REP BROOKS: Colonel North, in your work at the NSC, were you not assigned, at one time, to work on plans for the continuity of government in the event of a major disaster?
BRENDAN SULLIVAN: Mr. Chairman?
SEN INOUYE: I believe that question touches upon a highly sensitive and classified area so may I request that you not touch on that.
REP 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 the area in which he had worked. I believe that it was and I wanted to get his confirmation.
SEN 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
With few exceptions, the media ignored what well could be the most startling revelation to have come out of the Iran/Contra affair, namely that high officials of the US government were planning a possible military/civilian coup. First among the exceptions was the Miami Herald, which on July 5, 1987, ran the story to which Jack Brooks referred. The article, by Alfonzo Chardy, revealed Oliver North's involvement in plans for the Federal Emergency Management Agency to take over federal, state and local functions during an ill-defined national emergency.
According to Chardy, the plan called for 'suspension of the Constitution, turning control of the government over to the Federal Management Agency, emergency appointment of military commanders to run state and local governments and declaration of martial law.' The proposal appears to have forgotten that Congress, legislatures and the judiciary even existed.
In a November 18, 1991 story, the New York Times elaborated:
"Acting outside the Constitution in the early 1980s, a secret federal agency established a line of succession to the presidency to assure continued government in the event of a devastating nuclear attack, current and former United States officials said today.
"The program was called 'Continuity of Government.' In the words of a recent report by the Fund for Constitutional Government, "succession or succession-by-designation would be implemented by unknown and perhaps unelected persons who would pick three potential successor presidents in advance of an emergency. These potential successors to the Oval Office may not be elected, and they are not confirmed by Congress."
According to CNN, the list eventually grew to 17 names and included Howard Baker, Richard Helms, Jeanne Kirkpatrick James Schlesinger, Richard Thornberg, Edwin Meese, Tip O'Neil, and Richard Chaney.
The plan was not even limited to a nuclear attack but included any "national security emergency" which was defined as:
"Any occurrence, including natural disaster, military attack, technological or other emergency, that seriously degrades or seriously threatens the national security of the United States."
This bizarre scheme was dismissed in many Washington quarters as further evidence of the loony quality of the whole Iran/contra affair. One FEMA official called it a lot of crap while a representative for Attorney General Meese described it as 'bullshit."
The problem is that there is a long history of compatibility between madness and totalitarian takeovers, Adolph Hitler being a prime but far from lone example. Further, there is plenty of evidence in this case that the planning was far more than simply an off-the-wall brainstorm. At least one report found that the US Army had even gone so far as to draft a legal document providing justifications for martial law.
Nor was the planning limited to crises involving the total breakdown of society as in the aftermath of a nuclear attack. Among the justifiable uses of martial law were "national opposition to a US military invasion abroad" and widespread internal dissent. . .
FEMA was clearly out of control. Another memo, written in 1982 to then FEMA director Louis Giuffrida and given only tightly restricted circulation even within the agency, made this astonishing assertion:
"Over the long term, the peacetime action programs of FEMA and other departments and agencies have the effect of making the conceivable need for military takeover less and less as time goes by. A fully implemented civil defense program may not now be regarded as a substitute for martial law, nor could it be so marketed, but if successful in its execution it could have that effect."
The memo essentially proposed that the American people would rather be taken over by FEMA than by the military. When those are the options on the table, you know you're in trouble.
The head of FEMA until 1985, General Louis Giuffrida, also once wrote a paper on the Legal Aspects of Managing Disorders. Here is some of what he said:
"No constitution, no statute or ordinance can authorize Martial Rule. [It commences] upon a determination (not a declaration) by the senior military commander that the civil government must be replaced because it is no longer functioning anyway . . . The significance of Martial Rule in civil disorders is that it shifts control from civilians and to the military completely and without the necessity of a declaration, proclamation or other form of public manifestation . . . As stated above, Martial Rule is limited only by the principle of necessary force."
Those words come from a time when Giuffrida was the head of then-Governor Reagan's California Specialized Training Institute, a National Guard school. It was not, for Giuffrida, a new thought. In 1970 he had written a paper for the Army War College in which he called for martial law in case of a national uprising by black militants. Among his ideas were "assembly centers or relocation camps" for at least 21 million "American Negroes."
