What Good Is This Great Military You Have if You Don't Use it on U.S. Soil?

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Is the mighty U.S. military going domestic, in contradiction of the 1878 Posse Comitatus Act? It sure looks that way to me. In June the Pentagon approved a sweeping new Strategy for Homeland Defense and Civil Support [PDF], redirecting its energies to deterring attacks deep inside the 50 states. Activities include domestic intelligence-gathering operations—some already underway—and various disaster responses giving the Defense Department the lead role. Good round-ups in the Washington Post and FoxNews.com.

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  1. Cue gaius marius to explain how this mirrors the ol’ Roman Empire.

    Unfortunately, in this case, I have to agree with him.

    Not unfortunate to agree with mr marius, necessarily, but because it’s a really bad thing to have our troops galavanting around us, conducting espionage and the military’s own citizens, and the like.

  2. The posse comitatus act doesn’t forbid the military from operating on American soil. It forbids the military from doing domestic law enforcement.

    Actually, I think the use of the military, rather than the police, for domestic anti-terror activities is the solution to the “unreasonable search and seizure” and warrant problems created by, for example, the bag searches in the New York Subway. If a soldier feels the need to search you for a bomb, and comes across a doobie in your pocket, he is forbidden by law to arrest you, or call the police on you.

    This also solves the problem that cost that poor Brazilian guy in London his life – it’s pretty damn easy to tell a soldier from a cop. There’s no wondering, is he going to rat me out to the INS? Is he going to bust me for having a bag? No, he’s not. You don’t have to run away, because he’s not law enforcement.

  3. China does it, and their economy is booming. We need to compete!

  4. he is forbidden by law to arrest you, or call the police on you

    Oh he won’t be doing that, the police will be at least 3 or 4 feet away.

  5. joe, you bring up a good point about searches done by military versus law enforcement.

    I, for one, volunteer to quarter soldiers during their homeland stay. I’ll do it for my country. 🙂


  6. Actually, I think the use of the military, rather than the police, for domestic anti-terror activities is the solution to the “unreasonable search and seizure” and warrant problems created by, for example, the bag searches in the New York Subway.

    Of course, it leads to a whole new set of problems, like living in a goddamned fascist dicatorship where citizens are always under the watchful eyes of armed soldiers in a war without end. But, hey, you gotta break some eggs, right?

  7. Phil–

    Joe fully supports the bag searches because, even though a terrorist can easily get around them, they make (stupid) people feel safer. I don’t think freedom or the right to have the government leave you alone are very high on his priority list these days.

  8. smacky:
    A new euphamism: “quarter”

    Hey, is this a continuation of the Pentagon’s Freedom March thread?

  9. Jennifer got her ass kicked in the thread about the bags, so she’s started post-thread straw man snarking, like that Jean Bart guy. Great contribution to the discussion there, Jenny.

    “Oh he won’t be doing that, the police will be at least 3 or 4 feet away.” If the P.C. Act is obeyed, that would count as engaging in law enforcement, and would be forbidden.

    “Of course, it leads to a whole new set of problems, like living in a goddamned fascist dicatorship where citizens are always under the watchful eyes of armed soldiers in a war without end.” If there are soldiers walking around your neighborhood and mall without a plausible reason related to national defense, but just keeping the citizenry under their watch, that would violate the Act, too. Keeping the citizens always under the watchful eye of the state is police work. 😉

  10. Yes, well, I’m sure our Republican Overlords in Washington only want just the nose under the tent. That’s it, they swear!!

  11. Hey, is this a continuation of the Pentagon’s Freedom March thread?

    That was my thought. Instead of stopping at the reflecting pool for the Clint Black shin-dig (remember, we’re honoring the victims of 9/11 here, and what could be better than the man who wrote “I Raq and Roll”), they’ll just march up to White House and takeover, Bush will be back from vacation by then.

  12. joe,

    If the P.C. Act is obeyed, that would count as engaging in law enforcement, and would be forbidden.

    What, are you suggesting police keep a blind eye to what’s going on in their community? Enlighten me on the law that forbids police to be within a certain number of feet of military personnel.

  13. Soldier: Knock knock
    smacky: Who’s there?
    Soldier: Posse Comitatus.
    smacky: Do come in.

  14. jc, what you’re describing is obviously cooperative work, which puts the military personnel in the position of assisting the police in law enforcement.

    Yes, my statement is predicated on the anti-terror activities not being used as fronts for expanding police powers. But if that’s your concern, why won’t you admit that replacing the police with soldiers is proper?

  15. Not sure of the terms of PC. I’ll read up. This needs to be handled very carefully even if we decide it is legal.

    As for Disaster reponses, I was under the impression that those were run at the discretion of the Governor if he has a National Guard unit to deploy. I seem to recall something about the NG not being subject to PC until and unless it’s service is ‘nationalized’ by the commander in chief. Maybe I’m making all that up though.

  16. If the P.C. Act is obeyed

    Big if.

  17. Uh-oh. What’s happening to me?

    I…agree…with…Joe. In principle, and assuming P.C. works the way it’s supposed to.

  18. assuming P.C. works the way it’s supposed to

    Have no fear, I’m sure it’s been vetted by Yoo and Gonzalez.

  19. If there are soldiers walking around your neighborhood and mall without a plausible reason related to national defense, but just keeping the citizenry under their watch, that would violate the Act, too.

    So, how is searching bags on the subway related to national defense, but searching bags at the mall isn’t? Once you extend the concept of “national defense” to public transit security, you’ve reached a slippery slope indeed.

  20. I’m not sure, but I think that smacky has a thing for buzz-cut men in uniform.

    I’ll feel bad when she finds out that she’s volunteering to quarter a semi-brainless yokel from Paducah, KY.

  21. The PDF Matt linked to was overloaded with consultant-ese. That alone makes it suspect.

  22. Jennifer got her ass kicked in the thread about the bags, so she’s started post-thread straw man snarking

    The beauty of memory is that it’s all subjective.

    Joe, please explain to me how the phrase “freedom and having the government leave you alone aren’t high on his priority list” is a strawman argument when used in reference to the man who speaks favorably of having either the police or military do random, warrantless, at-will searches of American civilians, on American soil, who are NOT on the verge of entering into close proximity with a President or other prominent political figure but simply going about their daily lives.

    Actually don’t bother, since I already know your answer: It will make us safer, or at least make some people FEEL safer.

  23. Sure, Posse Comitatus will be respected. Right up until some tragedy occurs that could have been prevented “if only those brave young soldiers weren’t shackled with a throwback law from the 1800’s.”

  24. as an aside, i got a “ok, whatever” when i told the cop that i couldn’t let him search my bag this past wednesday. i don’t know if that makes me feel better or worse.

  25. joe,

    If the P.C. Act is obeyed, that would count as engaging in law enforcement, and would be forbidden.

    Wrong. Numerous court cases have allowed for that very thing. As long as the soldiers are there as “support” personnel, there isn’t a problem according to the federal courts. See United States v. Jaramillo and other like cases concerning the Wounded Knee standoff in the 1970s. During those events the Army provided close-in “border security” for the area sealed off by the state police, the Air Force provided aerial recon, etc.

    If there are soldiers walking around your neighborhood and mall without a plausible reason related to national defense, but just keeping the citizenry under their watch, that would violate the Act, too.

    (a) Finding a plausible national security rationale is easy. (b) Keeping the population under watch doesn’t per se violate the act.

    Furthermore note that the Posse Comitatus Act only applies to the Army and the Air Force (see sec. 1385). It doesn’t apply to deployments of Navy personnel (which would include the Marines). There are also numerous exceptions to the act, such as 10 USC sec. 333, which allows for troop deployment when “any insurrection, domestic violence, unlawful combination, or conspiracy … (2) opposes or obstructs the execution of the laws of the United States…”. That language is more than broad enough to cover what you propose that the P.C. doesn’t allow.

    Finally, and more directly on point, the Congress provided in 10 US secs. 371-381 an exception to the Posse Comintatus Act that allows the military to assist civilian police agencies in the enforcement of drug, immigration and tariff laws. Though it forbids “direct” involvement in an arrest, it does not forbid hot pursuits by military personnel of water and aircraft.

    In U.S. v. Garcia (909 FSupp 334) an Air Force drug sniffing dog and its handler used by Maryland cops were considered “equipment” and an “operator” that are permitted by 10USC secs 372 & 374.

    I caution you to do a little more research in this area before you start pontificating on what the PC does and does not allow.

  26. Jennifer,

    joe likes to discuss areas of the law where is in essence wholly clueless.

  27. “I’ll feel bad when she finds out that she’s volunteering to quarter a semi-brainless yokel from Paducah, KY.”

    Steven Crane,
    I can lay my hands on a little block of wood with a US postage stamp on it. It features a carved duck and the message is “Everything is ducky in Paducah.” It was actually mailed.

    See. There are advantages to being a fossil.
    Or are there?

    Then again, Mr. Crane, we should not peer too deeply into the feminine mystique, eh?
    AFLAK!!

  28. Furthermore note that the Posse Comitatus Act only applies to the Army and the Air Force (see sec. 1385). It doesn’t apply to deployments of Navy personnel (which would include the Marines). There are also numerous exceptions to the act, such as 10 USC sec. 333, which allows for troop deployment when “any insurrection, domestic violence, unlawful combination, or conspiracy … (2) opposes or obstructs the execution of the laws of the United States…”. That language is more than broad enough to cover what you propose that the P.C. doesn’t allow.

    In ’67-’68 I was in a unit of Combat Engineers that had responsibility for riot control in D.C. Didn’t go to D.C. but we did go to the Pentagon. U.S. Marshals were there to make arrests.

  29. Can’t believe that no one has brought up Waco.

    Also, in regards to a previous thread, SWAT teams originally received there training and equipment from the military.

  30. there = their

  31. Mr. Crane:

    “a semi-brainless yokel from Paducah, KY.”
    mercy. however, look at your average 18 year old – semi brainless works well to describe us mails. 🙂

    Smacky – all the more reason for you to relocate to chicago, where great lakes naval base – the main basic training spot for the navy – is located. 🙂 grin.

    “What, are you suggesting police keep a blind eye to what’s going on in their community?”
    –woah – check out joe’s correct note about overzealous SWAT teams and community policing. 🙂

  32. I, for one, volunteer to quarter soldiers during their homeland stay. I’ll do it for my country. 🙂

    Note to self:

    1) Purchase soldier’s uniform from custome shop.

    2) Practice barking, “Open up!” authoritatively.

    3) Go to Cleveland.

  33. costume shop, duh

  34. Jamaica St. Croix: “But Notch, my old posse from the ‘hood is coming after me. You can’t fight my whole posse!”

    Notch Johnson: “I’m going to lick your posse. And I’m going to enjoy it.”

    from Son of the Beach

  35. In ’67-’68 I was in a unit of Combat Engineers that had responsibility for riot control in D.C. Didn’t go to D.C. but we did go to the Pentagon. U.S. Marshals were there to make arrests.

    Comment by: D Anghelone at August 12, 2005 08:57 PM

    D Anghelone,
    Might I have put a daisy into the muzzle of your personal M-14 when Norman and I were hangin’ around the ‘gon?
    Point to ponder was, I was a Marine officer at the time, soon to be in the ‘Nam.

    Did you hope, as I did, that DC would burn to the ground the night Martin was shot?
    I went to a high point that night, observing with my fingers crossed.
    Was deeply disappointed the next day.

  36. D Anghelone,

    Did you get to see McNamara?

  37. Ruthless,

    Might I have put a daisy into the muzzle of your personal M-14 when Norman and I were hangin’ around the ‘gon?

    Norman was busy making a fool of himself to get arrested.

    We (not any 82nd Airborne) were who repelled the rush on the Pentagon doors. We didn’t get much of the daisy thing but the other tactics attempted were interesting. To the consternation of both sides, we got along rather well with the young, seated demonstrators before us.

    Point to ponder was, I was a Marine officer at the time, soon to be in the ‘Nam.

    Nothing to ponder. Military personnel were as diverse as any category of people in America.

    Most of us were back from Vietnam and waiting out our hitches.

    Did you hope, as I did, that DC would burn to the ground the night Martin was shot?
    I went to a high point that night, observing with my fingers crossed.
    Was deeply disappointed the next day.

    When you left Nam you were allowed to request a posting in the States. Most chose a base close to home so many of us (I was NYC) were from the D.C.-Baltimore area. Some of the black guys were concerned about having to go against their friends and relatives if we had to quell a race riot in D.C.

    Are you from the nihilist/anarchist wing that sees glory in destruction?

    Hakluyt,

    Did you get to see McNamara?

    I think the CO did on the day after. We’d saved them the embarrassment of having demonstrators running the halls and trashing offices as had happened earier that year.

  38. D Anghelone,

    What did you think of McNamara at the time?

  39. What did you think of McNamara at the time?

    He was one of Showboat Kennedy’s boys. Why Kennedy decided to up the ante in Vietnam remains to me a mystery. Well, okay, I think he (JFK) wanted the glory of doing all big things that needn’t be done. Vietnam, the Apollo program and…well…whatever.

  40. Are you from the nihilist/anarchist wing that sees glory in destruction?
    D Anghelone at August 13, 2005 08:19 AM

    For the record, I always need to make it clear that I’m a non-violent anarchist. But does anybody here doubt that DC needs destroying? (With no casualties.)
    Paraphrasing Malcolm X, “Destroy it by any means or pretense necessary.”

    And you were right. There were no daisies being placed in muzzles at the event the little woman and I attended. I was embellishing.

  41. There were no daisies being placed in muzzles at the event the little woman and I attended.

    Much went on before my group got involved and I’ve seen pictures of MPs getting some petal in their metal.

    In some correspondence with an organizer of that affair, I said there were no bayonets and he assured me there were. I’ve since seen some pictures of some MPs with sheathed bayonets affixed.

    Your friend McNamara ordered that no ammo be issued other than on his order and none was.

    I haven’t seen in any report the APCs I saw going down into the parking area.

    From some Signal Corpmen I heard that a unit of the 82nd was at Fort Myer.

    Back to you in New York, Walter.

  42. A little more ancient history from a geezer:
    I enjoyed the recent movie which was essentially a close-up of McNamara’s kisser for the whole movie. Anyway, it made me in impartial expert on him.
    But here’s one example of what still concerns me. How come Whiz Kid McNamara spent so much on expensive high-tech stuff to seal the border between North and South Vietnam, when all the North had to do was make a short detour through Laos?
    Most of my time over there was near that area.

  43. I enjoyed the recent movie which was essentially a close-up of McNamara’s kisser for the whole movie.

    Fog of War. Errol Morris gives good documentary. 🙂

    Near quote: “My rule became to not answer the question asked but the question I wish were asked. I’ve found that to be a good rule.”

    I still don’t know what to make of McNamara. For instance, he said he found, after taking office, that the “missile gap” didn’t exist. He didn’t know that was a campaign ploy? He still doesn’t know? Naive fellow or consummate con? Beats me.

  44. Posse Comitatus will be respected until the government needs to burn 70+ “religious cult members” to death somewhere in Texas.

  45. For the record, I always need to make it clear that I’m a non-violent anarchist. But does anybody here doubt that DC needs destroying? (With no casualties.)

    Destroying everything but the people would require a nortuen bomb. (The opposite of a neutron bomb.)

  46. Ruthless,

    Well, the CIA was supposed to be freeing Laos of Communists.

    D Anghelone,

    I perfer:

    I think the human race needs to think about killing. How much evil must we do in order to do good.

  47. I perfer:

    I think the human race needs to think about killing. How much evil must we do in order to do good.

    Like our Wilsonian/New Deal Democrat, you expect the human race to be of a mind? Likely not and it is a good question.

    Fog of War is worth more than one viewing. So, IMO, is The Weather Underground.

    Only the grave brings escape from the ’60s.

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