Corporate America
Under Siege: The Undeclared
State of Emergency
By Stuart H. Rodman
Picture this bleak future, Americans with no civil liberties. No right to free speech. No right to question your government. Newly-enacted Y2k related legislation places limits on free speech and on your right to access vital information obtained from corporations-even when your safety and well being is affected. What are they trying to hide?
Corporate America Under Siege: The Undeclared State of Emergency By Stuart H. Rodman 12-2-99
Suppose you found corporate documents which say that your company has a chemical plant that could send a poisonous, billowing cloud of lethal byproducts hovering over your neighborhood killing thousands of people instantly and leaving the survivors blinded, with scarred lungs, cancers, and otherwise maimed for life. And, what if you also discovered that the government already knows about this but that it is now a federal crime to tell anyone else what you discovered! Even if you survive the pending calamity, your life will be ruined by your own government, just for trying to save others. Sound like fiction? It's not. It is as real as a heart attack. Recent legislation enacted by Congress creates just such a possibility. Consider the following:
Under provisions of the recently enacted Chemical Safety Information, Site Security and Fuels Regulatory Relief Act, Public Law 106-40, you could be fined up to a million dollars a year for speaking ill about a corporate chemical plant! In a posting from "Roleigh's Lodge", Roleigh Martin's prominent Y2k related internet site, observer Scott Secor offers this caution to "covered persons" and researchers,
Whether you are or not, you better keep your mouth shut about chemical plants. You can be fined $5000 per facility per mouth off, up to a total of $1 million/year. Speech restrictions will be in effect until Aug. 5, 2000, at which time a decision will be made on the restoration of democracy."
It's true! The new law provides that hazardous materials produced or stored in these plants, which most Americans live within five miles of, must be reported to the Environmental Protection Agency in the form of an "Off Site Consequences Analysis" (OCA). This report details the worst case scenario for the plant in the event of a Y2k related computer failure. What we don't know could hurt us. A chemical discharge in Bhopal India killed 2,000 people within just a few miles of a Union Carbide plant in 1984. The U.S. General Accounting Office says that most of the 66,000 such plants in the U.S. are susceptible to the Y2K computer problem but still are not ready for the Year 2000.
Despite the harsh realities, if you have actually have seen the OCA report and divulge any of its contents to the public, you become a "covered researcher" and could be fined up to a million dollars a year per incident. These reports must be pretty scary. The good news? People without access to the facts are still free to speak at will. Only those who speak the truth are placed outside the law! There's more.
Imagine that you heard that utility companies around the country might fail next year and that 26 million Americans may be forced to survive without winter heating, drinking water or sanitation. Did you think that as a citizen you had the right to know details about how this information might affect you or your loved ones? Think again! According to Congress, not so if the information concerns the Y2k computer glitch.
The Year 2000 Readiness and Information Disclosure Act, Public Law 105-271, places public utility companies in a position whereby the truth about their Y2k preparations is no longer accountable to ordinary citizens. This new federal law makes Year 2000 information exempt from release even under the Freedom of Information Act! That's what a citizen action group in San Diego discovered when they attempted to use the act to resolve questions raised in the media about the readiness status of local drinking water utilities.
"Five communities within a seventy mile radius of my home were recently revealed by the U.S. Navy as being likely to experience a 'probable total failure' in essential services this winter because of Y2k.", says Mark Snyder, a local San Diego resident and Vice President of the San Diego Y2k Citizen's Action Group.
Local concerns about the preparedness status of utilities were heightened last summer with the release of the Navy's "Master Utility List", an internal working document maintained by the Navy to keep tabs on the availability of civilian infrastructure near their installations around the country. The spreadsheets produced for this study revealed that because of Y2k, essential services in 128 cities affecting 26 million Americans were at risk for some level of failure this winter including water, gas, or electric services. Other cities also targeted for trouble in the report included New York City, Miami, Orlando, and Clearwater, Florida among dozens of other.
"We just want to know the truth about the County's essential services so we can prepare ourselves and our loved ones properly", says Snyder. "Even after the spreadsheets were made public though, our local authorities denied that there were any problems."
In fact, although acknowledging that the spreadsheets were authentic, Naval officials explained that the dire predictions were the result of missing data and not a final conclusion. It appears that the civilian authorities in 44 of the 128 cities surveyed by the Navy had refused to answer questions posed by Navy auditors even when only 6 months remained before the immovable deadline of January 1, 2000.
Snyder explained, "San Diego is a Navy town. We just can't understand why our local utility representatives would not be more forthcoming when approached by them. It makes us wonder if there is something horrible that they are holding back."
Snyder's concerns seem well founded. Recent studies of Year 2000 preparedness by the government's General Accounting Office found that the distribution of drinking water and waste removal is highly susceptible to the Y2k computer problem and to the availability of electricity from the power grid. However, the Y2k status of water districts throughout the country is not coordinated by any outside public agencies and the status of the municipal districts is mostly unknown.
Snyder adds, "making matter worse is the fact barely one third of the electric utility companies on the grid have allowed their Y2k plans to be audited by anyone outside their own industry. They tell us they're ready but many of their systems have been exempted from testing just because their vendors say the new parts are great. When independent laboratories examined the problem though, they report that many similar deliveries fail up to fifty percent of the time. We feel there is plenty to worry about."
A Siege Mentality
In an effort to find the truth, Snyder's group sought relief under provisions of the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). They were soon to be stunned however. Although the Navy seemed more than eager to accommodate the group's desire for the details regarding information affecting their community, they were unable to do so because the Act had been quietly modified to make information about utility preparedness none of the group's business!
The newly enacted Year 2000 Information and Readiness Disclosure Act (Public Law 105-271), modifies the FOIA which was originally enacted to provide citizen's with a vital tool for maintaining the nation's system of checks and balances. The new law reads, in part,
"Except with the express consent or permission of the provider of information described in paragraph (1), any year 2000 statements or other such information provided by a party in response to a special year 2000 data gathering request made under this subsection- (A) shall be exempt from disclosure under subsection (b)(4) of section 552 of title 5, United States Code, commonly known as the ``Freedom of Information Act''; (B) shall not be disclosed to any third party"
Citizen's rights are rarely suspended in a time of peace. However, the corporate special interests have used their muscle in Congress to assure that secrets about their Y2k readiness plans remain well beyond the level of ordinary public scrutiny. Despite public claims to the contrary, things may be so bad for them in fact that they felt it necessary to lean upon Congress to create an undeclared, defacto state of National Emergency.
Will the new millennium bring with it the last days of civil liberties? The latest congressional actions seem to express our government's greater duty to promote the agenda of corporations then to preserve and protect citizen's rights. San Diego's Y2K Action Group may have already had a taste of the future. For now at least though, they may still have recourse from President Clinton in the form of an audit by the Executive Branch of the Federal Government. While most of us regard the Y2k computer problem as a technology issue, it seems the virus has suddenly mutated itself and has now become the bug that ate our civil liberties.
About the Author
Stuart's reports on the developing Y2k story have been heard nationwide on radio appearances including Coast to Coast AM with Art Bell, Sightings on the Radio, The Laura Lee Show, and Common Sense with Jim Bell.
Stuart is a Y2k Activist with a background in the IT profession. He holds an M.S. Degree from Portland State University and has been a featured panelist and community advocate for the White House Council on Year 2000 Conversion's "Community Conversations" initiative.
Stuart's book "The Last Days of Power? The True Story" is available for immediate delivery from
Contact Stuart from Or email to:


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