During 1968 and 1972, Reagan ran a series of war games in California called Cable Splicer, which involved the Guard, state and local police, and the US Sixth Army. Details of this operation were reported in 1975 in a story by Ron Ridenour of the New Times, an Arizona alternative paper, and later exhumed by Dave Lindorff in the Village Voice.
Cable Splicer, it turned out, was a training exercise for martial law. The man in charge was none other than Edwin Meese, then Reagan's executive secretary. At one point, Meese told the Cable Splicer combatants:
This is an operation, this is an exercise, this is an objective which is going forward because in the long run . . . it is the only way that will be able to prevail [against anti-war protests.]
Addressing the kickoff of Cable Splicer, Governor Reagan told some 500 military and police officers:
"You know, there are people in the state who, if they could see this gathering right now and my presence here, would decide their worst fears and convictions had been realized -- I was planning a military takeover."
The Reaganites were not, however, the only ones with such thoughts. Consider this from a NSC directive written by Frank Carlucci in 1981:
"Normally a state of martial law will be proclaimed by the President. However, in the absence of such action by the President, a senior military commander may impose martial law in an area of his command where there had been a complete breakdown in the exercise of government functions by local civilian authorities."
THE PROGRESSIVE REVIEW, 1996 - The Constitution does not directly address the question of what should happen in the midst of a major national catastrophe. But neither does it give the slightest support to notions of turning matters over to non-elected civilian or military officials with plenary powers. The best guide is to be found in Amendment Ten which states that the powers of the federal government are those delegated to it by the states and the people. The states and the people have not delegated the power of martial law. Thus in a true crisis (such as a nuclear attack) the answer seems quite plain: the country would be run as a loose confederation of fifty states until a legitimate federal government could be re-established. In the interim, the highest officials in the land would be the governors.
PARAMETERS, JOURNAL OF THE ARMY WAR COLLEGE, 1997 - The unprecedented destruction of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Office Building in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, on 19 April 1995, raised another important legal issue affecting disaster relief operations. As one might imagine, all the resources of local, state, and federal government agencies were mobilized to deal with this shocking act of domestic terrorism. FEMA served as the primary focal point of relief operations, and Army assets were provided under the terms of the Stafford Act. FEMA officials were on the scene within hours of the explosion, and specialized rescue teams followed closely. The entire reaction has been categorized as a masterful melding of state and federal resources. However, the internal FEMA report underscores a natural tension between the rescue effort and the FBI which may be increasingly important in the future. The FBI, as part of the Department of Justice, determined that the entire area was a crime scene for the purposes of apprehending and successfully prosecuting the perpetrators of the bombing. The rescue effort's only goal was recovering survivors or their remains. This natural conflict must be resolved in order to facilitate the nation's response to the increasing threat of similar incidents.
Strategic leaders can take solace in the lessons learned from military participation in domestic disaster relief, for the record indicates that legal niceties or strict construction of prohibited conduct will be a minor concern. The exigencies of the situation seem to overcome legal proscriptions arguably applicable to our soldiers' conduct. Pragmatism appears to prevail when American soldiers help their fellow citizens. . .
Finally, leaders can take heart from the fact that the training and experience of today's soldiers allow them to make the right decisions in situations fraught with career and personal implications. . . .
Civilian and military leaders need to expect an increase in domestic deployments of US military forces. They need to recognize that each instance of use is accompanied by new and possibly unprecedented challenges. America's leaders should recognize that the relationship between America's Army and the American people is strong but may be compromised. Public confidence in the military can best be maintained by strict adherence to the legal underpinnings governing domestic operations of the armed forces. Applying the lessons learned from the early 1990s will maintain the excellent relationship between the people and the military well into the next century.
