One Assassin Can Shift The Balance: Ex-Lawmakers Say US Gov't Still Vulnerable to Attacks After 9/11
20:30 GMT 16.09.2021 (Updated: 05:01 GMT 17.09.2021)
© AFP 2021 / SAMUEL CORUM The U.S. Capitol is seen behind a fence with razor wire during sunrise on January 16, 2021 in Washington, DC. After last week's riots at the U.S. Capitol Building, the FBI has warned of additional threats in the nation's capital and in all 50 states. According to reports, as many as 25,000 National Guard soldiers will be guarding the city as preparations are made for the inauguration of Joe Biden as the 46th U.S. President.
The last time the orderly operation of one of the US government branches was disrupted happened on 6 January 2021. On that day, a mob of angry pro-Trump demonstrators broke into the Congress building chanting "We will count the votes!" in protest against the electoral loss of their favourite candidate.
Several dozen former US lawmakers from both parties have signed an open letter, obtained by Politico, to the leaders of the current Congress, calling on them to take steps in order to protect the continuity of the government in the country. The signatories cited a 2003 report by the Continuity of Government Commission – a joint project of two American think tanks – indicating in the wake of the 9/11 attacks the vulnerabilities of existing contingencies established to supposedly preserve the continuity of power in the US in case of an emergency.
The commission ruled that none of the three branches of power was properly protected against various threats. The authors of the open letter bring up two scenarios. In one of them, a large-scale event renders the House "unable to achieve a quorum" and thus make decisions. The other was even more plausible in the modern US political landscape:
"In a closely contested Congress – as we currently have in both chambers – a single assassin could alter the makeup and balance of power of the body."
The letter says that such vulnerabilities are essentially "invitations to future attacks". However, since the commission report's publication in 2003, nothing has been done to address the issue.
Now, on the 20th anniversary of the 9/11 terror attack that triggered the original study, the 50 ex-lawmakers who signed the letter are calling for Congress to overcome its political disagreements and establish a body that would ensure the continuity of the US government in case of a catastrophic event. They argued that numerous anthrax attacks, the deaths of several lawmakers from COVID-19, and the events of the 6 January riot only highlight the urgency of the matter.
The signatories to the letter have offered several options for the proposed body's structure - either a bipartisan, bicameral joint committee or a commission consisting of distinguished former members of Congress. Neither the current leaders of Congress nor the White House have commented so far on the letter's contents.