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The Armageddon Plan


[This is my transcript of the following--not from ABCs website or bought through them.]

The Armageddon Plan
ABC Nightline
Wednesday April 7, 2004

Ted Koppel
It was a plan, a plan for the worst.

Edwin Meese, Former US Attorney General
Let’s suppose all of Washington or all of the Atlantic seaboard from let’s say Connecticut down to Georgia was wiped out.

Ted Koppel
And for twenty years they practiced it.

Richard Clarke, Former White House Counter-terror Chief/ABC News Consultant
As though you were living in a play. I had no idea where we were, I didn’t even know what state we were in.

Ted Koppel
Then, one day, it wasn’t an exercise anymore.

Richard Clarke, Former White House Counter-terror Chief/ABC News Consultant
On the morning of 9/11 the entire “Continuity of Government” program was activated.

James Mann, Author, "Rise of the Vulcans"
Immediately, Cheney goes off into the bunker and tells the President of the United States “Stay out of town.”

Ted Koppel
It was real.

Kenneth Duberstein, Former White House Chief of Staff
And I said to myself as we proceeded through the day, “It’s working.”

Ted Koppel
Tonight, The Armageddon Plan: Preparing for the Day After.

From ABC News, this is Nightline. Reporting from Washington, Ted Koppel.

Ted Koppel
This is not the first time that major elements of this story have been told. The Washington Post had a lot of the facts two years ago. We learned about the existence of the program we’re going to tell you about from a recent article in “The Atlantic Monthly.” It was written by James Mann, Author, "Rise of the Vulcans."
(http://www.theatlantic.com/issues/2004/03/mann.htm)

James Mann, Author, "Rise of the Vulcans"
This is the story of how the United States, in the Reagan administration, planned to set up a new presidency, a new leadership for the country at time of nuclear war in a way that was never authorized by the Constitution or any federal law.

Ted Koppel
Tonight though, for the first time, you’re going to hear directly from several of the people who participated in what James Mann called “The Armageddon Plan.” These are all people who served as senior staffers for first the Reagan, then the first Bush administration, under President Clinton and the second Bush administration. Each of them participated in what for years were just exercises, war games. One of these senior staffers, however, was serving in the White House on September 11, 2001 when, for the first time, “The Armageddon Plan” was actually put into effect.

James Mann
It began under the military as a program to make sure there was always command and control of the Armed Forces. The Reagan administration set up three teams. Each had color names, there was a red team and a blue team and whatever. Each team had about 50 federal officials and it had a Chief of Staff and it had a cabinet member who was going to be the next President. If nuclear war seemed imminent, these three teams would be sent out from Washington to different locations around the country and in succession, each one could take over the running of the country.

Edwin Meese, Former US Attorney General
Let’s suppose all of Washington or all of the Atlantic seaboard from, let’s say, Connecticut down to Georgia was wiped out. Unfortunately, not an unlikely scenario if you had a true nuclear attack. Or let’s suppose as far west as Chicago, all the large cities were wiped out. You have a real problem then of even being able to communicate to find out if anybody is left in the Washington area that might be in that line of succession. So obviously there were those kinds of difficulties to try to imagine and see how you would handle things.

Richard Clarke, Former White House Counter-terror Chief/ABC News Consultant
Well, I remember one occasion where we got the call, we had to go to Andrews Air Force Base and get on a plane and fly across the country and then get off and run onto a smaller plane and that plane flew off into a desert location. And when the doors opened on the smaller plane we were in the middle of a desert. Trucks eventually came and found us and drove us to a tent city. This was in the early days of the program. A tent city in the middle of the desert. I had no idea where we were, I didn’t even know what state we were in. We spent a week there in tents pretending that the United States government had been blown up and we were it, we were what was left of the federal government in this tent city in the middle of nowhere.

Ted Koppel
Doing what?

Richard Clarke
Making decisions about how to stop the war, trying to figure out how we could communicate with the Soviet Union, this is because there had been a nuclear war between the United States and the Soviet Union, it had to stop, there had to be a negotiation. We had to be sure that the people we were talking to were really the Soviet Union.

Ted Koppel
What was the point of having guys like you and Donald Rumsfeld and Dick Cheney, each of whom had been a Chief of Staff to the President, on these teams?

Kenneth Duberstein, Former White House Chief of Staff
The answer is the person who runs the staff, the person who peoples the government, the person who puts the team together, the person who trains the rest of the team is somebody who has been there, done that. You’re also training the President of the United States, or acting President of the United States who has never had that kind of experience either. This is not making the Chief of Staff superhuman, but you are responsible for the day-to-day running of whatever is left of the United States government and trying to take care of the American people.

Sally Katzen, Former Deputy Director OMB
When you enter the program, you are presented with the proposition that if you go, your family is not going and if you are someone who is married and have children, how do you handle that? And some people don’t want to be in the program for that very reason. I think this is correct, but at one point Earl Warren when he was Chief Justice of the United States was offered to be flown out in the case of emergencies said “Can I take my wife?” and they said “No” and he said “Goodbye.” He wasn’t interested in going and that’s a perfectly legitimate, human response.

