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REX 84: Ronald Reagan's plan to declare martial law and imprison Americans

The thought of the United States government gathering up its citizens and placing them in "residential centers" or containment camps seems outlandish, but it's happened before and has been attempted more often than you think.

Ronald Reagan
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Americans often get described as the "good guy" and in many situations are, but that is not always the case. The most notable case was following the Japanese bombing of Pearl Harbor during World War 2. On January 14, 1942, President Franklin D. Roosevelt issued Presidential Proclamation No. 2537, which mandated that immigrants from World War II enemy countries like as Italy, Germany and Japan, register with the United States Department of Justice. Due to fear that Japanese Americans on the west coast would turn on the United States, over 110,000 were round up and placed in what was known as an interment camp. Only one month later, Roosevelt signed Executive Order 9066 into law which allowed the removal of all Japanese Americans into internment camps.

Roosevelt was hesitant and it was one of the lowest points of his otherwise successful presidency. President Jimmy Carter put together an investigation in 1980 which found little to no evidence of Japanese disloyalty at the time. The commission also recommended the government pay reparations to the survivors. In an ironic twist in 1988, Republican President Ronald Reagan said the government's actions were "race prejudice, war hysteria, and a failure of political leadership" and $1.6 billion in reparations were given to the Japanese Americans and their families were interned.

Roosevelt usually gets the blame when it comes to the United States gathering up citizens, but it could have been much worse and it could have been done during the Reagan administration. It was called REX 84 or the Readiness Exercise 1984, and was set up for a classified "scenario and drill" so the federal government could suspend the United States Constitution while declaring martial law and placing top military leaders in charge of state and local governments. The plan would then lead to detaining large numbers of American citizens who the government labeled as a "national security" threat.

Written by Lieutenant Colonel Oliver North, NSC liaison to the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), and John Brinkerhoff, the deputy director of "national preparedness" programs for the FEMA, the bill was based off a report written by the former FEMA chief Louis Giuffrida in 1970. The report proposed the detention of over 20 million "American Negroes" if there was an African American revolt in the United States. The Miami Herald reported in 1987 that all it took was a signature from Ronald Reagan himself and his Attorney General to make REX 84 happen.

”These camps are to be operated by FEMA should martial law need to be implemented in the United States and all it would take is a presidential signature on a proclamation and the attorney general’s signature on a warrant to which a list of names is attached.”

The Miami Herald also points to those who created REX 84 in having done so before the 1980 election. The Herald notes that they might have created an "October surprise" to sabotage the Carter presidency by negotiating with Iran to release the 52 hostages being held, in addition to stealing confidential briefing material before the October 28, 1980 Reagan/Carter debate.

In 1987, during the Iran/Contra hearings, (another Reagan disaster which you can read about here) Rep. Jack Brooks (D-TX), Brendan Sullivan the attorney for Oliver North and Sen. Daniel Inouye (D-HI), the Democratic Chair of the joint Senate-House Committee, spoke about the details of REX 84 but didn't get too far.

"Brooks: Colonel North, in your work at the N.S.C. were you not assigned, at one time, to work on plans for the continuity of government in the event of a major disaster?

Sullivan: Mr. Chairman?

Inouye: I believe that question touches upon a highly sensitive and classified area so may I request that you not touch upon that?

Brooks: I was particularly concerned, Mr. 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 an area in which he had worked. I believe that it was and I wanted to get his confirmation.

Inouye: May I most respectfully request that that 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."

When most people hear the term "conspiracy theory," they write it off as another crack pot claiming that a man never landed on the moon or that Big Foot and the Loch Ness monster are alive and well, but that is not always the case. For every 100 alleged "conspiracy theories" there is always going to be a few that slip by that are true. When it comes to REX 84, that is far from a conspiracy and is just factual history. Nothing ever came from REX 84 or other plans like it during the time, but it's the fact that they "could have" done something that must be noted.

Information like this is often ignored by the mainstream media on both sides of the political spectrum, but it doesn't mean that it isn't important. The next time a conservative points to FDR about Japanese American internment, make sure you inform them about REX 84.