Martial LawA new Executive Order was issued by President Barack Obama on Friday afternoon, and its contents have political pundits and activist groups wondering if the president just declared peacetime Martial Law.

It’s always conspicuous when documents like this one are released on a Friday afternoon, just as the weekly news cycle is shutting down.  It’s kind of like what happened when Obama signed the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) on New Year’s Eve, hoping that no one would notice.

This latest Executive Order, entitled “National Defense Resources Preparedness“, is filled with language about “government-owned equipment” and a “defense executive reserve,” among other vague declarations.

Rumors immediately began to spread stating that the executive order expanded the president’s power to do everything from seizing whole industries to drafting private armies.

A Canada Free Press article titled “Obama Executive Order: Peacetime Martial Law!” spread fears of gasoline ration cards, while an Examiner article declared the order would “nationalize everything” and “allow for a civilian draft.”

Drudge Report Martial LawEven the Drudge Report posted a link to the White House release under the title “Martial Law? Obama Issues Executive Order.”

So do we need to be worried?

William A. Jacobson, associate clinical professor at Cornell Law School, says we shouldn’t jump to any conclusions.

“If someone wants to make the argument that this is an expansion of presidential powers, then do so based on actual language,” warns Jacobson. “There is enough that Obama actually does wrong without creating claims which do not hold up to scrutiny.”

As it turns out, Obama’s latest executive order is practically identical to EO 12919, issued by President Bill Clinton on June 7, 1994, which itself was an amendment to EO 10789, issued in 1958 by President Dwight D. Eisenhower, and which in fact, was later amended by EO 13286, issued in 2003 by President George W. Bush.

As WND points out, Obama’s executive order specifically assigns “executive departments and agencies responsible for plans and programs related to national defense” to do five things:

  • “Identify” requirements for emergencies
  • “Assess” the capability of the country’s industrial and technological base
  • “Be prepared” to ensure the availability of critical resources in time of national threat
  • “Improve the efficiency” of the industrial base to support national defense
  • “Foster cooperation” between commercial and defense sectors

Later provisions in the EO establish the protocol for government agencies to buy equipment needed in times of national emergency and even grant loans to ensure the availability of that equipment.

Despite the vague nature of the functions, none mentions anything about martial law or seizing private property. The five functions are also identical to those identified in Clinton’s EO 12919.

Still, we may not be out of the woods.

The New American points out the following excerpt from the EO:

Sec. 201. Priorities and Allocations Authorities. (a) The authority of the President conferred by section 101 of the Act, 50 U.S.C. App. 2071, to require acceptance and priority performance of contracts or orders (other than contracts of employment) to promote the national defense over performance of any other contracts or orders, and to allocate materials, services, and facilities as deemed necessary or appropriate to promote the national defense, is delegated to the following agency heads:

(1) the Secretary of Agriculture with respect to food resources, food resource facilities, livestock resources, veterinary resources, plant health resources, and the domestic distribution of farm equipment and commercial fertilizer;
(2) the Secretary of Energy with respect to all forms of energy;
(3) the Secretary of Health and Human Services with respect to health resources;
(4) the Secretary of Transportation with respect to all forms of civil transportation;
(5) the Secretary of Defense with respect to water resources; and
(6) the Secretary of Commerce with respect to all other materials, services, and facilities, including construction materials.

(b) The Secretary of each agency delegated authority under subsection (a) of this section (resource departments) shall plan for and issue regulations to prioritize and allocate resources and establish standards and procedures by which the authority shall be used to promote the national defense, under both emergency and non-emergency conditions. Each Secretary shall authorize the heads of other agencies, as appropriate, to place priority ratings on contracts and orders for materials, services, and facilities needed in support of programs approved under section 202 of this order.

(c) Each resource department shall act, as necessary and appropriate, upon requests for special priorities assistance, as defined by section 801(l) of this order, in a time frame consistent with the urgency of the need at hand. In situations where there are competing program requirements for limited resources, the resource department shall consult with the Secretary who made the required determination under section 202 of this order. Such Secretary shall coordinate with and identify for the resource department which program requirements to prioritize on the basis of operational urgency. In situations involving more than one Secretary making such a required determination under section 202 of this order, the Secretaries shall coordinate with and identify for the resource department which program requirements should receive priority on the basis of operational urgency.

(d) If agreement cannot be reached between two such Secretaries, then the issue shall be referred to the President through the Assistant to the President and National Security Advisor and the Assistant to the President for Homeland Security and Counterterrorism.

(e) The Secretary of each resource department, when necessary, shall make the finding required under section 101(b) of the Act, 50 U.S.C. App. 2071(b). This finding shall be submitted for the President’s approval through the Assistant to the President and National Security Advisor and the Assistant to the President for Homeland Security and Counterterrorism. Upon such approval, the Secretary of the resource department that made the finding may use the authority of section 101(a) of the Act, 50 U.S.C. App. 2071(a), to control the general distribution of any material (including applicable services) in the civilian market.

Did you catch that last line? It seems to basically give the President of the United Staes the power to “control the general distribution of any material (including services) in the civilian market.”

It would seem that this paves the way for the nationalization of all food, energy, water, and healthcare pipelines and providers in the country. To help the president keep track of all these new responsibilities, he assigns a cabinet member to each category of control.

As any historian can likely attest, when the government begins to interfere with the free flow of goods and commodities, then it may also manipulate the availability of these items, as well as their prices.

The White House has issued no statement regarding the purpose for the signing of this Executive Order. What is the reason for it?  Do we need to be concerned?

One thing is certain – we will likely never get a direct answer any time soon.  Nothing to see here folks, move along.  Nothing to see here.