Not Advised Of Shadow Government
Security 'Serious Business'
Amy Goldstein and Juliet Eilperin Washington
Post Staff Writers
March 2, 2002; Page A1
Key congressional leaders said yesterday the
White House did not tell them that President Bush has moved a cadre of
senior civilian managers to secret underground sites outside Washington to
ensure that the federal government could survive a devastating terrorist
attack on the nation's capital. Senate Majority Leader Thomas A. Daschle
(D-S.D.) said he had not been informed about the role, location or even the
existence of the shadow government that the administration began to deploy
the morning of the Sept. 11 hijackings. An aide to House Minority Leader
Richard A. Gephardt (D-Mo.) said he similarly was unaware of the
Among Congress's GOP
leadership, aides to House Speaker J. Dennis Hastert (Ill.), second in line
to succeed the president if he became incapacitated, and to Senate Minority
Leader Trent Lott (Miss.) said they were not sure whether they knew.
Aides to Sen. Robert C. Byrd
(D-W. Va.) said he had not been told. As Senate president pro tempore, he
is in line to become president after the House speaker.
Bush acknowledged yesterday
that the administration had taken extensive measures to guarantee "the
continuity of government," after it was revealed that about 100 top
officials, spanning every executive branch department, have been sent to
live and work in two fortified locations on the East Coast. This system, in
which high-ranking administrators are rotating in and out of the two sites,
represents the first time a president has activated the contingency plan,
which was devised during the Cold War of the 1950s so that federal rule
could continue if Washington were struck by a catastrophic attack.
It was unclear yesterday
whether any federal documents -- prepared either by the current White House
or by Bush's predecessors dating to Dwight D. Eisenhower -- specify whether
congressional leaders should be told if the plan is put into effect. At
least one relatively general document, a 1988 executive order entitled
"Assignment of Emergency Preparedness Responsibilities," said the
White House's National Security Council "shall arrange for Executive
branch liaison with, and assistance to, the Congress and the federal
judiciary on national security-emergency preparedness matters."
The executive order, signed
by President Ronald Reagan, is a precursor to documents outlining the
contingency plans in greater detail, which have not been made public.
Regardless of whether Bush had an obligation to notify legislative leaders,
the congressional leaders' ignorance of the plan he set in motion could
raise the question of how this shadow administration would establish its
legitimacy with Congress in the event it needed to step in for a crippled
At least some members of
Congress suggested yesterday that the administration should have conferred
about its plans, which were first reported in The Washington Post
"There are two other
branches of government that are central to the functioning of our
democracy," said Rep. William Delahunt (D-Mass.), a member of the
House Judiciary Committee. "I would hope the speaker and the minority
leader would at least pose the question, 'What about us?' "
Other lawmakers said they
believe the federal government lacks adequate plans to be certain that all
three of its branches could function if terrorists disabled Washington.
White House officials did not
elaborate on why the president did not consult with congressional leaders.
"The president addressed this earlier today, and I will have to refer
you to his comments," spokesman Taylor Gross said.
Speaking yesterday on a trip
to Des Moines, Bush did not describe the deployment in detail. He said he
had "an obligation as the president [to] put measures in place that,
should somebody be successful in attacking Washington, D.C., [would
guarantee] there's an ongoing government."
"This is serious
business," the president said. "I still take the threats that we
receive from al Qaeda killers and terrorists very seriously." He made
clear the extent to which he believes that terrorism poses a lingering
threat to the U.S. government. "That's one reason why the vice
president was going to undisclosed locations," Bush told reporters.
"And I will tell you,
there are people still in this world who want to harm America," the
president said, vowing that "we're doing everything in our power to
protect the American people."
At the Pentagon, which
routinely rotates top military officials to secure locations, spokeswoman
Victoria Clarke said: "It is absolute common sense, absolutely appropriate
that the government should have all the parts and all the pieces in place
so in case of a crisis, in case of an emergency, the government can and
will continue to function."
The House and Senate each has
a contingency plan. "Precautions have been taken and arrangements have
been made to move the work of Congress to another location," Daschle
Bush made his remarks at the
Printer Inc., a relatively small Des Moines business that the White House
chose as a backdrop to tout changes the administration favors to the
nation's pension laws. The printing plant assists workers with 401(k) plans
and encourages them to take an active role in saving money for retirement.
For the second day in a row,
Bush sought to draw attention to his plans for what he has begun to call
"retirement security," a combination of pension changes and
redesign of Social Security.
"You see, we're going to
have to encourage more savings in America, because people are going to live
longer lives," Bush said.
Alluding to his more controversial
view that workers should be allow to invest some of their Social Security
taxes in the stock market, Bush said: "We ought to do everything we
can in Washington, D.C., to encourage people to own a piece of the
His visit to Iowa of slightly
more than three hours followed a formula the White House has used since New
Year's, as the president has begun to travel to states in which GOP
candidates face tight races in the fall elections. These visits combine a
forum to promote one of the administration's legislative priorities with a
Bush attended a luncheon on
behalf of Rep. Tom Latham (R-Iowa), a quiet conservative first elected in
the "Republican Revolution" of 1994. He has easily won reelection
since then, but his prospects are far less certain this year because his
district -- until now heavily Republican -- has been redrawn to include
more Democratic voters.
The luncheon raised $275,000
for Latham and $200,000 for the Iowa Republican Party.
This was Bush's fourth trip
to Iowa since becoming president. The state is significant to the GOP's
struggle to retain its majority in the House and to win back control of the
Senate this fall -- and to Bush's reelection aspirations in two years. Bush
narrowly lost the state to Vice President Al Gore in 2000.
Goldstein reported from Des Moines.