DECLAN MCULLAGH, WIRED, 2000: US Army is prepared to respond to disruptions ranging from civil disobedience to nuclear explosions at the Republican National Convention, a confidential government document says. The terrorism response plan includes flying giant C-5 Galaxy cargo planes loaded with military gear into Willow Grove Naval Air Station, about 25 miles outside the city, and assembling troops at three National Guard armories near the downtown protest areas. "Preparedness for nuclear, biological, chemical, and civil disturbance events, as well as potential weather-related disaster events, must be considered," says the Federal Emergency Management Agency document, obtained by Wired News from a source who asked to remain anonymous. A FEMA spokesman confirmed the authenticity of the document, but said he did not have any information that a terrorist attack was likely to happen during the GOP convention . . . The document, created by FEMA to supplement its usual procedures, says that the US First Army will, if necessary, execute Operation Garden Plot to quell any serious civil disturbances. Operation Garden Plot has long been an object of speculation by conspiracy theorists, but the watchdog group Federation of American Scientists describes it as the military's overall plan for "support related to domestic civil disturbances" that was last used during the Los Angeles riots in 1992. Critics such as the American Civil Liberties Union have protested the recent trend to use military troops for law enforcement purposes. If a terrorist attack happens, FEMA is responsible for aiding the FBI. But if the president declares martial law in response to looting, vandalism, or civil unrest, FEMA works with the Defense Department.
MICHEL CHOSSUDOVSKY, GLOBAL RESEARCH - A code red alert, according to the Federal Emergency Management Agency , would create conditions for the ("temporary" we are told) suspension of the normal functions of civilian government, implying the cancellation or postponement of federal and state elections.
According to FEMA, code red would: Increase or redirect personnel to address critical emergency needs; assign emergency response personnel and pre-position and mobilize specially trained teams or resources; monitor, redirect, or constrain transportation systems; and close public and government facilities not critical for continuity of essential operations, especially public safety.
Several functions of civilian administration would be suspended, others could be transferred to the jurisdiction of the military. More generally, the procedure would disrupt government offices, businesses, schools, public services, transportation, etc.
A secret "shadow government" . . . would become functional in the case of a red code alert, redeploying key staff to secret locations.
Code red alert would, according to FEMA, also preclude and repress any form of public gathering or citizens' protest which questions the legitimacy of the emergency procedures and the installation of a police state. The emergency authorities would also exert tight censorship over the media and would no doubt paralyze the alternative news media on the internet.
What would be the involvement of the Military in an code red emergency situation? In theory, The Posse Comitatus Act of 1878 prevents the military from intervening in civilian police and judicial functions. In practice, the Posse Comitatus Act is dead. The existing legislation inherited from the Clinton administration, not to mention the post 9/11 Patriot Acts I and II, "blurs the line between military and civilian roles," it allows the military to intervene in judicial and law enforcement activities even in the absence of an emergency situation.
The 1996 legislation allowed the military to intervene in the case of a national emergency (e.g.. a terrorist attack). Clinton's 1999 Defense Authorization Act extended those powers by creating an "exception" to the Posse Comitatus Act, which permits the military to be involved in civilian affairs "regardless of whether there is an emergency". In other words, the Clinton era legislation had already laid the legal and ideological foundations of the "war on terrorism". . .
[Said John R. Brinkerhoff, former FEMA associate director;] "New rules are needed to clearly set forth the boundaries for the use of federal military forces for homeland security. The Posse Comitatus Act is inappropriate for modern times and needs to be replaced by a completely new law. . . It is time to rescind the existing Posse Comitatus Act and replace it with a new law. . . President Bush and Congress should initiate action to enact a new law that would set forth in clear terms a statement of the rules for using military forces for homeland security and for enforcing the laws of the United States.
WASHINGTON POST, MAR 1, 2O02 - President Bush has dispatched a shadow government of about 100 senior civilian managers to live and work secretly outside Washington, activating for the first time long-standing plans to ensure survival of federal rule after catastrophic attack on the nation's capital. Execution of the classified "Continuity of Operations Plan" resulted not from the Cold War threat of intercontinental missiles, the scenario rehearsed for decades, but from heightened fears that the al Qaeda terrorist network might somehow obtain a portable nuclear weapon, according to three officials with firsthand knowledge. . .
Officials who are activated for what some of them call "bunker duty" live and work underground 24 hours a day, away from their families. As it settles in for the long haul, the shadow government has sent home most of the first wave of deployed personnel, replacing them most commonly at 90-day intervals. . .
Known internally as the COG, for "continuity of government," the administration-in-waiting is an unannounced complement to the acknowledged absence of Vice President Cheney from Washington for much of the past five months. Cheney's survival ensures constitutional succession, one official said, but "he can't run the country by himself." With a core group of federal managers alongside him, Cheney -- or President Bush, if available -- has the means to give effect to his orders. . .
Only the executive branch is represented in the full-time shadow administration. The other branches of constitutional government, Congress and the judiciary, have separate continuity plans but do not maintain a 24-hour presence in fortified facilities. . .
UNDERNEWS, NOVEMBER 1996 - Just one week after your editor's views on the increasing militarization of America were featured in a column by Washington Post columnist Courtland Milloy, that paper responded with a major paen to "Generals in Command on the Home Front." The subhead ran: "In need of discipline, order, honor, polish? Civil institutions find old soliders pass muster."
The Post momentarily put aside such arduous tasks as defending the CIA and offered a multi-column Style section rebuttal to the notion that there was something wrong with the proliferation of generals in domestic affairs complete with a handsome foot-high photo of Genral Patton pointing his baton in an appropriately imperious fashion.
Although quoting one critic of militarization near the end of the article, the overall tone of the piece was, at best, that these flag officers will shape the country up and, at worse, that they are part of yet another cute social trend for a wise-ass journalist to have some fun with. The idea that democracy might be in peril as a product of the trend was just a jump page after-thought.
Here are some quotes:
From writer Marc Fisher: "A retired general is spit-and-polish. Order and discipline. Expectations and results. Retired general. Two words with such Taoist balance. At once at ease and in charge. Calm yet powerful. Benign yet can-do."
From General Don Scott, deputy librarian of the Library of Congress: "We're proven. We know how to take orders, we know how to do more with less. Society wants more order and more structure."
Charles Moskos, a sociologist who studies the military: "Making the trains run on time is not to be pooh-poohed. In a world of crumbling instituations, the military stands out for its cohesion."
Fisher ends his piece with a quote from a retired general: "Let those in uniform fight the cold and hot wars. Let those who have retired fight the domestic war." Fisher is so enthralled by this that he forgets to ask the general just when and why the American people became the enemy.
Columnist Milloy, one of the last progressive writers at the Post, became interested in my article on militarization after a de facto junta selected by GOP congressional leaders to run DC had named General Julius Becton as school czar and wiped out most of the powers of the elected school board.
Becton got the same sort of fawning treatment from the media (including national publications) that General Barry McCaffrey received when he took over as head of federal anti-drug programs. And as with McCaffrey, there was plenty of the Becton story that didn't come out. Such as the fact that when he was Reagan's head of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, FEMA concocted an outrageous $1.5 billion plan for 600 bomb shelters to be built for state and local officials. The rest of the population was meant to rely on "voluntary self-help programs and emergency public information" such as low cost radiation detectors and instructional materials. States and localities that failed to cooperate in the plan could lose federal funds for non-nuclear disasters such as hurricanes and earthquakes. Not surprisingly, the plan was laughed out of existence.
PROGRESSIVE REVIEW, 2000 - FEMA's secret "RNC 2000" plan for the GOP convention is filled with standard FEMA hubris. This is, after all, the agency that sees itself supervising all three branches of government, including the military, in event of a national catastrophe. But among its justification for having geared up in Philadelphia, however, was this extraordinary statement:
"The RNC will dominate national headlines. The potential occurrence of an event that would reflect negatively on Philadelphia, the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, or the United States demands that every effort to preclude such an event be undertaken."
In other words, FEMA assumes that its role includes not only combating the results of floods, hurricanes, and terrorism, but bad publicity as well. It is, in fact, so grandiose in claiming plenary powers that it is even willing to defend Philadelphia against all critics.
FUNERALGATE DISINTERRED BY KATRINA CLEANUP
THE BUSH REGIME has outsourced New Orleans body removal to Kenyon international, a wholly owned subsidiary of SCI Corporation, owned by major Bush contributor and friend Robert Waltrip. SCI and Waltrip were last featured in the Review under the headline: "Bush Buddy Buried Bodies In Bushes Badly." Michael Brown's predecessor as head of FEMA, Joseph Albaugh, also comes into the story. Excerpts follow:
NOAH BIERMAN, MIAMI HERALD, 2003 - The world's largest funeral home chain will pay $100 million to Jewish families whose loved-ones' remains were mishandled and mangled at two South Florida cemeteries. . . The pay-out closes a class-action suit against Houston-based Service Corporation International on behalf of families with plots at Menorah Gardens cemeteries in northern Palm Beach and western Broward counties. In some cases, cemetery employees disinterred bodies and tossed bones into the woods to make room at the crowded, oversold cemetery grounds. The allegations were particularly appalling to the Jewish cemetery's more religiously observant clientele. Jewish law explicitly prohibits disturbance of the dead. . .
