Simulation: Martial Law

The date is September 1, 2012, and you are a member of the U.S. Senate. You will gather tonight from 6:30-9:30 in a special secret session, and here is the information you have received:

“Dear Senators: National Intelligence sources are 98.9% sure that on September 11, 2012 a coalition of 17 terrorist organizations will launch a series of attacks in the United States. Intelligence has discovered plans for over 1,423 such attacks, on government, business and private entities in all 50 states and in large cities as well as small towns. All indications are that these are just the tip of the iceberg, that an estimated 5,000 separate attacks are planned.

With this understanding, the President is notifying the Senate that he will declare martial law next Monday, September 6, across the nation. This will not be announced publicly until then, except that tomorrow, on Thursday, all military and law enforcement personnel on active or reserve duty will be put on active status and told to report to their supervisors for instructions. All state governors will have direct authority over all officers in their state, and will report directly to the President.

All schools, post offices, banks, and businesses will be closed as of 8am Monday until further notice. All citizens are to remain in their homes, except those who are to report to military and law enforcement and certain specialized people such as doctors and nurses, energy plant personnel, firemen, media, etc.—they will be contacted directly by their supervisors and given a pass to travel on the streets. The government will do all in its power to stop the terrorist attacks, and it will rescind martial law as soon as possible.

“The President is requesting that the Senate ratify this martial law plan and that you establish a Martial Law Rules outline. The Vice President, who is also President of the Senate, is presiding and conducting here tonight, and he will represent the views of the Administration. Roberts New Rules of Order will be followed. When you have completed and ratified the document, it will be submitted to the Supreme Court tomorrow for a secret ruling. You must complete your document by 8:30 pm tonight. If you do not, the President will simply submit his own rules to the Court tomorrow morning. On pain on of arrest for treason, you are not to discuss this with anyone, including family and staff members, before it is publicly announced on Monday.

“The nation is under attack, and drastic measures are called for. Help these measures to be structured as well as can be possibly hoped for by participating in this emergency meeting.

Each senator will have 1 vote. Those attending shall be a quorum. The Vice President is ********.

Part II: Debriefing (for instructors only):

A few ideas:

Did you challenge the constitutionality?

Did you run it through the statesman’s matrix?

Did you consider alternatives to martial law—such as a Bill telling the States to enact their own martial law and report to a joint committee with 10 senators and the president? Or something like it? You could have sent this proposal directly to the Supreme Court. Or just announced it openly.

Did you put a specific limited time on it, with a return process on a certain date?

Did you think to put in laws that would take effect when martial law ended—laws that had nothing to do with the martial law but need to pass and might under such circumstances? You can bet the “bad” people thought of this—why not the good?

What principles did you follow?

What principles did you break?

Does the constitution allow martial law? Under what circumstances?

When does security void the constitution?

What did you do about your family? Did you take notes about your family and make some plans? What were your feelings?