Times-Union readers want to know:
An email from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs warns us to expect a "radical change" in the U.S. government, possibly within the "next fortnight," based on information it has received from "highly placed" sources within the Pentagon. What is the radical change and is this true?
The information in this chain email claims that Russia's Main Intelligence Directorate (GRU) was notified by its Pentagon counterparts that President Barack Obama is preparing to invoke the powers given to him under 50 USC Chapter 13 because various states are in a "state of insurrection." Those powers, the email goes on, allow him to invoke the National Emergencies Act and invoke the "continuity of government" plan, which allows him to rule with supreme powers.
Yes, there is a Title 50 of the U.S. Code, which deals with war and national defense (Chapter 13 deals with insurrection, stating various cases in which the president can declare a state of insurrection). The U.S. Code covers everything from use of atomic weapons to interference with homing pigeons owned by the U.S.
The National Emergency Powers Act is contained within the code and has been extended at various times; a state of emergency regarding Iran has existed since 1979 and was extended again by Obama in 2012.
The Continuity of Operations requires presidential directive to ensure that essential functions of the government can continue, in case of an enemy attack, for example. The plan first went into effect after 9/11. Congress members have continually asked for reform of these powers to rein in unchecked growth of emergency situations.
Under the National Emergency Powers Act, the president is limited in his exercise of emergency powers. The Congressional Research Service, a nonpartisan office that provides policy and legal analysis to Congress, states:
"With the exception of the habeas corpus clause, the Constitution makes no allowance for the suspension of any of its provisions during a national emergency. Disputes over the constitutionality or legality of the exercise of emergency powers are judicially reviewable. Indeed, both the judiciary and Congress, as co-equal branches, can restrain the executive regarding emergency powers. So can public opinion.
"Furthermore, since 1976, the President has been subject to certain procedural formalities in utilizing some statutorily delegated emergency authority. The National Emergencies Act (50 U.S.C. 1601-1651) eliminated or modified some statutory grants of emergency authority, required the President to declare formally the existence of a national emergency and to specify what statutory authority, activated by the declaration, would be used, and provided Congress a means to countermand the President's declaration and the activated authority being sought."
This bogus news item about the president's "supreme powers" originated on the website, Whatdoesitmean.com, a well-known conspiracy site, Snopes.com reports. Previous examples of the website's "news reports" include a May 2013 item that Russian President Vladimir Putin had threatened U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry with a world war over a "bee apocalypse" supposedly caused by American agricultural biotechnology corporations, Snopes.com notes.
Besides the warning of "radical change," other headlines on the site are "Obama ousts top officers after nuke explodes in ocean instead of Charleston" and "Mother of Obama love child gunned down by elite hit squad."
Many of the articles on Whatdoesitmean.com are under the byline of Sorcha Faal. Whatdoesitmean.com identifies Sorcha Faal as someone who "has traveled and lectured extensively throughout the World, with her primary focus being the systematic structure of languages serving as a link between thought and sound, and as developed by Ferdinand de Saussure."
But websites that have tried to discover her whereabouts and have looked into her credentials have come up with nothing. She supposedly is a member of the Russian Academy of Sciences, but none of the fact-finding websites could find her listing. There has been speculation that Sorcha Faal is just a pen name for David Booth, who is said to be the person behind the Whatdoesitmean.com website.
What seems to give the Sorcha Faal reports credibility is that other sites with professional-sounding names and appearances, such as the European Union Times, republish the Whatdoesitmean.com articles, Snopes.com points out. The European Union Times has also published material from Pravda Online - that Snopes.com also identifies as a conspiracy theory site that, among other items, alerted people in 2010 to alien spaceships that would attack us in 2012.
Bottom line: No matter what you might think about Obama, he did not set himself up as supreme ruler of the U.S. under the Emergency Powers Act. And if he had, we probably would have heard about it from legitimate mainstream sources rather than well-known conspiracy sites. Carole Fader: (904) 359-4635FACT CHECKWant something checked out? If you see or hear about something that needs a Fact Check, e- mail email@example.com
(c) 2013 ProQuest Information and Learning Company; All Rights Reserved.
Original headline: FACT CHECK ; Website warning 'radical change' lacks credibility President Obama has not declared himself as supreme ruler
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