The late Col. Hyman Cohen was buried in 1983 in a spot in the Palm Beach County cemetery reserved for a woman, Frances Gold, of Pembroke Pines. She died six years later. With no room for both bodies, employees dug up Cohen's remains, cracking his vault and throwing some of his bones into the woods. Others were mixed in with Gold's.
JANE SUTTON, REUTERS - It said cemetery workers broke open some burial vaults and dumped the bodies in the woods, and crushed down other coffins to make room for new coffins on top of them. It also alleged that body parts of different people were mixed together when the buried vaults were broken open and that people who bought side-by-side plots were actually buried head-to-toe or on top of each other. The plaintiffs' lawyers said hundreds of bodies were mishandled and that there were some 700 people with claims against the two cemeteries . . . The lawsuit was filed a day after Florida Attorney General Bob Butterworth subpoenaed all of SCI's Florida burial records dating back to 1990 as part of an investigation into its business practices.
ROBERT BRYCE, SALON, SEP 29, 1999 - In recent months, SCI stumbled into the national media spotlight thanks to the presidential race. In March, Waltrip and SCI were named as defendants in a whistleblower lawsuit in Texas that involves allegations that presidential front-runner George W. Bush intervened on SCI's behalf to help stop an investigation by the state's regulatory agency. Waltrip and SCI are big financial contributors to Bush, and Waltrip is also a personal friend of former President Bush, endowing the Bush library with $100,000.
SCI has powerful friends in both political parties. Former Rep. Tony Coelho, chairman of Al Gore's presidential campaign, sits on SCI's board of directors. It's a lucrative job. According to the company's proxy statement, SCI pays Coelho $21,000 per year just to sit on the board and an additional $6,000 for each meeting he attends. Coelho also owns more than $450,000 worth of SCI stock.
Despite those influential friends, a number of troubling specters are creeping up on the company. Tort lawyers, consumer advocates and regulators are all taking aim at the Houston-based death care giant. Plaintiff's lawyers in Florida are suing SCI, claiming the company sold an exorbitantly expensive funeral to an elderly, mentally incompetent widow. In Washington state and Texas, lawyers are suing the firm, maintaining it has mishandled corpses. Company shareholders have filed a class-action lawsuit, alleging SCI officials withheld troubling earnings data that caused the stock price to dip.
Consumer advocates are constantly taking swipes at the company. Karen Leonard, the head of the Sebastopol, Calif.-based Redwood Funeral Society, who worked as the late Jessica Mitford's research assistant on her last book, "The American Way of Death Revisited," has become one of the country's leading critics of SCI. She claims SCI has "made price gouging state of the art.
"They've been able to take the emotions that make people spend more - guilt and fear of death - and have played those like an orchestra and have made tremendous amounts of money. They are taking advantage of consumers on all fronts, by secrecy, by their ability to control regulations and their ability to give money to politicians."
ROBERT BRYCE, SALON, Aug 31 1999 - Gov. George W. Bush scored a major victory in a Texas courtroom Monday, when a judge ruled the presidential front-runner will not have to testify in the so-called Formaldegate trial. Bush's testimony was sought by attorneys for Eliza May, the former executive director of the Texas Funeral Service Commission, in a whistle-blower lawsuit against the state of Texas. . .May, who was fired by the TFSC's board, claims that state legislators and Bush's office interfered with her agency's investigation in order to help SCI, the world's largest funeral company. Waltrip is a longtime friend of the Bush family and has contributed at least $45,000 to Bush's political campaigns
ROBERT BRYCE, SALON, July 21, 1999 - After a May 1998 meeting in Bush's office between SCI CEO Robert Waltrip and Allbaugh [predecessor to Michael Brown as head of FEMA - TPR] - and possibly Bush - the Funeral Service Commission completed no more inspections of SCI's facilities, and the agency's general counsel quit. In February 1999, commission Executive Director Eliza May was fired. A few months later, the Republican-controlled Texas Legislature passed a bill to reorganize the agency and strip it of its general counsel position. (The bill's sponsor received more campaign funds from SCI than anyone in the Texas House.) The legislature also forced out the agency's current chairman, Dick McNeil, a Fort Worth funeral director who had approved the investigation into SCI's operations . . . Adding intrigue to the lawsuit are a conflicting set of documents recently issued by SCI's lawyers. On June 11, Waltrip's lawyers issued documents that say Waltrip talked with Bush on April 15, 1998, in the governor's office about SCI's problems with the state investigators. Five days later, Waltrip's lawyers changed their story. In a highly unusual "supplemental" response to the interrogatories, the lawyers said Waltrip did not talk to Bush about his problems with state investigators. The supplemental document says that while Waltrip was in Bush's office waiting to talk with Allbaugh, the governor "passed by on the way to a press conference or other appointment," and although Bush "exchanged pleasantries" with Waltrip, their discussion was "not substantive; they did not discuss the content" of a letter Waltrip wrote complaining about the investigation. Perhaps that's true. But why, then, did SCI's in-house lawyer, Daniel Reat, swear that Waltrip talked to Bush? In a sworn, notarized court statement that accompanied the June 11 interrogatory, Reat said that Waltrip's answers "are either within his personal knowledge or based on information obtained from other persons, and are true and correct."
