The Washington Post reports that federal troops may soon be deployed within the United States:
The U.S. military expects to have 20,000 uniformed troops inside the United States by 2011 trained to help state and local officials respond to a nuclear terrorist attack or other domestic catastrophe, according to Pentagon officials.
The long-planned shift in the Defense Department’s role in homeland security was recently backed with funding and troop commitments after years of prodding by Congress and outside experts, defense analysts said.
There are critics of the change, in the military and among civil liberties groups and libertarians who express concern that the new homeland emphasis threatens to strain the military and possibly undermine the Posse Comitatus Act, a 130-year-old federal law restricting the military’s role in domestic law enforcement.
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Domestic emergency deployment may be “just the first example of a series of expansions in presidential and military authority,” or even an increase in domestic surveillance, said Anna Christensen of the ACLU’s National Security Project. And Cato Vice President Gene Healy warned of “a creeping militarization” of homeland security.
For more information about the Posse Comitatus Act, see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Posse_Comitatus_Act
On October 1, 2008, the US Army announced that the 3rd Infantry Division’s 1st Brigade Combat Team (BCT) will be under the day-to-day control of U.S. Army North, the Army service component of Northern Command (NORTHCOM), as an on-call federal response force for natural or man-made emergencies and disasters, including terrorist attacks.
This marks the first time an active U.S. Army unit will be given a dedicated assignment to NORTHCOM, where it is stated they may be “called upon to help with civil unrest and crowd control or to deal with potentially horrific scenarios such as massive poisoning and chaos in response to a chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear or high-yield explosive (CBRNE) attack.” These soldiers will also learn how to use non-lethal weapons designed to “subdue unruly or dangerous individuals” without killing them, and also includes equipment to stand up a hasty road block; spike strips for slowing, stopping or controlling traffic; shields and batons; and beanbag bullets. However, the “non-lethal crowd control package […] is intended for use on deployments to the war zone, not in the U.S. […]”.
This formalizes a role for the use of federal troops within the United States during major public emergencies and disasters, as was the case in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina in 2005.This has raised concern about the relationship between Posse Comitatus and the use of the military in domestic disaster support and homeland defense roles..
The text of the relevant legislation is as follows:
. Use of Army and Air Force as posse comitatus
- Whoever, except in cases and under circumstances expressly authorized by the Constitution or Act of Congress, willfully uses any part of the Army or the Air Force as a posse comitatus or otherwise to execute the laws shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than two years, or both.
Also notable is the following provision within Title 10 of the United States Code (which concerns generally the organization and regulation of the armed forces and Department of Defense):
. Restriction on direct participation by military personnel
- The Secretary of Defense shall prescribe such regulations as may be necessary to ensure that any activity (including the provision of any equipment or facility or the assignment or detail of any personnel) under this chapter does not include or permit direct participation by a member of the Army, Navy, Air Force, or Marine Corps in a search, seizure, arrest, or other similar activity unless participation in such activity by such member is otherwise authorized by law.