To quote from a news article on the subject (credited below):

"If the nation escalates to 'red alert,' which is the highest in the color-coded readiness against terror, you will be assumed by authorities to be the enemy if you so much as venture outside your home, the state's (New Jersey) anti-terror czar says.

... A red alert would also tear away virtually all personal freedoms to move about and associate.

'Red means all non-critical functions cease,' Caspersen said. 'Non-critical would be almost all businesses, except health-related.'

... 'The state will restrict transportation and access to critical locations,' says the state's new brochure on dealing with terrorism.

'You must adhere to the restrictions announced by authorities and prepare to evacuate, if instructed. Stay alert for emergency messages.'

Caspersen went further than the brochure. 'The government agencies would run at a very low threshold,' he said.

'The state police and the emergency management people would take control over the highways.

'You literally are staying home, is what happens, unless you are required to be out. No different than if you had a state of emergency with a snowstorm.'"


Now, first let me note that this isn't the ranting of some Matt Drudge clone who believes the Illuminati run the world or something. This is an interview with a state official, published in a newspaper owned by Gannet Publishing, one of the largest mass media companies in the nation. If you believe the mass media is covering things up, this would certainly be one of those things.

That said, I have to disagree rather strongly with Mr. Caspersen; there is considerable difference between this and a snowstorm. The government can't fake a snowstorm, or say one exists when it doesn't. (Well, they can, but not many people are going to take them seriously.) Neither can a snowstorm be a perpetual threat. Nor is there any reason I can think of why the response to a snowstorm would be to "tear away most personal freedoms". For that matter, a snowstorm is a regional occurrence; if a state of emergency is declared for one in New York, it makes no sense for it to affect Arizona.

What we are talking about is a suspension of the Constitution, of our elected legislatures, of all of our democratic institutions, for an unspecified amount of time due to an unspecified threat. What we are talking about is martial law, plain and simple.

I am not a paranoid person by nature. I am not given to indulging in conspiracy theories. Yet I cannot help but think that this entire situation for the past year and a half, the whole war on terrorism, is nothing but a front for what's going on here at home; or at least that they both originate in the same plans. I've seen people reference documents from the Project for a New American Century (, a conservative 'educational' organization that Dick Cheney and (I believe) some other members of Bush's staff are members of, in order to somehow 'prove' that Bush and/or his administration was responsible for the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001. I don't really believe that myself, but frankly, it doesn't matter either way in the long run. What matters is that it was the impetus for everything that has occurred since then: The creation of the Department of Homeland Security, the Patriot Acts, the military tribunals, the arrests of various people without warrant or reasonable suspicion, all the way down to the quashing of dissent as "Unamerican". This is merely the latest extension of these things.

Surely I am not the only one who sees the potential for abuse of this "red alert" procedure. Surely my countrymen are not so blind as to think it can never be used except in the case of a true emergency, or that (in the event of such an emergency) the government will necessarily let go of its new-found priveleges after the threat has passed. This has nothing to do with whether or not you support the war against Iraq, or the war on terrorism in general. This is about the abrogation of the very rights and freedoms and democratic institutions that those troops are supposed to be out protecting. My fellow Americans, are you truly prepared to defend that?

Reply to DejaMorgana:
  1. A terrorist attack is not the same thing as an invasion. Terrorist organizations rarely act similarly to state militaries.
  2. You are correct, that is what red alert means. Which is quite beside the point.
  3. There is no Constitutional "freedom of movement", although one might argue that the 1st and 9th Amendments implicitly guarantee such a right. In any case, though I wasn't directly attacking the policy as used in proper circumstances, consider this: If red alert status is declared, anyone not in their homes is considered a terrorist. How much time do they give you to get home before they start shooting? What about homeless people? Shelters can't hold everybody, and in many places there are no shelters. What about people who simply did not hear about the alert status for one reason or another?
  4. That said, your fire engine analogy is flawed. Even if I don't know about the fire, or even whether or not there is one, many other people *will* know about it. By contrast, the government is the only entity that can tell us if there is or is not a terrorist threat. Moreover, even if there is no fire, at most I am being inconvenienced for a few seconds; as opposed to having all my rights stripped away for an unspecified amount of time. For that matter, it's the same with your water analogy; at worst, I'm being inconvenienced.
  5. Yes, most systems are open to abuse. Some, however, are easier to abuse than others. Hell, just the existence of a military means the possibility of martial law being declared, but something like the DHS' Red Alert gives it a justification. One, I might add, that is impossible to verify.
  6. Actually, the 'nice men in the government', as you call them, cannot do any such thing. Not legally, in any case. There are two reasons, one obvious and one technical: The obvious reason, of course, is that they have no legal right to subvert the Constitution (the only exception is that Congress or a sufficient number of state legislatures can annul the Constitution, but only if they intend to draft a new one). The technical reason deals with political legitimacy. There are three kinds of legitimacy to rule that a government can have: patrimonial, charismatic, or constitutional (a.k.a. legal-rational. The U.S. government's legitimacy is constitutional. That means that by subverting the Constitution, the government subverts its own legitimacy. In other words, in doing so, that government no longer has legitimacy to rule.