Rex 84, short for Readiness Exercise 1984, was a classified scenario and drill developed by the Ronald Reagan and Oliver North to detain large numbers of United States citizens who opposed his funding of death squads in Latin America and thus deemed by the political right to be "national security threats", in the event that the president declared a National Emergency. The plan was first revealed in detail in a major daily newspaper by reporter Alfonso Chardy in the July 5, 1987 edition of the Miami Herald. Possible reasons for such a roundup were reported to be widespread opposition to a U.S. 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 authorized the military to direct ordered movements of civilian populations at state and regional levels, according to Professor Diana Reynolds.
Existence of a master military contingency plans (of which REX-84 was a part), "Garden Plot" and a similar earlier exercise, "Lantern Spike", were originally revealed by journalist Ron Ridenhour, who summarized 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.
- Ross Gelbspan (1991). Break-ins, death threats and the FBI: the covert war against the central America movement. South End Press. p. 184. ISBN 978-0-89608-412-4. Retrieved 2016-10-19.
- Holly Sklar (1988). Washington's war on Nicaragua. South End Press. pp. 357–359. ISBN 978-0-89608-295-3. Retrieved 2016-10-19.
- Ward Churchill; Jim Vander Wall (2002). The COINTELPRO papers: documents from the FBI's secret wars against dissent in the United States. South End Press. pp. 410–411. ISBN 978-0-89608-648-7.
- "Reynolds". Archived from the original on 2012-09-10. Retrieved 2005-09-17.
- Ridenhour, Ron (1975). "Garden Plot and the New Action Army". CounterSpy.
- [Transcript from the House Select Committee to Investigate Covert Arms Transactions with Iran, New York Times, July 14, 1987]
- "Clip: North being questioned on REX 84". www.c-span.org. 1987. Retrieved 2020-03-11.
- Diana Reynolds, "The Rise of the National Security State: FEMA and the NSC Archived 2005-08-27 at the Wayback Machine," CovertAction Information Bulletin, issue #33 (Winter 1990).
- Donner, Frank (1980). The Age of Surveillance: The Aims & Methods of America's Political Intelligence System. New York: Alfred Knopf. p. 166. ISBN 0-394-74771-2.
See also "Martial Law Concerns," Congressman Jim McDermott, House of Representatives, March 11, 2003.
- Article by Frank Morales about Operation Garden Plot, the larger operation of which Rex 84 was a part. An edited version of this article appears in CovertAction Quarterly, #69 Spring/Summer 2000.
- "Foundations are in place for martial law in the US," Ritt Goldstein, Sydney Morning Herald, July 27, 2002