FEMA Prison Camps

A skeptical look at the claim that FEMA maintains a network of prison camps in readiness.

by Brian Dunning

Filed under Conspiracies

Skeptoid #145
March 17, 2009
Podcast transcript | Listen | Subscribe

Today we're going to have a look at more than 800 sites inside the United States, said by some to be prisons operated by FEMA (the Federal Emergency Management Agency), for the purpose of holding as many as ten million American citizens prisoner, with no criminal charges filed. YouTube carries videos (like this, this, this, and others) of such empty prison compounds, and dozens of web sites like libertyforlife.com and abovetopsecret.com showcase photographs and reports by independent investigators. These alleged prisons are hidden everywhere in plain sight: A train yard or shipping terminal mysteriously surrounded by barbed wire; a closed military base with some new construction happening; or even just a vacant site that seems like it could be a good location. A paranoid conspiracy theory, you say? Perhaps. But might there actually be reason to believe that plans for just this scenario really do exist?

When I first heard the FEMA Prison Camp conspiracy story, it seemed ridiculous and paranoid at face value. But when I finally dug in to research it, I started by searching for the origins of the rumors, and found to my surprise that nearly all of the legal foundation and precedent for such a plan does in fact exist. One primary source of fuel for the fire is Garden Plot, the Department of Defense's civil disturbance plan to assist local authorities during times of civil unrest, natural disasters, or other emergencies. Garden Plot has been notably activated after 9/11, and also during the 1992 Los Angeles riots. Garden Plot's authority comes from Article I of the United States Constitution, that states in part "Congress shall have power... to provide for calling forth the Militia to execute laws of the Union, suppress Insurrections, and repel Invasions." Taking it one step further, Title 10, sections 331-334 of federal law authorize the President to suppress insurrections, rebellions, and domestic violence by executive order. In recent years, the Insurrection Act and the Posse Comitatus Act, which limited executive powers to deploy the military for purposes of law enforcement, have been amended to broaden the scope of exceptions.

Periodically, the government conducts interagency readiness exercises to prepare for such contingencies. Past examples of such exercises that are frequently cited by Prison Camp conspiracy guys include Rex-82 Proud Saber (where Rex-82 stands for Readiness Exercise, 1982), and Rex-84 Night Train. In these exercises, agencies deal with such problems as major strikes and unlawful assemblies. They may impose martial law, arrest large numbers of people, and handle mass relocation of civilians. Now, obviously, there are times when this is a good thing and we want it to happen. A lot of us were glad that the National Guard came in to help quell the L.A. riots. If a large force of Oklahoma City style militiamen started blowing up a city, I'd want the Army to have pretty extensive powers to put a stop to it. But, unfortunately, everything is a double-edged sword. For the government to have this level of power when it's needed, it means they also have it when they say it's needed, and when you and I might not necessarily be in favor of it. What if Congress suddenly made all guns illegal? They would sure as hell need prison camps to hold ten million rioting citizens. Such powers necessarily do exist.

So there's our legal authority and precedent. If FEMA decides they want 800 prison camps maintained in readiness, they have the legal right to do so, and to use them if ordered. But do they? Do they actually anticipate this need to the point that there really are 800 manned prison camps ready to go? That's another story.

Despite the reasonable plausibility, most of the sources trumpeting FEMA prison camps are clearly delusional, blaming the "Illuminati" for the prison camps, and claiming that they are to support the "new world order". One online list of prison locations describes a Mojave Desert location as a "Fully staffed full gassing/cremating death camp with airstrip, dedicated to the termination red/blue list under martial law," and states that it was recently toured by "high level Illuminati Luciferians". A camp in Alaska is said to have a capacity of two million, despite Alaska's total population of less than 700,000.

And now that President Obama is in office, the charges now fall onto his shoulders. One report says that Obama has already ordered the immediate opening of America's "vast gulag of concentration camps" to handle the "social upheaval" caused by the "economic collapse", and is in the process of incarcerating 775,000 citizens as part of "Project ENDGAME". Fear that this mass arrest and execution of Americans is already in progress is commonly expressed on a lot of these web sites. You might remember former U.S. Representative and Green Party presidential candidate Cynthia McKinney, perhaps best known for her 2006 punching of a Capitol police officer who stopped her when she refused to show proper credentials while bypassing the Capitol's metal detectors. Following Hurricane Katrina, she announced that 5,000 New Orleans prisoners had been executed by the military:

Her son's charge by the Department of Defense was to process 5,000 bodies that had received a single bullet wound to the head, and these were mostly males... The data about these individuals was entered into a Pentagon computer. And then reportedly the bodies were dumped in the swamp in Louisiana... I have verification from insiders, who wish to remain anonymous, at the Red Cross, that this is true. (Because clearly, the Red Cross would be deeply involved in such a plot - BD.)

