The name of the so-called “U.S. Department of Homeland Security” has always disturbed and rankled me.
Created in the frenzied political aftermath of the 9-11-2001 terrorist attacks, it sounds like something Hitler’s propaganda minister, Josef Goebbels would have dreamed up to impress the gullible masses. Indeed, the attitude too often displayed at airports by the over paid DHS’s minions of the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) is akin to that of storm troopers.
Back in 2006 I and others called attention to a dangerous provision slipped into an omnibus appropriation bill that gave the President of the United States the unprecedented power to deploy the U.S. military for domestic duty within the United States as he sees fit.
President Bush (or someone who had his ear) came up with the disturbing idea that the U.S. military should be put in charge of domestic police matters when a “major catastrophe” occurs within America.
The operative factor here depends squarely on how one defines “major catastrophe” — an elastic phrase that could be expanded at the stroke of a presidential pen. (Read some of the Presidential Emergency Declarations now in effect and you may have trouble sleeping at night).
Nevertheless, this extraordinary power was written into law. Now it has been announced that for the first time an active U.S. Army Infantry Brigade has been assigned “to provide command and control for federal homeland defense efforts and coordinate defense support of civil authorities.”
A news article reports that these active duty troops will “learn new skills, use some of the ones they acquired in the war zone and more than likely will not be shot at while doing any of it. They may be called upon to help with civil unrest and crowd control.”
One has to ask what possible rationale is there for permanently deploying the U.S. Army inside the United States, under the command of any President, for any purpose — let alone things such as “crowd control,” other traditional law enforcement functions, and a seemingly unlimited array of other uses at the President’s sole discretion?
Perhaps they will be deployed to assure that the pending elections (or any Florida recounts) will be orderly. Or maybe they will be sent to Capitol Hill to convince a congressional majority that Wall Street deserves a $700 billion bailout.
Recalling the unconstitutional excesses perpetrated by the federal government under the misnamed PATRIOT Act, are we now to believe a military trained to kill the enemy is going to play the role of Officer Clancy on the local beat?
Bitter History Lessons
There are a great many very good reasons why long-standing statutory prohibitions against the military acting as domestic policemen should not be suspended, now or even in the event of a major emergency.
The 1878 Posse Comitatus Act limited the role of the U.S. military in our lives and kept America from becoming a banana republic. That law was adopted after a 15-year military occupation by the U.S. Army as post-Civil War law enforcement in the Southern States, the “Reconstruction,” as the North liked to call it. (There’s a major history lesson to be learned right there).
Until the Bush law was enacted, America’s military always was prohibited, for the most part, from acting as a domestic police force. They were banned from participation in arrests, searches, seizure of evidence and other police activity on U.S. soil. (The U.S. Coast Guard and National Guard troops under the control of state governors are excluded from these historic prohibitions). That law doesn’t stop the military from providing emergency supplies and keeping order in a natural disaster as a state governor directs.
Local Police Militarization
For the last 20 years America has experienced the horror of the militarization of its own local and state police.
Remember that there were military “advisors” during the Janet Reno’s DOJ slaughter at Waco, Texas. Who can forget a flack-jacketed federal agent waving a machine gun at a terrified Elian Gonzalez as he was dragged back to Castro’s Cuba, also courtesy of Reno. Or the slaughter of innocents at Ruby Ridge, Idaho.
But similar events, where people are assaulted in their homes by SWAT teams waving machine guns, threatening to shoot, and trashing a home as a tactical distraction, happen repeatedly in the U.S. It’s all part of the failed war on drugs that has burdened us with a gigantic police state establishment spending billions every year to no good purpose.
The most dangerous aspect of police militarization isn’t the SWAT teams in black masks and the machine guns at the ready.
It’s the change the attitude of too many police.
In a constitutional republic policemen are supposed to be “peace officers.” Police militarization promotes maximal use of force as a solution, even when no force at all is required. Police think of themselves as an occupying army, and the public comes to think of them as the same. That’s the real disaster!
Power to the People
Isn’t it bad enough that domestic U.S. policing is approaching a sad state of militarization. Must we step off the precipice and turn the country over to an occupying U.S. Army under control of the White House, assisted by the Pentagon?
I hope not. As the current national economic problems have proven, the people of the United States and properly-run government can meet any major catastrophe — if we have good leadership at all levels — and if we put an end to power grabs at the expense of peoples’ liberties and the Constitution.
For an excellent report on this topic by the Cato Institute, click here.
Bob Bauman JD
Chairman, Freedom Alliance
* In the aftermath of the 9/11 tragedy, the PATRIOT Act became law with great haste . I call this law the “greatest single assault on personal and financial privacy in U.S. history.” To learn about this far-reaching privacy invasion—and what you can do about it, click here.
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