MARK CURRIDEN AND GEORGE KUEMPEL, DALLAS MORNING NEWS, Aug 19, 1999 - In Wednesday's petition, Ms. May's lawyers say Mr. Bush's "statements are intentionally false, misleading and deceptive." The lawyers list several instances in which they say Mr. Bush appears to know about the investigation. They point to an April 1998 meeting involving Mr. Waltrip and Service Corporation International lawyer Johnnie B. Rogers in the office of the governor's chief of staff, Joe Allbaugh. They had come to Mr. Bush's office to deliver a letter protesting the agency's investigation. Mr. Rogers recently told Newsweek magazine that during the meeting, Mr. Bush popped his head into the room and said to Mr. Waltrip, "Hey, Bobby, are those people still messing with you?" When Mr. Waltrip responded "Yes," the governor turned his attention to Mr. Rogers, the magazine reported. "Hey, Johnnie B., are you taking care of him?" Mr. Rogers quoted the governor as saying. Mr. Bush said Wednesday that the exchange lasted only several seconds. "I don't remember what I said," he said. "The conversation lasted 20 seconds and that is hardly enough time to say hello, let alone have a substantive discussion." The petition also cites two meetings between Ms. May, Mr. Allbaugh and the governor's general counsel, Margaret Wilson, in the governor's office as evidence that Mr. Bush was aware of the investigation. "That no one talked to the governor about those meetings and no one from SCI spoke to him about this subject of those meetings is simply not believable," the petition says.
THE TEXAS FUNERAL SERVICE COMMISSION chief executive earns $43,680, has ten employees and a budget of $495,000. SCI CEO Robert Waltrip earns $20.3 million, has 23,000 employees and SCI has revenues of $2.8 billion.
OUR MAN OF THE DAY, Robert Waltrip, also started the nation's "largest collection of funeral service memorabilia," now housed at the National Museum of Funeral History, in Houston. Among the artifacts: a classic glass preparation table and buckets; old ice box and iron coffins of the sort used before embalming, a coffin made of glass, another designed to hold a family of three, and a video, "The Value of a Funeral." There are several motorized and horse-drawn hearses including a funeral sleigh, a black Toyota pickup outfitted with a gold pagoda camper and speakers to broadcast music in a Japanese funeral procession, and a 1916 Packard funeral bus. Used only once, it was retired after its faulty design allowed the rear end of the vehicle to tilt as it climbed a hill toward the cemetery sending pallbearers, mourners, and the casket tumbling.
There is also a picture of a "life signals" coffin, designed to reassure people afraid of being buried alive, especially during the frenzy of a deadly epidemic. One design used an arrangement of wires and pins and a spring lid to enable the occupant of the coffin, by the slightest movement of the hand or head, to cause the coffin lid to spring open. Another consisted of a square tube containing a ladder and a cord, one end of which was placed in the hand of the person laid in the coffin, while the other extended up to a bell on top of the tube, which was attached to the head of the coffin. The museum also has a gift shop where you can buy Undertakers Spring Bottled Water with your name on the back should you wish to give it out as a public relations item.
FROM THE PROGRESSIVE REVIEW
EDITED BY SAM SMITH
Since 1964, Washington's most unofficial source
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