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Clinton and the Y2K bug

In June, House Speaker Newt Gingrich criticized the White House for
dropping the ball on the Y2K millennium bug issue, saying that the
administration is presiding over “a large wreck” set to take place 17
months from now in what is scheduled to be Clinton’s last year in
office.

This week, Clinton attempted to set the record straight. He offered a
bold plan to address the potential crisis that threatens to cripple the
world’s computers and hundreds of millions of embedded chips that might
not recognize the year 00. What did the president do? He ordered the
U.S. government to be fully Y2K-compliant by March 1999.

Now, anyone who has even taken a cursory look at this issue will tell
you that it is impossible for the government to rewrite all the computer
code by March 1999. It’s not going to happen. And Clinton knows it.

Setting such a ludicrous goal — even if it is just that, a goal –
can mean one of only two things: Clinton figures he’ll only have one
more year on the job when the bug hits and it will be somebody else’s
headache; or, he is secretly counting on the crisis as an excuse to
declare martial law and remain in office — indefinitely.

Am I being paranoid? I don’t think so. Praising Clinton at his
dog-and-pony show this week was Sen. Bob Bennett, R-Utah, who serves as
chairman of the Senate’s special committee overseeing Y2k issues. A
couple weeks ago, Bennett was grilling a top Pentagon official during
the course of a hearing on the millennium bug. He asked Deputy Defense
Secretary John Hamre the following question: “In the event of a
Y2K-induced breakdown of community services that might call for martial
law,” will the military be ready?

“We’ve got fundamental issues to deal with that go beyond just the
Year 2000 contingency planning,” said Hamre. “And I think you’re right
to bring that up.”

Understand that Bennett wasn’t suspiciously asking Hamre if the
military was secretly planning a hideous martial law scenario. He was
knowingly asking him and hoping that the military would be prepared to
carry out such a scenario. Bennett doesn’t appear to be hoping for a
calamity. But he does seem to believe that the end of American freedom
as we know it is preferable to chaos.

I, for one, want to go on record as favoring chaos. Nothing is more
precious to me than my freedom. And the Constitution of the United
States says no government authority has the right to take it away. I
have nothing but contempt for politicians who believe they have the
right and the power to turn this country into a police state for any
reason.

Is it not possible, however, with all we now know about the character
of Bill Clinton, that he would attempt to turn such a crisis into an
opportunity? And, with all we know about the character of the 105th
Congress, is it unthinkable to visualize its members abdicating their
authority and collaborating in such an insidious scheme?

Maybe I’m just cynical. But, as a journalist, trained to distrust
government, I am paid to be skeptical of plots to preserve order at any
cost. Indulge me in my nightmare. I think I’m having the same kinds of
bad dreams that our Founding Fathers had. The day Americans start
relying on the good intentions of a centralized bureaucracy for their
welfare is the day their welfare — and everything patriots have fought
and died to preserve for 200 years — is lost.

It’s not me who raised the ugly specter of martial law in the context
of the Y2K crisis. It was the United States government — in a public
meeting between representatives of the legislative and executive
branches. This is not a hallucination. It’s reality. Hearings are being
conducted. Plans are being made.

If you doubt me, just check out Presidential Decision Directive 63,
issued by Bill Clinton in May. It calls for the development of a plan to
ensure “essential national security missions” as well as general public
health and safety by, you guessed it, the year 2000.

The carefully worded directive emphasizes the preservation of order,
the delivery of minimum essential services and the maintenance of a
“national infrastructure protection system” involving the military,
intelligence agencies, law enforcement and the mandatory participation
of the “private sector.”

Under the directive, the “National Infrastructure Protection Center,”
which includes the FBI, the Secret Service, other federal law
enforcement agencies, the Department of Defense and the intelligence
agencies, calls the shots. To me, the cynic, all this sounds like code
for martial law.

I’m not ready to panic, mind you. In fact, that would only play into
the hands of those evil opportunists in government who might envision a
worst-case scenario as a vehicle to maintain — even consolidate –
power. But it’s time to start facing up to the possibility that this
crisis might just result in that “large wreck.” It would be
irresponsible to do anything else.

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