Homeland Offense: Washington Contemplates Deploying the Armed Forces for Domestic Law Enforcement

By Vlahos, Kelley Beaucar | The American Conservative, February 9, 2009 | Go to article overview

Homeland Offense: Washington Contemplates Deploying the Armed Forces for Domestic Law Enforcement


Vlahos, Kelley Beaucar, The American Conservative


AMERICANS HAVE BECOME so inured to the sight of federal troops fighting fires, rescuing flood victims from rooftops, and engaging in drug interdiction on the border that few eyebrows were raised when news broke that 20,000 active-duty infantry would soon be deployed on American soil for so-called homeland defense.

But critics say this development--announced by U.S. Northern Command (NORTHCOM) in October--is unprecedented and further evidence of a military mission-creep into domestic affairs, particularly in areas for which the National Guard and Reserves are already suited.

"I don't get it. I don't understand why they are further encumbering active-duty brigades with this kind of mission," says Winslow Wheeler, author of America's Defense Meltdown: Pentagon Reform for President Obama and the New Congress and one of Washington's few civilian experts on the Pentagon's Byzantine budget. "It sounds like someone is expanding his empire."

Pentagon officials say that having a permanent, ready-reaction force capable of responding to a catastrophic event--natural or manmade--is a sensible and necessary outgrowth of post-9/11 national security. But the move has constitutional experts, civil libertarians, and retired and active military scratching their heads. Politicians are now demanding answers, wondering how close the military is to violating the Posse Comitatus Act, the 1878 federal law passed after Reconstruction to prevent federal troops from conducting domestic law enforcement. A separate Department of Defense directive prohibits the Navy and Marines from engaging in such activities.

"We were encouraging the Department [of Defense] to do something different than this," says an aide to Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.). The chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee thinks the federal government "jumped without weighing the pros and the cons," while reacting to fears that the country would not be able to respond effectively to a future disaster. "[Leahy] asked for a briefing and is watching how it is being handled." But like any expansion of Washington's power, a dramatic reversal now seems unlikely unless President Barack Obama gets personally involved.

Meanwhile, the 3rd Infantry Division's 1st Brigade Combat Team (BCT) is back from duty in Iraq and now training at Fort Stewart, Georgia as the Chemical, Biological, Radiological, Nuclear, High-Yield Explosive Consequence Management Response Force (CCMRF, pronounced "sea smurf.")

Other forces will join these soldiers to form a total of four domestically garrisoned BCT's--or about 20,000 troops--by 2012, according to Pentagon spokeswoman Lt. Col. Almarah Belk. From here on, said Belk, CCMRF will have "unique training" in disaster recovery, with "equipment and personnel that cannot be found anywhere else in the federal government." She insisted that, in adherence to Posse Comitatus, the forces would not be enforcing the law.

"Their primary role is to augment the consequence management efforts of the first responders" at the state level, she told TAC. CCMRF won't be called in unless requested by governors or if the president declares an emergency. That sounds justified, given fears of another 9/11-style attack and widespread disgust at how federal authorities reacted to Hurricane Katrina, but the last part--if the president declares an emergency--raises some flags.

"If you hand power over to a political official, the chances that it might be abused are better than not," says Salon writer Glenn Greenwald, author of Great American Hypocrites and a former constitutional litigator. "The potential for mischief--even if it is not intended right now or there is no specific plan for abuse--is quite high if we allow the president to use the military for domestic purposes."

Greenwald and others point out that there are safeguards such as Posse Comitatus--loosely translated from Latin, "the power of the country"--preventing troops from rolling into town, setting up checkpoints, and arresting people. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Homeland Offense: Washington Contemplates Deploying the Armed Forces for Domestic Law Enforcement
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.