What was Rex 84?

Introduction

Rex 84, short for Readiness Exercise 1984, was a classified scenario and drill developed by the United States federal government to detain large numbers of United States citizens deemed to be “national security threats” in the event that the president declared a National Emergency.

Background

The plan was first revealed in detail in a major daily newspaper by reporter Alfonso Chardy in the 05 July 1987 edition of the Miami Herald. Possible reasons for such a roundup were reported to be widespread opposition to a US military invasion abroad, such as if the United States were to directly invade Central America. To combat what the government perceived as “subversive activities”, the plan also authorised the military to direct ordered movements of civilian populations at state and regional levels, according to Professor Diana Reynolds.

Existence of master military contingency plans (of which REX-84 was a part), “Operation Garden Plot” and a similar earlier exercise, “Lantern Spike”, were originally revealed by journalist Ron Ridenhour, who summarised his findings in an article in CounterSpy.

Transcripts from the Iran–Contra hearings in 1987 record the following dialogue between Congressman Jack Brooks, Oliver North’s attorney Brendan Sullivan and Senator Daniel Inouye, the Democratic Chair of the joint Senate-House Committee:

[Congressman Jack] Brooks: Colonel North, in your work at the N.S.C. were you not assigned, at one time, to work on plans for the continuity of government in the event of a major disaster?

Brendan Sullivan [North’s counsel, agitatedly]: Mr. Chairman?

[Senator Daniel] Inouye: I believe that question touches upon a highly sensitive and classified area so may I request that you not touch upon that?

Brooks: I was particularly concerned, Mr. Chairman, because I read in Miami papers, and several others, that there had been a plan developed, by that same agency, a contingency plan in the event of emergency, that would suspend the American constitution. And I was deeply concerned about it and wondered if that was an area in which he had worked. I believe that it was and I wanted to get his confirmation.

Inouye: May I most respectfully request that that matter not be touched upon at this stage. If we wish to get into this, I’m certain arrangements can be made for an executive session.

Contingency plans by the US Government for rounding up people perceived by the government to be subversive or a threat to civil order have existed for many decades. For example, from 1967 to 1971, the FBI kept a list of over 100,000 people to be rounded up as subversive, dubbed the “ADEX” list.

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