Must Read: The Enemies Briefcase, By Andrew Cockburn | Harper’s Magazine

THIS is the explanation you’ve been needing to read all your life.

The Enemies Briefcase, by Andrew Cockburn

A few hours before the inauguration ceremony, the prospective president receives an elaborate and highly classified briefing on the means and procedures for blowing up the world with a nuclear attack, a rite of passage that a former official described as “a sobering moment.” Secret though it may be, we are at least aware that this introduction to apocalypse takes place. At some point in the first term, however, experts surmise that an even more secret briefing occurs, one that has never been publicly acknowledged. In it, the new president learns how to blow up the Constitution.

The session introduces “presidential emergency action documents,” or PEADs, orders that authorize a broad range of mortal assaults on our civil liberties. In the words of a rare declassified official description, the documents outline how to “implement extraordinary presidential authority in response to extraordinary situations”—by imposing martial law, suspending habeas corpus, seizing control of the internet, imposing censorship, and incarcerating so-called subversives, among other repressive measures. “We know about the nuclear briefcase that carries the launch codes,” Joel McCleary, a White House official in the Carter Administration, told me. “But over at the Office of Legal Counsel at the Justice Department there’s a list of all the so-called enemies of the state who would be rounded up in an emergency. I’ve heard it called the ‘enemies briefcase.’ ”

These chilling directives have been silently proliferating since the dawn of the Cold War as an integral part of the hugely elaborate and expensive Continuity of Government (COG) program, a mechanism to preserve state authority (complete with well-provisioned underground bunkers for leaders) in the event of a nuclear holocaust. Compiled without any authorization from Congress, the emergency provisions long escaped public discussion—that is, until Donald Trump started to brag about them. “I have the right to do a lot of things that people don’t even know about,” he boasted in March, ominously echoing his interpretation of Article II of the Constitution, which, he has claimed, gives him “the right to do whatever I want as president.” He has also declared his “absolute right” to build a border wall, whatever Congress thinks, and even floated the possibility of delaying the election “until people can properly, securely, and safely vote.”



In the 1970s, the Colorado senator Gary Hart served on the famed Church Committee, which probed and exposed CIA assassinations, FBI operations to subvert and destroy the civil-rights movement (including efforts to drive Martin Luther King Jr. to suicide), and other secret, scandalous initiatives. These shocking revelations, including close ties to organized crime, revealed the terrifying extent of unbridled presidential power, with the use of secret police—the FBI and CIA—as personal instruments. Given Hart’s time on the committee, one would expect him to be intimately familiar with the secret powers of the president. Yet when he read an April 10 op-ed in the New York Times by Goitein and her colleague Andrew Boyle headlined trump has emergency powers we aren’t allowed to know about, he was caught by surprise. “It snapped my head back,” he told me.



“…domestic intelligence activities [that] threaten to undermine our democratic society and fundamentally alter its nature”– Senate Church Committee report, 1976

“Legality? That particular aspect didn’t enter into the discussions.”– Benson K Buffham, Deputy Director NSA when questioned by the Senate Church Committee about domestic monitoring.

The first congressman to battle the NSA is dead. No-one noticed, no-one cares. BY MARK AMES ON FEBRUARY 4, 2014
Last month, former Congressman Otis Pike died, and no one seemed to notice or care. That’s scary, because Pike led the House’s most intensive and threatening hearings into US intelligence community abuses, far more radical and revealing than the better-known Church Committee’s Senate hearings that took place at the same time. That Pike could die today in total obscurity, during the peak of the Snowden NSA scandal, is, as they say, a “teachable moment” —one probably not lost on today’s already spineless political class.

Daniel Ellsberg: Trump is an enemy of the Constitution and must be defeated

“There is an evil tendency underlying all our technology – the tendency to do what is reasonable even when it isn’t any good.”
~ Robert Pirsig, Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance

The most damaging phrase in any language is “it’s always been done that way.”
Rear Admiral Grace Hopper


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *