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Friday, February 23, 2024 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

Biden extends 9/11 state of emergency by a year

The Bush-era declaration gives the president broad powers over the military.

WASHINGTON (CN) — The United States will continue in a decadeslong, post-9/11 state of emergency for at least another year.

In a Thursday night declaration, President Joe Biden ensured the emergency will extend at least 23 years after coordinated attacks killed nearly 3,000 people in New York, Virginia and Pennsylvania.

Biden penned his signature to a one-year extension of President George W. Bush’s Proclamation 7463, retaining broad powers over the organization of the military. The proclamation is officially titled “The National Emergency with Respect to Certain Terrorist Attacks.”

Most emergencies are used to impose economic sanctions. But Proclamation 7463, along with the broad 2001 Authorization for Use of Military Force, gives the president the power to call up the National Guard, alter the size and shape of the military's top officers and hire or fire commissioned officers — even ordering them out of retirement if necessary.

Biden has most recently cited the 2001 authorization to justify drone strikes against al-Shabab militants in Somalia in 2021. He said Friday that the U.S. remains committed to fighting terrorism.

“In the years since September 11th, hundreds of thousands of American troops have served — and sacrificed — around the world to deny terrorists safe haven and protect the American people,” he said in a separate proclamation. “Together, may we continue to demonstrate that the rights and freedoms that those terrorists sought to destroy on September 11, 2001, remain unwavering — strengthened by generations of Americans who have dared all and risked all to defend, protect, and preserve our democracy.”

The National Emergencies Act, adopted in 1976, requires presidents to renew emergencies each year. Congress is supposed to review each emergency every six months, but a 2017 USA Today investigation revealed lawmakers weren’t providing oversight and no president had followed through with required reports on costs related to the 9/11 proclamation. 

Presidents Barack Obama and Donald Trump also extended the 9/11 state of emergency each year of their respective tenures. Trump used it in 2017 to fill a chronic shortage in Air Force pilots.

Of the 58 states of emergency declared between 1976 and 2019, the average duration of emergencies was 9.6 years, according to research by the Brennan Center for Justice.

Presidents typically don’t give much explanation for extending the emergency. A brief White House press release, signed by Biden, just says that the “terrorist threat continues” and “[f]or this reason,” he has decided to extend it.

Biden also extended two other national emergency declarations Thursday night, the first initiated by Bush related to sanctions on terrorists, and the second covering instability in Ethiopia, which Biden implemented in 2021. 

So far, Biden has declared eight new emergencies, continued 34 from his predecessors and ended three.

As of Friday, there are 42 active national emergency declarations. The oldest was declared by President Jimmy Carter in 1979 in response to the Iranian hostage crisis.

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