An Attack on Posse Comitatus?

On Tuesday, the ACLU filed a request under the Freedom of Information Act with the Departments of Defense, Justice, and Homeland Security, demanding an explanation for the Army's decision to station an active-duty military unit inside the United States. This development represents the first-ever permanent deployment of an active-duty unit within the country. The deployment threatens a significant erosion of the Posse Comitatus Act of 1878 and sparks renewed concerns about the Defense Department's increasing role in domestic surveillance. It raises critical questions, as the ACLU explained, "about the longstanding separation between civilian and military government within the United States — a separation that dates to the Nation's founding."

In the request, the ACLU asked the government to disclose any records relating to its decision to deploy the unit, as well as documents concerning the its purpose, including "contemplated functions; duties; surveillance activities; and relationship to existing civilian agencies or personnel or the National Guard." The release of these records, the ACLU believes, will allow the public to reach an informed conclusion as to whether the deployment represents an erosion of our rights and a violation of federal law.

Here's what we do know: The program, entitled the Chemical, Biological, Radiological/Nuclear, and Explosive (CBRNE) Consequence Management Response Force, or CCMRF (pronounced, strangely enough, "sea-smurf"), will be stationed for one year in Fort Stewart, Ga., with the expectation — according to Army Times — that another active-duty brigade will then take over, and that the deployment will be permanent. The first unit to be deployed will be the 3rd Infantry Division's 1st BCT, or "First Raiders", which spent 35 of the last 60 months "in Iraq patrolling in full battle rattle" (again, the Army Times' characterization). The unit's explicit mission will be to provide support for civilian law-enforcement branches like local police and rescue personnel: it may be called upon in situations involving civil unrest, crowd control, or catastrophes like chemical, biological, or nuclear attack, and it will be trained in skills like search and rescue and crowd control.

But we also know that the CCMRF deployment jeopardizes the Posse Comitatus Act, a cornerstone of America's democratic society. Enacted after the end of Reconstruction (and the domestic military occupation that went along with it), the Act prevents the government from using the military as a tool for law enforcement, except in situations of explicit national emergency based on express authorization from Congress (the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina is one example). Posse Comitatus embodies and preserves the separation between civilian and military government crucial to the protection of civil liberties and the avoidance of martial law.

The implementation of the CCMRF program should therefore be extremely troubling to all Americans concerned about their civil liberties. After Hurricane Katrina, the Bush administration began to work for an elimination of the most important elements of the Posse Comitatus Act, eventually helping pass legislation that permitted the President to authorize domestic military deployment in cases of "natural disaster, epidemic, or other serious public health emergency, terrorist attack or incident, or other condition" (this "other condition" was not limited in any way by the text of the law). Although that amendment was repealed in 2008, it nonetheless signaled a significant departure from the Posse Comitatus Act, and a substantial broadening of executive power. It stands to reason, then, that the deployment of CCMRF may be just the first example of a series of expansions in presidential and military authority.

The deployment of an active unit within the United States is also troubling given recent evidence of the Defense Department's involvement in warrantless surveillance. The expansion of the military's role in domestic law enforcement may pave the way for a further increase in domestic surveillance activities in which the government oversteps its legal authority by listening to the private communications of ordinary Americans.

Not to mention that it makes no sense for an already over-taxed military to expand its operations to responsibilities normally reserved for civilian law enforcement. A 2003 General Accounting Office study found that domestic security missions heavily strain our military, which is already stretched thin in Iraq and Afghanistan, and severely restrict its ability to effectively combat real threats abroad. As Gene Healy, vice-president of the Cato Institute has observed, the military "is not a Swiss army knife"; it cannot be expected to return from Iraq and immediately turn to natural disaster response efforts. And, according to Army Times, the domestic mission "will take place during the so-called dwell time a unit gets to reset and regenerate after a deployment" — that is, instead of relaxing and visiting their loved ones during their much-deserved time off, our soldiers may now be spending their vacation conducting "crowd control" stateside.

In an era where many argue that international efforts should take a back seat to domestic concerns, there may be merit behind the theory of focusing our defense efforts on the homeland; but the deployment of an active-duty unit on our soil raises important questions that need to be addressed — not secretly behind closed doors, but openly by the American people. We have a right to know why the government has made the unprecedented decision to implement the CCMRF program, and the true threat it poses to our civil liberties.

Add a comment (8)
Read the Terms of Use


I look forward to hearing what exactly is happening here.



gwpriester Plac...

This administration never gives up. If it were not for organizations such as the ACLU things would be even worse than they already are. And that is very bad.


This is a steady march to Marshall Law and dictatatorship.
The Federal Government looks upon the American people as the enemy.
The State governments are supposed to be protecting our rights against this Tyranny, but they have forgotten their roles and the fact that they work for us, not us working for them.


