UFPPC’s Donna Quexada reports on the proliferation of National Security Presidential Directives (NSPDs).  --  How many are there?  --  That’s unknown, and, for mere citizens, unknowable....

By Donna Quexada

United for Peace of Pierce County (WA)
January 11, 2005

When the president wants to legalize some action -- say, an assassination -- he signs a National Security Presidential Directive (NSPD).

But the words, the subject, even the existence of the directive are a secret.

In the brief piece appended below, Steven Aftergood notes that “the content and even the subject matter of most of these instruments of presidential authority is [sic] unknown.”[1]

The government does not acknowledge, and few Americans appreciate, the extent to which the U.S. has abandoned “government of the people, by the people, and for the people” for something quite different.

We see this in the rampant and probably -- though how could one know, really? -- increasing employment of what used to be called “National Security Directives” (NSDs).

The change in terminology, to “National Security Presidential Directive,” was introduced in the first months of George W. Bush’s administration. NSPD 1 is dated Feb. 13, 2001 -- seven months before September 11, be it noted. The term “presidential” is no doubt an allusion to doctrines held by judicial radicals in the administration like Alberto Gonzales, John C. Yoo, Jay S. Bybee, and William J. Haynes II.

(Also, one suspects, by the Rupert Murdoch executives who dictate to the scriptwriters of Fox’s popular TV drama 24 Hours, now in its third season and starring Kiefer Sutherland as Agent Jack Bauer, who works in a “Counter Terrorist Unit” presumably created by an NSPD.)

Messrs Gonzales, Yoo, Bybee, and Haynes, as every reader of the torture policy documents knows, hold that the Article II, Section 2 power of the president as “Commander in Chief” authorizes him, in this era of an endless “war on terror,” to assert an unlimited executive power that can, in principle, be checked neither by the legislative nor by the judicial branches of the federal government, nor, indeed, by any authority here below.

The abrogation of the Geneva Conventions for persons whom the president declares to be in the category of “enemy combatant” is but one consequence of this doctrine, which is in a way the culmination of tendencies that have long been observed by students of American government (see Arthur Schelsinger’s The Imperial Presidency, first published in 1973 and still in print).

How many other consequences are there? Sorry, but you’re not allowed to know that.

“[G]iven the current Administration's predilection for the unfettered exercise of executive power,” writes Steven Aftergood, “one can only imagine what national security policies are being ‘made and implemented’ without notice or oversight.”

Well, actually, probably one can’t imagine.

Steven Aftergood’s short piece supplies some links to sources that describe what is known about NSPDs.

Abraham Lincoln spoke, on Nov. 19, 1863, of the hope “that government of the people, by the people, for the people shall not perish from the earth,” but the governmental practices of the U.S. national security state are in some ways closer to those of a plutocratic Orwellian czardom than to those of the constitutional republic with democratic ideals that is described in the United States Constitution and its 27 amendments.


By Steven Aftergood

Secrecy News
January 10, 2005


The Bush Administration has issued dozens of National Security Presidential Directives (NSPDs) but the content and even the subject matter of most of these instruments of presidential authority is unknown.

In itself, this is not a new phenomenon. In 1992, the General Accounting Office (GAO) attempted to conduct a review of presidential directives in the previous Bush Administration but was denied the access that congressional investigators sought.

"Without access to detailed information about NSDs [national security directives, as they were then known], it is impossible to satisfactorily determine how many NSDs issued make and implement U.S. policy and what those policies are," the GAO reported to Congress.

See "The Use of Presidential Directives to Make and Implement U.S. Policy," GAO Report NSIAD-92-72, January 1992:


But given the current Administration's predilection for the unfettered exercise of executive power, one can only imagine what national security policies are being "made and implemented" without notice or oversight.

Last week, at least the title of one more Bush Administration NSPD came to public awareness, thanks to Jeffrey Lewis of ArmsControlWonk.com, who noticed that the government speaker at a National Academy of Sciences conference last year had cited the directive in his conference bio. So we now know that NSPD 28 concerns "Nuclear Weapons Command, Control, Safety, and Security." See:


A compilation of all publicly acknowledged or referenced NSPDs is here: