During the 1987 Iran-Contra hearings, the following exchange took place between Representative Jack Brooks of Texas, Senator Daniel Inouye of Hawaii, and Brendan Sullivan, attorney for Colonel Oliver North, during North's testimony before Congress:
REPRESENTATIVE BROOKS: Colonel North, in your work at the NSC, were you not assigned, at one time, to work on plans for continuity of government in the event of a major disaster?
BRENDAN SULLIVAN: Mister Chairman?
SENATOR INOUYE: I believe that question touches upon a highly sensitive and classified area so I request that you not touch on that.
REPRESENTATIVE BROOKS: I was particularly concerned, Mister 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.
SENATOR INOUYE: May I most respectfully request that this 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.
Brooks, a crusty, no-nonsense Democrat from Texas, had touched upon what may have been the most incredible, but least discussed, revelation of the entire Iran-Contra investigation: a planning exercise for the detention of large numbers of American citizens, similar to the internment of Japanese-American citizens in World War II. This was Readiness Exercise 1984, or "Rex84."
The first reports about Rex84 appeared in the Miami Herald on July 5, 1987 (this is the report referred to by Representative Brooks). According to the Herald, the plan the Rex84 group came up with called for the detention of up to 400,000 persons in internment centers at military bases around the country. (These would eventually become known as the "Rex84 camps.") U.S. military forces, including the National Guard, would be deployed for domestic law enforcement, and state and local military commanders would be appointed to assume control of state and local governments. Rex84 also provided for suspension of the Bill of Rights of the U.S. Constitution for the duration of the national emergency. According to the Herald, 22 new executive orders were drafted by the Reagan administration that would create the framework for making Rex84 a reality, and these orders are kept in readiness for a future President's signature in case of a national emergency.
One task of the
Rex84 exercise was to determine what types of "national emergency"
would be of sufficient severity to cause the majority of American people
to accept even a temporary suspension of normal Constitutional government.
Among the situations identified by the Rex84 group as meeting that criterion
would be a nuclear attack, imminent threat of nuclear war, massive terrorist
attacks in the United States, simultaneous rioting in major American cities,
a widespread natural or environmental disaster, and, interestingly, a
severe economic depression that would leave millions unemployed and without
adequate financial resources.
INSIDE THE SHADOW GOVERNMENT: National Security and the Cult of Secrecy gives full details about Rex84 and other plans for military involvement in national emergencies.