McKinney was also the driving force behind the 2005 Congressional briefing where she presented testimony and numerous witnesses claiming that the U.S. was behind the 9/11 attacks. In fact, when you search the Internet for FEMA prison camps, you find a lot of the information is deeply interwoven with 9/11 conspiracy theories. The same familiar names appear: Like when Halliburton announced its fourth quarter results for 2005, one of the line items was a $385 million five-year contract to support temporary detention capabilities for Immigration and Customs Enforcement. Conspiracy theorists jumped on this and said it was proof that the prisons are being built. I don't know how many prisons you think can be built, staffed, and operated for $77 million a year, but our local megachurch here has spent more than that alone just building a parking garage and a bookstore cafe.

Now of course, we do know that the U.S. government has, in the past, set up prison camps into which law-abiding American citizens have been forcibly relocated, by Presidential order. This happened between 1942 and 1945, when people of Japanese ancestry were rounded up and placed into concentration camps to prevent them from aiding the Japanese during World War II. I recently visited Manzanar, the best preserved of these sites, which is now operated by the National Park Service. You can tour the grounds and they have a great museum, with very frank exhibits that make no excuses for what happened. There is no secrecy or coverup about it. Even today, the U.S. government operates detention facilities around the world, like Guantanamo Bay, which is well known and fully disclosed. Garden Plot and the readiness exercises are all matters of public record.

Tip Skeptoid $2/mo $5/mo $10/mo One time

But there are other sites, such as Diego Garcia Island in the Indian Ocean, for which reasonable evidence exists that it's been used as a detention facility, but that no official admission is made. In fact, it's denied. Whether true or not, the existence of Diego Garcia would not constitute good evidence that concentration camps exist inside the United States; there are significant differences. Whatever might happen on Diego Garcia happens behind closed doors, whereas the claimed concentration camps are right out in broad daylight. And if you're going to illegally rough up a terrorism suspect, a small room overseas is a great place to do it; but a wide-open concentration camp in the public eye, designed for tens of thousands, would be a rather poor choice. So, to a responsible skeptic, the other examples of government behavior that we have constitute pretty poor support for the existence of domestic concentration camps.

At the time Japanese Americans were rounded up and put into Manzanar, it was a reasonable precaution according to the standards of the times. I used to find it hard to believe that people could think so differently only a few decades ago, but in 1999 I bought a house in a neighborhood laid out in the 1930's, and in the original deed was a clause that the buyer may not to sell the house to "a Negro, a Jew, or a Chinaman." Times change. Manzanar would never happen today, and although the government technically has the same powers to do it now as it did then, it's not realistic to be concerned about it recurring.

Our man Benjamin Franklin famously said: "Any society that would give up a little liberty to gain a little security will deserve neither, and will lose both." Having to take off your shoes to get on a plane and not being allowed to have a water bottle are infringements that Ben would have deemed unacceptable first steps, but they are also a far cry from millions of civilians being thrown into prison camps. We choose to elect politicians who don't want us to bring water bottles onto planes, because (for better or for worse) that's what's important to our society right now. I don't remember anyone electing a politician who wants to throw millions of Americans into prison camps. To make effective electoral decisions, you need to maintain a healthy skepticism, and not go off the deep end and suppose that every Halliburton contract is a slippery slope leading to Americans being gassed in military concentration camps. If you see barbed wire around a train yard, consider the possibility of other explanations (like the train company doesn't need stuff being stolen) before you conclude that the Illuminati are out to kill you.

Brian Dunning

© 2009 Skeptoid Media Copyright information

References & Further Reading

Aaronovitch, D. Voodoo History: The Role of the Conspiracy Theory in Modern History. New York: Riverhead, 2010.

Arkin, Wiliam M. Encyclopedia of the U.S. Military. New York: Harper & Row, 1990. 574-575.

Barkun, M. A Culture of Conspiracy: Apocalyptic Visions in Contemporary America. Berkeley: University of California Press, 2003. 73-74.

Falkenrath, R. Problems of Preparedness: U.S. Readiness for a Domestic Terrorist Attack. Boston: International Security, 2001.

Irons, Peter. Justice At War. New York: Oxford University Press, 1983. 25-47.

Jacobs, J. Socio-legal foundations of civil-military relations. New Brunswick, NJ: Transaction, Inc, 1986. 51-62.

Reference this article:
Dunning, B. "FEMA Prison Camps." Skeptoid Podcast. Skeptoid Media, 17 Mar 2009. Web. 3 Sep 2015. <http://skeptoid.com/episodes/4145>


10 most recent comments | Show all 175 comments

That is the burning question Cindy.
Whether such camps exist for the specific purpose of detention for thousands of US civilians, or not ?

