President Bush has signed a directive granting extraordinary powers to the office of the president in the event of a declared national emergency, apparently without congressional approval or oversight.
The "National Security and Homeland Security Presidential Directive" was signed May 9, notes Jerome R. Corsi in a WND column.
It was issued with the dual designation of NSPD-51, as a National Security Presidential Directive, and HSPD-20, as a Homeland Security Presidential Directive.
The directive establishes under the office of the president a new national continuity coordinator whose job is to make plans for "National Essential Functions" of all federal, state, local, territorial and tribal governments, as well as private sector organizations to continue functioning under the president's directives in the event of a national emergency.
"Catastrophic emergency" is loosely defined as "any incident, regardless of location, that results in extraordinary levels of mass casualties, damage, or disruption severely affecting the U.S. population, infrastructure, environment, economy, or government functions."
Corsi says the president can assume the power to direct any and all government and business activities until the emergency is declared over.
The directive says the assistant to the president for Homeland Security and Counterterrorism, currently Frances Fragos Townsend, would be designated as the national continuity coordinator.
Corsi says the directive makes no attempt to reconcile the powers created for the national continuity coordinator with the National Emergency Act, which requires that such proclamation "shall immediately be transmitted to the Congress and published in the Federal Register."
A Congressional Research Service study notes the National Emergency Act sets up Congress as a balance empowered to "modify, rescind, or render dormant" such emergency authority if Congress believes the president has acted inappropriately.
But the new directive appears to supersede the National Emergency Act by creating the new position of national continuity coordinator without any specific act of Congress authorizing the position, Corsi says.
The directive also makes no reference to Congress and its language appears to negate any requirement that the president submit to Congress a determination that a national emergency exists.
It suggests instead that the powers of the directive can be implemented without any congressional approval or oversight.
Homeland Security spokesman Russ Knocke affirmed to Corsi the Homeland Security Department would implement the requirements of the order under Townsend's direction.
The White House declined to comment on the directive.