America’s Constitutional State of Emergency

by | May 23, 2024

More than 23 years ago, George W. Bush, Jr. signed Presidential Proclamation 7463 declaring that a “national emergency exists by reason of the terrorist attacks at the World Trade Center, New York, New York, and the Pentagon, and the continuing and immediate threat of further attacks on the United States.”  

The White House has demonstrated, in several administrations, both Democrat and Republican, “threat inflation” for the sake of spending endless money on wars, and manipulating fears to hold on to power to continue to spend endless money on even more wars in the ultimate protection racket.

As a result, the constitutional system of checks and balances is being obliterated in favor of an Imperial Presidency, and, as the Constitution is eroded, so too, are our liberties.  

The recent chipping away at our First Amendment and Fourth Amendment rights can be traced directly to the psychology of a “State of Emergency,” which licenses shredding of freedom. 

Presidents no longer ask Congress for explicit permission to go to war, as the Constitution requires, under Article 1, Section 8.  Courts have held that once Congress appropriates money for wars, that is  tantamount to congressional approval.

The increased spending for war has militarized our culture, proliferates enemies, creates violence at home and abroad.

We must break this cycle of fear, the endless wars and the emergency powers for Presidents who are not accountable to the Congress, which is directly elected by the people. 

Those of us who witnessed the events of 9/11, up close, or from a distance, will never forget the imminent danger, the fear, the grief, the loss, the uncertainty that gripped us in those days. Nor will we forget those whose lives were sacrificed, or those who gave their lives in service to humanity on that day, or those who died following long-term illnesses which began during and after the attacks 23 years ago.

That is why it may surprise some that on September 7, 2023, President Joe Biden proclaimed, “I am continuing for 1 year the national emergency previously declared on September 14, 2001, in Proclamation 7463, with respect to the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, and the continuing and immediate threat of further attacks on the United States.”  

23 years later and trillions upon trillions of dollars spent to “make us safer” and we are still in a “State of Emergency,”  facing the same terror threats?  

America has been in and continues to be in a State of Emergency which has endowed the Presidency with broad powers and undermined the Constitutional role of Congress, while placing presidential emergency declarations on par with congressional declarations of war, under Article 1, Section 8 of the U.S. Constitution.  Presidents from Bush, Jr., to Biden have all capitalized on declarations of a state of emergency.

Congress is a co-equal branch of government. America’s Founders did not design the Congress to be subordinate to the Presidency, but strong presidents and weak Congresses have created that condition.

According to Congressional Research Service (CRS), there are 106 laws which further empower the executive branch following a presidential declaration of a “National Emergency.”  The Brennan Center for Justice has identified a total of 136 expanded executive powers.  

The emergency powers may not have been used explicitly but their use is authorized once a “National Emergency” is declared.  Among the emergency powers of the President, (as cited by CRS) without a need for congressional permission:

  • Executive ability to detail members of the armed forces to foreign countries, without congressional approval.
  • Undertake military construction.
  • Carry out military construction with NATO funds.
  • Order “Ready Reserve” to active duty for two years, without their consent.
  • Additional penalties for “gathering, transmitting or losing defense information.”
  • Lift prohibition on infectious medical waste being dumped in the ocean.
  • Seize, shutdown or appropriate broadcast stations.
  • Suspend laws concerning production and transportation of chemical, biological  and “warfare agents.”

We live in a forever state of emergency, with forever wars, forever fears, forever siphoning off our tax dollars.


–    The Bush Administration lied when it claimed that Iraq was behind 9/11,  but proceeded to characterize Iraqis as terrorists in an attempt to justify killing one million Iraqi citizens.

–    Since 9/11, over $8 trillion dollars of our $34 trillion dollar national debt is attributable to wars which never had to be fought, wars which put the lives of America’s brave sons and daughters on the line.

–    The United States shelved diplomacy in favor of weaponry as a means of international relations.

–    At present the USA spends close to one trillion dollars a year for supporting a war machine and that nearly 60% of all discretionary spending goes for preparation for war.

–    The 2002 National Intelligence Estimate, (NIE) which was the (closely held) product of all US intelligence agencies, did not identify Iraq as a major threat, because it was not. The publicly available 2024 Annual Threat Assessment (ATA) of the U.S. Intelligence Community brings forth two paragraphs, out of a 41 page report, regarding “global terrorism.”  

There was no discussion in the ATA of the basis for President Biden’s most recent declaration of a national emergency and the “continuing and immediate threats” even though the ATA report was being drafted at about the time that the President  continued the “National Emergency” in the name of a 23-year fight against “terrorism.”

The CATO Institute, whose pocket Constitution I carried with me during my years in Congress, suggests amending the National Emergencies Act to rein in Executive power by requiring congressional approval, and putting expiration dates on emergency powers.

Does the US have enemies?  Yes.  Should we be on our guard?  Yes. 

“Eternal vigilance is the price of liberty.”  

We should also be vigilant against government manipulating our love of country, playing with our fears, in order to control us, or to use us to support the continued erosion of our US Constitution and advance the malevolent ambitions of the military industrial complex, of which President Eisenhower warned in 1961.  

Reprinted with permission from The Kucinich Report.

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  • Dennis J. Kucinich

    Dennis John Kucinich is an American politician. A U.S. Representative from Ohio from 1997 to 2013, he was also a candidate for the Democratic nomination for president of the United States in 2004 and 2008.

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