I have suggested that those that are interested plot a few locations nearby that are shown on the maps of the FEMA prison camp advocates, and take a few Sunday drives and see what they can find.

There has possibly never been a better time in US history for such camps to exist, given the serious current economic situation that America is in.

This situation potentially threatens the peaceful existence and cohesion of everyday life in the American homeland, on all levels of society.

In addition, millions of illegal refugees are apparently now inside the US border, and that can only lead to disruption of local economies and job security of the incumbent US citizens, and way of life.

Whether such camps are proven publicly to exist in large numbers or not, to engage in extreme forms of CT's involving the "Illuminati" "New World Order" etc, can only serve to encourage ridicule and disbelief among the "skeptics", and those who simply do not want to believe that such a ghastly scenario would ever take place in the good ol' USA.

But as Brian's article clearly states, nearly all of the legal foundation and precedent for such a plan as widespread FEMA camp detention for large numbers of citizens does in fact exist.

More ominously, it seems that such a possible scenario was thought about and planned for as long as 30 years ago...

Macky, Auckland
October 22, 2013 8:03pm

...and speaking of New World Order, without having checked any CT sites to find out the alleged details of such an organization, if America did declare default on its debt, there would certainly be some sort of NWO, with the greenback no longer the world's reserve currency, that propped up a giant US spending spree over the years, while American corporates undermined their own country's labour by sending their jobs to China, India, and Mexico, or contracting out their jobs in the homeland to private firms, all in the name of corporate profit, sometimes virtually not even taxed.

Our western societies once had a substantial middle class, with a few at the top, and a few at the bottom of the heap.
Over the last 35 years that has gradually been whittled away until now there are a few more at the top, so to speak, but a much larger class that is a merger of the few at the bottom, and the previous middle class.
Two-tier societies.
This has also been facilitated by large immigration schemes, where rich immigrants from India and China etc set up shop with their largely untaxed (in their home countries) fortunes and immediately buy out failing local small industries and turn them into profit by using the mainly poor fellow immigrants for cheap labour, the same as they did in their homeland.

The poor immigrants compete with the incumbent citizens for jobs under-cutting normal average wages.

With its wobbly economic situation, America is ripe for a NWO, and those FEMA camps.

Macky, Auckland
October 30, 2013 5:27pm

What this issue brings out is some broader facts that are truly scary.

1. Most dictator like situations do not just "happen". There are usually warning signs.

To find those warning signs one only has to turn to AMPLE examples in history.

For example what happened to americans of japanese decent could be seen from what happened to americans of german decent during WWI (minus the added internment camps)

Or the fact lincoln SUSPENDED habius corpus and JAILED ANYONE who opposed the war.

2. Alot of evil leaders/govt give warning what they will/planning to do.

Example hitler wrote mien komph.
In it he CLEARLY STATED what his view were and what he wanted to do.

3. People CHOOSE to be willfully ignorant to outright supporting restrictive govt.

Example hitler, musileni, stalin (to name a few) were elected and/or supported by THE PEOPLE.

What truly frightens me is that in this day an age we have the internet.

Yes there are CT and websites that are outright strange.

HOWEVER using this case specifically you can look up where these "camps" are, go look at them (or google earth them), go to govt website and look up the documents (ex rex 84) and determine yourself.

But like hitler and his book few do.

Unfortunately the cold hard fact is freedom is only maintained by continued vigilance AND WILLINGNESS to defend/support it.

When you turn your mind off and be lazy you get what you dont want.

Eric, Northern IL USA
November 30, 2013 3:06am

My suspicion is that some of the more outrageous CT sites and/or theories are deliberate Govt (agency) plants designed to engender derision and disbelief among the more usually skeptical and critically thinking members of our societies.

With continuing arguments among the believers and disbelievers over many years, especially on the Internet, the mindset of the typical "skeptic" ends up becoming as fixed and rigid as the extreme CT's they criticize.

Skepticism itself (like the refusal to acknowledge the existence of anything that's not proven by scientific methods) loses its function as a process, and becomes like an institution.
Anything outside the institutionalized explanation, i.e. the Official Story, or the US govt version, is automatically subjected to denial, derision and illogical arguments, even when support is provided in the nature of solid evidence against the Official Story, solid evidence something the "skeptics" normally insist on themselves.

The ignoring of history and historical information is another sign of a failed skeptical position.

And it's been said before, if we ignore history, we are doomed to repeat it.

In the meantime, has anyone here on Skeptoid and who lives in the US bothered to have a serious look at whether any CT site maps are relevant or not ?

As Eric rightly implied, I'm sure very few will take the trouble to look.

The rest will simply believe, one way or the other.
Skepticism backed by critical thinking it certainly is not.