Richard Clarke, Former White House Counter-terror Chief/ABC News Consultant
It’s as though you’re living in a play, you play-act, everyone there play-acts that it’s really happened. You can’t go outside because of the radioactivity, you can’t use the phones because they’re not connected to anything. They try very hard in these exercises to create the real atmosphere so that you….could think the unthinkable.

Kenneth Duberstein, Former White House Chief of Staff
You’re living it and you say that of course this is possible. Back then it was possible we were going to suffer a nuclear attack. But how do you start worrying about the food supply in the Midwest, whether the water is contaminated or not?

Ted Koppel
How do you establish the bona fides of the Acting President?

Richard Clarke, Former White House Counter-terror Chief/ABC News Consultant
There’s an elaborate system for the people in this network first of all to verify each other’s identity. So, it’s not just that someone’s on the other end sounding like Ted Koppel, that person on the other end has a certain password and information that they have to pass for us to believe that they’re Ted Koppel.

Ted Koppel
But do your allies have that?

Richard Clarke
In some cases.

Ted Koppel
Do your adversaries have that?

Richard Clarke
Not that I’m aware of. Therefore, what you have to do is sometimes you order US forces to do something and you say to the adversary in advance “I’m going to order our forces to do ‘X’”--you will observe that, that’s how you will know that I’m in charge of US forces.

Ted Koppel
Someone raised the example of causing a nuclear submarine to come to the surface at a given place and at a given time.

Richard Clarke
Right, exactly. That sort of thing that says I’m in charge of our forces because I just made that submarine or that aircraft carrier do what I told you I would make it do.

Ted Koppel
Who then began the planning.

Edwin Meese, Former US Attorney General
This was done by…we had an organization in the Pentagon which was called the “Continuity of Government” team and they developed the scenario for these particular exercises.

Ted Koppel
So they would call in instructions and say alright “Los Angeles just got wiped out by a bomb” or…

Edwin Meese
…or something like that.

Richard Clarke, Former White House Counter-terror Chief/ABC News Consultant
They try to make it as realistic as possible. In one exercise we had our food convoy intercepted so we didn’t eat that night. In another exercise we were getting information from someone who wasn’t really the Soviet Union, some martial General Vladivostok(?) who was pretending to be in charge. So, the exercise is designed for two things: 1. to train you with the kinds of questions that might arise but 2. to see if you come up with questions and problems that they haven’t thought of. These exercises both train the participants and they also train the system.

Ted Koppel
When we come back, from theory to practice, The Armageddon Plan is put into effect.

Richard Clarke
9/11 was the first time, in my knowledge, that we activated the program not because of an exercise but because of reality. On the morning of 9/11 the entire “Continuity of Government” program was activated. Headquarters shifted control to alternate headquarters and personnel were evacuated from Washington to alternate headquarters.

Ted Koppel
When you say “headquarters,” headquarters….

Richard Clarke
…headquarters of every federal agency.

Ted Koppel
Really?

Richard Clarke
Every federal agency was ordered on the morning of 9/11 to activate an alternative command post, an alternative headquarters outside of Washington, DC and to staff it as soon as possible.

Ted Koppel
There were things you would’ve seen unfold on that day that you would’ve seen with a different eye than I would?

Sally Katzen, Former Deputy Director OMB
Yes. Obviously they were not going to bring the President back to Washington, particularly if the Vice President was in Washington, that they would try to keep the two of them in different locales. That they would both be given great protection and that probably there would be a deployment of a successor team, of a “Continuity of Government” team. I knew that they would obviously ground the aircraft, that they’d close borders and the kinds of things that did happen on that day.

James Mann, Author, "Rise of the Vulcans"
Cheney and Rumsfeld had participated in this program. Let me emphasize again, they knew all the details. So what happens on September 11th? Immediately Cheney goes off into the bunker and tells the President of the United States…

Ted Koppel
… “stay away.”

James Mann
…and Don Rumsfeld asks his Deputy Paul Wolfowitz to get out of town. They begin to send out these teams of federal officials. This is really an echo of the “Continuity of Government” plan.

Ted Koppel
There isn’t a great deal of affection between you and the Bush White House so when I ask you truly then the suggestion, the implication that George Bush stayed out of Washington out of something less than great courage, I mean, that really is terribly unfair isn’t it?

Richard Clarke, Former White House Counter-terror Chief/ABC News Consultant
It’s extraordinarily unfair. The President kept telling us he wanted to come back in very firm ways all day long and the head of the Secret Service, the Vice President and everyone involved kept telling him “No, the system doesn’t work that way.”

Kenneth Duberstein, Former White House Chief of Staff
One of the things that was a (unintelligible) we weren’t coming back to Washington anytime soon…that you had to divert…that you had the Vice President of the United States taken to a different location, an undisclosed location.

Ted Koppel
Although in this instance he was kept at the White House because the President was out.

