For the first time in modern US history, the Pentagon has just received secret orders to prepare to assume “government continuity” if the coronavirus crisis creates situations that prevent civilian authorities from exercising their responsibilities and ensuring internal security.
According to Newsweek , the Defense Secretary, Mark Esper, signed on 1 st February of secret directives ordering the US Northern Command (NORTHCOM) to “prepare to deploy” in support of “extraordinary potential missions” that could cause the pandemic . They include “the possibility of some form of martial law,” where military commanders would be given executive powers across the United States.
These Above-Top Secret contingency plans codenamed OCTAGON, FREEJACK and ZODIAC are now in place, reports Newsweek .
In principle, the support that NORTHCOM provides to civilian authorities is legally limited by the Posse Comitatus Act of 1878. Adopted in response to the aftermath of the American Civil War, it restricts the role of the United States military in enforcing national laws.
But the law creating Northern Command provides that in the event of a national, natural or human-made emergency, it can take charge of the situation.
You probably didn’t know it, but Canada and Quebec are in the American security perimeter under Northern Command and the American army can legally intervene in Quebec for internal security missions. Notice, not just in Canada, but also in Mexico and everywhere else in North America.
The Northern Command was created following the attack of September 11, 2001 to plan, organize and execute missions of internal defense, support for the civil authorities and “management of the consequences of a terrorist event using a weapon of destruction massive ”.
Its area of responsibility includes Canada, Mexico and the North American coast up to 500 nautical miles from the coasts of the Atlantic and Pacific oceans, and also includes the Gulf of Mexico, the Strait of Florida, the Bahamas and part of the Caribbean . Unlike NORAD (North American Aerospace Defense Command), which provides aerospace defense for the continent, the NORTHCOM staff, whose headquarters are in Colorado like that of NORAD, does not include any Canadian general.
The responsibilities that Washington attributes to NORTHCOM encroach on the sovereignty of Canada, Mexico and the Bahamas. Was Canada forced to integrate? What we do know is that shortly after the creation of Northern Command, Jean Chrétien’s Liberal government signed in December 2002 a “civil assistance program” with the United States, which sets out the conditions for deployment of American troops to Canada following a terrorist attack or a natural disaster. The current COVID-19 pandemic fits perfectly with the definition of a natural disaster. It is even very large.
The Northern Command staff is currently developing operational response plans to deal with any eventuality. The disaster scenarios considered include violence caused by food shortages or inaccessibility to health care which would cause unrest in major American cities. In the United States, the dangerousness of such a situation would be amplified by the free circulation of firearms, including assault rifles.
In fact, the Pentagon has ordered all uniformed personnel to stay on or near military bases across the United States in order to be on alert and ready to deploy quickly. The US military is itself vulnerable to the pandemic and this containment directive also serves to protect the soldiers of COVID-19.