“This response force will not be called upon to help with law enforcement, civil disturbance or crowd control, but will be used to support lead agencies involved in saving lives, relieving suffering and meeting the needs of communities affected by weapons of mass destruction attacks, accidents or even natural disasters.” - Army Col. Michael Boatner, USNORTHCOM future operations division chief.

So is ACLU and the Army Times mistaken, or is Col. Boatner?

Erick Mendez

I cannot believe this. I hope the Fed is not strengthening NORTHCOM and the its own powers to do bad. Oh wait, duh!! they are going to do bad that's why they want more power. We have to stop giving the Fed so much power. I hope the ACLU can do something about it!

MAJ E.E.Smith

I think one is confused on the PCA. The PCA forbids the direct enforceemnt of any law enforcemnt, it does not forbid the support of. What does direct mean? It means that the military can not do Interdiction, Search or seizure, Arrest, Apprehension, stop and frisk Use of personnel – surveillance or pursuit of individuals, or as undercover agents, informants, investigators, interrogators. Witht hat said if you look at the mission, and assets given to SEA-SMURF it is not geared towards that. It is geaed towards saving, preventing lose of life. Secondly, If one looks at the history of PCA it is dated back to Old English law of alowing the use of a posse to enforec the law and was the duty of all citizens todo so. It was further used to put down the first insurgency and terroist acts on americna soil. It is was orginally called the Knott Amendment that was placed as a rider to the approtions bill after the reconstrcution era. So i ask the readers here to do the history of this old law, for it is based in a racism and revenge. In addition, if this act were to occur, hevane forbid it did, who would be better to respond with the capability to handle it? We cannot let another 911 happen on our soil.

The Youth in pl...

It's made to sound all well and good from a army backed do-good but if you simply read the fine print: in place to deal with crowd control. Now with that one piece being said realize that this is yet one more of the new acts pushed threw without complete and total understanding for what this means for "WE THE PEOPLE" set forth by "our leaders" without any consent, because of the shady nature in which the admin pushed for the passing of at the end of 2006. Now honestly ask yourself why would our gov. put in place a plan for crowd control? I don't know maybe because "WE THE PEOPLE" aren't going to like and will assemble to protest something they are going to do. Everything in the gray are our gov. does now days that raises more then a few questions is a matter of national security, we are already moving toward a fascist dictatorship in every sense of the saying,"absolute power corrupts" and the further we go past 9/11 people are starting to see this and our own cia, fbi, nsa, agents are having the aclu push for more protection when it comes to national security whistle blowing, why? because they are witnessing our high commands making choices they don't have the right to make for "WE THE PEOPLE" and they're ignoring our civil rights in the process, and honest hardworking Americans are being scared away from asking about the tactics our executive branch is using in fear of being called a terrorist or being shunt down because it's a matter of national security. Now I'm all for protecting the home front but it's getting to the point where the gov. is using the national security as their stale mate with a whole lot of important issues and that is just wrong and if our fbi and cia agents are willing to come forward doing their job to let us "WE THE PEOPLE" know about careless executive mistakes then they should be aloud to do so without fearing that their higher command isn't going to pull something on them because their not on this bandwagon of deceit that the guys upstairs seem to think is transparent. Read up the FBI general in command reports 35% of their terror watch list is off, there's a million plus on that list, that's in the ballpark of over a quarter million people either wrongfully being watched or not taken off when proven innocent. That is just one of the mess ups that is going down and there's many other things that "WE THE PEOPLE" get told are off limits because security issues, are you catching my drift? , when our gov. starts implicating the passing of these acts on sheer "FEAR" ALONE MEANING 9/11, and when anyone tries to put in their 2 cents on the issue if it's already said and done our gov. tells reps of "WE THE PEOPLE" that this trickery is needed to insure the security of homeland. Well I say then if the tyrants that think they are going to try and imprison or kill our own citizens, then "WE THE PEOPLE" will raise our voice and peacefully say no more because what they're are planning will tear this country apart. Please read up:

In 2006, the Military Commissions Act was passed which, in addition to legalizing torture, allows the president and military courts to declare anyone an enemy combatant without basic civil rights like habeas corpus.

Plans for massive detention centers are already being prepared. Pacific News Service reported that in early 2006, Kellogg Brown and Root (KBR) received a $385 million contract from the Department of Homeland Security to build detention and processing facilities to be used "in the event of an emergency influx of immigrants into the U.S. or to support the rapid development of new programs."

Would They Really Go That Far?

The Bush Regime's preparations for martial law are part of an extreme agenda. This is a regime that is setting out to create a world empire that is unchallenged and unchallengeable and has embarked on an endless war to bring this about. Along with this, they aim to restructure social relations in the U.S., doing away with many of the social and economic institutions that have characterized U.S. society since World War 2. Because of this extreme agenda, the Bush regime takes very seriously the possibility of jolts and ruptures and resistance and are preparing very extreme measures to deal with this.

Let it be known to all who say no to this whole scheme, and to all who say that this isn't true do your part and contact your state reps threw and let your presents be known that is our only salvation

Sign Up for Breaking News