Byline: Carole Fader
Times-Union readers want to know:
An email from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs warns us to expect a "radical change" in the U.S. government, possibly within the "next fortnight," based on information it has received from "highly placed" sources within the Pentagon. What is the radical change and is this true?
The information in this chain email claims that Russia's Main Intelligence Directorate (GRU) was notified by its Pentagon counterparts that President Barack Obama is preparing to invoke the powers given to him under 50 USC Chapter 13 because various states are in a "state of insurrection." Those powers, the email goes on, allow him to invoke the National Emergencies Act and invoke the "continuity of government" plan, which allows him to rule with supreme powers.
Yes, there is a Title 50 of the U.S. Code, which deals with war and national defense (Chapter 13 deals with insurrection, stating various cases in which the president can declare a state of insurrection). The U.S. Code covers everything from use of atomic weapons to interference with homing pigeons owned by the U.S.
The National Emergency Powers Act is contained within the code and has been extended at various times; a state of emergency regarding Iran has existed since 1979 and was extended again by Obama in 2012.
The Continuity of Operations requires presidential directive to ensure that essential functions of the government can continue, in case of an enemy attack, for example. The plan first went into effect after 9 /11. Congress members have continually asked for reform of these powers to rein in unchecked growth of emergency situations.
Under the National Emergency Powers Act, the president is limited in his exercise of emergency powers. The Congressional Research Service, a nonpartisan office that provides policy and legal analysis to Congress, states:
"With the exception of the habeas corpus clause, the Constitution makes no allowance for the suspension of any of its provisions during a national emergency. Disputes over the constitutionality or legality of the exercise of emergency powers are judicially reviewable. Indeed, both the judiciary and Congress, as co-equal branches, can restrain the executive regarding emergency powers. So can public opinion.
"Furthermore, since 1976, the President has been subject to certain procedural formalities in utilizing some statutorily delegated emergency authority. The National Emergencies Act (50 U.S.C. 1601-1651) eliminated or modified some statutory grants of emergency authority, required the President to declare formally the existence of a national emergency and to specify what statutory authority, activated by the declaration, would be used, and provided Congress a means to countermand the President's declaration and the activated authority being sought. …