Kenneth Duberstein
Absolutely. But you also had cabinet officers who were dispatched around the country. You had people in Congress, the leadership of Congress taken to other locations. And I said to myself as we proceeded through the day, “It’s working, all those days of patriotic duty were coming back and they were working.”

Richard Clarke, Former White House Counter-terror Chief/ABC News Consultant
So, the Vice President stayed in the White House, the President stayed outside and was actually brought to the Strategic Command Headquarters which is in Nebraska which had great communications connectivity; he could command all the US Forces from there if he needed to. The Speaker of the House was removed from Washington to yet a third location and the teams that we had trained began to deploy over the course of the morning to a whole series of locations. At the same time, every federal government agency activated its alternative sites. I don’t think any government in the 20-25 years of this program ever spent more time or gave it more attention than the Bush administration did after 9/11. For well over a year after 9/11 the Bush administration had the program on “warm stand-by.”

Ted Koppel
We have seen sort of intimations of it and I understand that classifying a program like this is totally understandable but when we hear about Dick Cheney mysteriously disappearing, being in some undisclosed location, that’s what we’re talking about here isn’t it?

Richard Clarke
That’s what we’re talking about. Dick Cheney spent a great deal of time after 9/11 outside of Washington and others have too and teams of people have.

Ted Koppel
How it happens, nuclear missile, chemical or biological weapon is almost beside the point. The country would almost certainly be placed under immediate martial law and Congress, for a time at least, might actually cease to exist. That part of the story when we come back.

Ted Koppel
Realistically speaking, if we had that kind of attack again on Washington, aren’t you left for at least the foreseeable future with some sort of martial law anyway?

Kenneth Duberstein, Former White House Chief of Staff
Yes.

Ted Koppel
Talk about that.

Kenneth Duberstein
The importance is for services of the United States government to take care of our people and to reconstitute our government. If there is a nuclear holocaust or that kind of level of terrorism…

Ted Koppel
…or chemical or biological…

Kenneth Duberstein
…or chemical or biological…yea, you have to suspend rights.

Ted Koppel
The issue of Congress, I mean, theoretically we could be sitting here with only 100 Congress people still alive, with only 20 Senators still alive…

Richard Clarke, Former White House Counter-terror Chief/ABC News Consultant
That’s not a quorum.

Ted Koppel
That’s not a quorum. And during that period then and given the sense of panic that is inevitable under circumstances like this, the Executive Branch of government takes on extraordinary power doesn’t it.

Richard Clarke
I think in any war where Washington were destroyed inevitably there would be a period of, for lack of a better term, something like martial law. The key here is though, that the plans all call for going back to a normal three branch system as rapidly as possible.

Ted Koppel
Who says when “as possible” kicks in?

Richard Clarke
As soon as the Congress can reconvene with a quorum then it begins to operate.

Ted Koppel
I guarantee you that there are literally hundreds of people up on Capitol Hill that are probably hearing about this for the first time.

Edwin Meese, Former US Attorney General
Well, I would hope so. I would hope hundreds of people would be hearing about it because obviously today it may be alright but certainly at the time you wouldn’t want hundreds of people to know about this.

Ted Koppel
Except I’m talking about US Senators?

Edwin Meese
You wouldn’t want hundreds of US Senators to know. You’d want the people who were concerned like the Speaker of the House and President Pro Tem because they were part of the plan. This is purely an executive function. Now, the only real criticism of the Congress’ Act and the 25th Amendment which provides for the Speaker of the House and the President Pro Tem of the Senate to be in the line of succession, in the law, if you look at the law reviews, the only real criticism has been that Congress shouldn’t be in there at all, that the Speaker shouldn’t be the next in line after the Vice President and the President Pro Tem shouldn’t be the next in line because they’re legislative officials.

Ted Koppel
Is it your sense that enough thought has gone into this? that enough planning has gone into it?

Kenneth Duberstein, Former White House Chief of Staff
I think the thinking has gone pretty far. I think the question of Congress regeneration, I think the question of martial law both are legitimate subjects for even more work. But the day-to-day functioning of the US government I think we have a pretty good handle on now in case of nuclear attack or terrorist attack.

Ted Koppel
On reflection, I must tell you it strikes me that I am most reassured by the knowledge…

Sally Katzen, Former Deputy Director OMB
…yup…

Ted Koppel
…that this kind of thing has been going on. On reflection are you pleased that the American public is now going to hear about this?

Sally Katzen
(pause) I haven’t really thought about that.

Ted Koppel
Well, think about it.

Sally Katzen
(pause) I think the American people can know that the government is doing that which it should be doing and that preparation for things that are unthinkable and planning for contingencies that are unimaginable is part of good government. And if people need to hear that there are particular programs that are achieving an objective, I suppose that’s desirable. But, for them to think that there’s something conspiratorial, there’s something underhanded about this or that there’s something circumventing the Constitution would be a great disservice. This is done, I think, by-the-book as it should be.

[end]


Moza

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