Macky, Auckland
December 2, 2013 11:33pm


"My suspicion is that some of the more outrageous CT sites and/or theories are deliberate Govt (agency) plants designed to engender derision and disbelief among the more usually skeptical and critically thinking members of our societies."

I've seen similar comments on conspiracy sites, again supporting the position that what doesn't support theory 'A' is part of the overall conspiracy, it is a strength of conspiracy sites, that the very paranoid and distrustful nature mindset of their 'clientele' will ensure that critique of their own conspiracy cannot take seed...same erroneous thinking occurs in all cults.

Take any conspiracy and find almost as many theories as their are those distrustful of the accepted opinion/version in that area...this is the problem with them all, they are not supporting each other, each individual conspiracy differs as much between themselves as they do the accepted line of the world...the 'official' version.

If several of you tin-foilers individual came to the same conclusion, then you'd have a point, it's like the 9/11 conspiracies, I can remember many of them, from holographic planes to micro-nukes, to nano-thermite and Reptilian intervention...and you wonder why people don't take you seriously?

There is no consensus amongst 'troofers', they usually have an uneasy alliance to counter the evil Reptilian overlords...lol

You tin-foil hat people don't need government disinfo agents to make you look bad, you do that well enough on your own

Pete Deallus, Cymru am byth
May 6, 2014 1:32pm

Pete Deallus

"If several of you tin-foilers individual came to the same conclusion, then you'd have a point, it's like the 9/11 conspiracies, I can remember many of them, from holographic planes to micro-nukes, to nano-thermite and Reptilian intervention...and you wonder why people don't take you seriously?"

You have exposed your irrational attitude and automatic knee-jerk response of a so-called skeptic, to my posts which have not engaged in any conspiracy assertion whatsoever on this thread.

As for 9-11, read the citations I posted March 31 on the Pentagon Missile thread where there are no holographic or Reptilian intervention whatsoever.

It would be beneficial if you actually read what had been said, instead of jumping to typical mindless responses, and if you do, you will find there is no conspiracy theories whatsoever promoted, and no Reptilians to be seen.

That my suspicions ""My suspicion is that some of the more outrageous CT sites and/or theories are deliberate Govt (agency) plants designed to engender derision and disbelief among the more usually skeptical and critically thinking members of our societies."
... has certainly proven to have had a measure of success with you, by your outlandish post, whether govt-generated or not.

"evil Reptilian overlords" indeed !

"You tin-foil hat people don't need government disinfo agents to make you look bad, you do that well enough on your own"

Where is your evidence that I am one of "You tin-foil hat people.." ??

Macky, Auckland
May 11, 2014 12:33am

Every single comment you made on this website.

Bill, Canberra
May 14, 2014 2:55am


Then you provide some examples of comments that I have made, that in your opinion qualify me as a tin-foil hat person, and I challenge you to a debate on them.

Any set of comments you want, it's your choice.

I won't ask you to prove every single comment, just say half a dozen of your own choice.

Put your money where your mouth is, and provide convincing evidence for your apparent throwaway statement.

Macky, Auckland
May 16, 2014 2:00am


"My suspicion is that some of the more outrageous CT sites and/or theories are deliberate Govt (agency) plants designed to engender derision and disbelief among the more usually skeptical and critically thinking members of our societies."

...and that is called special pleading or poisoning the well...which means you can cherry-pick which sites are 'real' or which are government dis-info agents.

Nice move, any site someone can prove is complete nonsense, Macky can look up and say: "Well, that is a government dis-info site, made to make conspiracy theorists look bad".

Try using Occam's Razor every now and then...

erique, Land of Hope and Gory
March 17, 2015 1:53pm

You can call it what you like erique. I believe ("believe" being the operative word) that some of the more outrageous CT's are deliberate plants in order to engender derision among the Official Story believers who often call themselves skeptics, without any evidence of they engaging in critical analysis or having any evidence for their own beliefs, except what they've been told by "authority".

The numerous examples of such a strategy having a measure of success has been notable among the "skeptics" on Skeptoid over the years, with their derisive "reptoids etc" remarks aimed at my research of a few subjects, which has clearly presented right in the so-called skeptics' faces that they have been conned by divisive forces behind their own government in the US, and have no coherent arguments for anything except the Party Line as put out and promoted by corporate-owned mainstream media.

" Nice move, any site someone can prove is complete nonsense, Macky can look up and say: "Well, that is a government dis-info site, made to make conspiracy theorists look bad". "

No Macky cannot. Because Macky does not read conspiracy theory sites at all. I never even knew who Rense was until I was accused of promoting his theories a year or two ago on Skeptoid.

My evidence comes from mainstream sites, those in fact who by and large promote the Official Story.

The evidence against the OS of Flight 77 for example comes from the FBI files, the horse's mouth, so to speak.

Occam's Razor ...?

Macky, Auckland
March 17, 2015 4:13pm

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