|Miami Herald, July 5, 1987
Reagan Aides and the Secret Government
NATIONAL CRISIS PLAN
From 1982 to 1984, [Oliver] North assisted FEMA, the U.S. government’s chief national crisis-management unit, in revising contingency plans for dealing with nuclear war, insurrection or massive military mobilization.
North’s involvement with FEMA set off the first major clash between the official government and the advisers and led to the formal letter of protest in 1984 from then- Attorney General Smith.
Smith was in Europe last week and could not be reached for comment.
But a government official familiar with North’s collaboration with FEMA said then-Director Louis O. Guiffrida, a close friend of Meese’s, mentioned North in meetings during that time as FEMA’s NSC contact.
Guiffrida could not be reached for comment, but FEMA spokesman Bill McAda confirmed the relationship.
"Officials of FEMA met with Col. North during 1982 to 1984," McAda said. "These meetings were appropriate to Col. North’s duties with the National Security Council and FEMA’s responsibilities in certain areas of national security."
FEMA’s clash with Smith occurred over a secret contingency plan that called for suspension of the Constitution, turning control of the United States over to FEMA, appointment of military commanders to run state and local governments and declaration of martial law during a national crisis.
The plan did not define national crisis, but it was understood to be nuclear war, violent and widespread internal dissent or national opposition against a military invasion abroad.
PLAN WAS PROTESTED
The official said the contingency plan was written as part of an executive order or legislative package that Reagan would sign and hold within the NSC until a severe crisis arose.
The martial law portions of the plan were outlined in a June 30, 1982, memo by Guiffrida’s deputy for national preparedness programs, John Brinkerhoff. A copy of the memo was obtained by The Herald.
The scenario outlined in the Brinkerhoff memo resembled somewhat a paper Guiffrida had written in 1970 at the Army War College in Carlisle, Pa., in which he advocated martial law in case of a national uprising by black militants. The paper also advocated the roundup and transfer to "assembly centers or relocation camps" of at least 21 million "American Negroes."
When he saw the FEMA plans, Attorney General Smith became alarmed. He dispatched a letter to McFarlane Aug. 2, 1984 lodging his objections and urging a delay in signing the directive.
"I believe that the role assigned to the Federal Emergency Management Agency in the revised Executive Order exceeds its proper function as a coordinating agency for emergency preparedness," Smith said in the letter to McFarlane, which The Herald obtained. "This department and others have repeatedly raised serious policy and legal objections to the creation of an ’emergency czar’ role for FEMA."
It is unclear whether the executive order was signed or whether it contained the martial law plans. Congressional sources familiar with national disaster procedures said they believe Reagan did sign an executive order in 1984 that revised national military mobilization measures to deal with civilians in case of nuclear war or other crisis.