Blogs > Cliopatria > ATOMIC SECRETS: This Letter Will Constitute Your Authority ... The Eisenhower 10

Jul 7, 2006

ATOMIC SECRETS: This Letter Will Constitute Your Authority ... The Eisenhower 10


"You may recall that in late May, I wrote advising of the existence of classified letters from President Eisenhower to ten private citizens throughout the country giving them authority over various parts of the economy and total society in the event of a declaration of a national emergency..."— Excerpt from August 19, 1961 memorandum to National Security Advisor McGeorge Bundy from Presidential Assistant Frederick G. Dutton

It is something of a tradition in Washington for staffers from a Presidential administration exiting office to leave a few surprises for the incoming administration of the opposing party. In 2001, for example, Democratic White House office workers removed the letter"W" from computer keyboards in an effort to annoy President-elect Bush's people.

Of course, the"W" prank sounds pretty innocuous when compared to the ten letters President Eisenhower issued to (mostly) private citizens in 1958 and 1959 granting them unprecedented power in the event of a"national emergency" (read: A-Bomb attack). What no doubt caught the eye of Mr. Dutton (as quoted above) is the fact that these extraordinary missives had no expiration dates on them. One can only imagine President Kennedy's reaction to this news in light of the fact that he was also dealing with other surprises left for him by those irrepressible Dulles brothers.

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