Tuesday, July 27, 2010

The Role of the Olympics in FEMA History

Perhaps surprisingly the history of FEMA has been both before and after its incorporation into DHS severely impacted by preparations and events at various Olympic Games. I was stationed outside of Munich and watched as the Germans (Federal Republic of Germany) prepared for the summer 1972 Olympic Games including asking the American Military to be totally evacuated from Munich prior to the GAMES. This included the US surrendering a newly completed Army Field Hospital in MUNICH.

Well upon my return to the STATES I became one of millions who observed the events at the Munich Games of the summer of 1972. I was exactly 30 years old. Jim McKay's over 24 hour news coverage of the terrorist attacks resulting in the deaths of the Israeli athletes will always be etched in my mind and all who were witness to that broadcast and event. So what does this have to do with FEMA?

Well FEMA believe it or not had a role in domestic terrorism planned for it by the beginning! What you say? That can't possibly be the case. Was there some right wing conspiracy to place FEMA into law enforcement? No the culprits were the Governors, particularly California's Governor Ronald Reagan who were worried for a variety of sound reasons in my opinion that domestic terrorism needed federal assistance to allow the states to govern. The NGA (National Governors Association) conducted a lengthy study of Emergency Management in the mid-70's resulting in part in the eventual creation of FEMA. Some of the Governors had an interest in conducting/hosting Olympic Games. As a result an entire volume of the NGA study on Domestic Terrorism was devoted to domestic terrorism. As a result in both the Reorganization Plan No. 3 of 1978 and one of its implementing Executive Orders, E.O. 12148, the "consequences of terrorism" role undefined was assigned to FEMA. That was July 1979. As late as 1995 in Presidential Directive 39 under the Clinton Administration that role was again stated explicitly. So what happened in the meantime?

Well California sought and won the hosting of the Summer Games of the Olympics in 1984. General Louis O. Guiffrida, then FEMA Director had created in his major reorganization of FEMA effective fall 1981, a Civil Security Section administered by his long time friend Frank Salcedo, later the principal for EM at the Veterans Administration. Many of the personnel in that unit came from the DOJ's LEAA, Law Enforcement Assistance Administration, which some believed LOG wanted to recreate in FEMA. None-the-less the unit was deployed to LA to help prepare security for the OLYMPICS.

Although denied almost to a man to the extent I have been able to research the issue, that FEMA Civil Security Team was accused by the CITY of LA of interfering with local law enforcement who then complained to the US Attorney's Office who then relayed the complaint to Main Justice. In a previous post on this blog I have discussed FEMA/DOJ relations in that time frame and I have posted documents allowing people to draw their own conclusion. Whatever the truth of the matter the LA Olympic Security set up resulted in the eventual downfall of LOG in part because of DOJ fears that led to its creation of the statutory concept of a "Law Enforcement Emergency" a term first used at Mt. St. Helens when there were more than pyroclastic flows falling out in the Pacific Northwest.

After the mid-80's FEMA was determined to keep out of law enforcement issues and even training law enforcement personnel. This no involvement, no train stance has been heavily eroded since the formation of DHS which still is line drawing its law enforcement role with DOJ. But that is a story perhaps yet to be written.

What did happen next of course is that Senator Sam Nunn began to personally involve himself in trying to understand the security arrangements for the 1996 Atlanta Summer Games, in which there was in fact a bombing as all know. Beginning late in 1994 he ordered his staff to begin inquiries over security management and preparedness for the Olympics. The Clinton White House even before the arrival of James Lee Witt had ordered FEMA to orchestrate domestic security arrangements for those games. This memo went directly to William Tidball, Acting Director of FEMA before the confirmation of James Lee Witt. Obviously, Bill Tidball was aware of the past disputes with DOJ and almost nothing was done to prepare for the Olympics prior to late 1994. I never knew whether James Lee Witt even knew about the assignment of FEMA to Olympic Security arrangements, and certainly not a lead role. No budget requests went forward to support that assignment, for FEMA or any other agencies. By that date all involved knew Olympic Security did not come cheap. Almost $1B was spent on the Utah Winter Games security, as an example.

Senator Nunn asked his staff to conduct informal meetings with Executive Branch personnel to be briefed on the arrangements and understand what was transpiring. FEMA sent briefers in the form of two SES persons neither of which was aware of the 1984 contretemps with DOJ. In fact neither knew of FEMA's domestic terrorism role as assigned in E.O. 12148. Remember again the the Murrah Building Oklahoma Explosion was to occur in 1995. Anyhow failing to get a straight answer from FEMA or anyone else in the Executive Branch, Senator Nunn ordered his staff to begin drafting legislation. Eventually this appeared as the Nunn-Lugar Defense Against Weapons of Mass Destruction Act of 1996, Title XIV, of the 1996 DOD authorization statute. That statute has also been discussed on this blog.

It suffices to state that the Oklahoma City Bombing did occur, FEMA funded a large part of the related law enforcement activity, basically because DOJ and the FBI had no money to fund the effort, including communications and feeding and housing paid for by FEMA, and raising the question as to how law enforcement preparedness should be funded and does the STAFFORD ACT even allow that law enforcement activity to be paid for out of the DRF (Disaster Relief Fund)?

Well in a memorandum addressed to President Clinton's terrorism lead Richard Clarke on November 21, 1996, the FEMA GC John Carey took the position that NO preparedness funding for other agencies could in fact come from the DRF or Stafford Act but then did point out that with the consent of the pertinent committees FEMA had funded its and other agencies preparedness efforts for the Olympic Games from the DRF.

That opinion failed of course to take into account any of the prior history or even previous FEMA OGC opinions that had been issued first in an attempt to divert criticism of FEMA performance in Hurricane Andrew by the George H.W. Bush Administration, essentially blaming FEMA non-performance on a legal technicality and stating on the record many times that the STAFFORD ACT required amendment to prevent future problems (which has not yet happened) and thus leaving to history and the future what FEMA/DHS will do for the next domestic Olympic games. Note however that tremendous amounts of funding were needed by the Executive Branch to support the Vancouver Winter Games, held of course in CANADA.

And did you know that the US is trying to get Olympic Games down the road?