I am reading today that the Department of Defense, under orders from both Congress and the President, is readying a force of 20,000 uniformed military personnel (troops) to be stationed within the United States by 2011 to provide aid and support should a mass casualty attack occur. Just for the reader’s information, this is illegal.

Posse Comitatus Act of 1878, while arguably dated (enacted to limit military policing of the defunct Confederacy post-bellum), still remains in full force today and is the law of the land. While President Bush attempted to enact changes to the Act in 2006 that would have granted the military the power to assume control of a disaster situation, such as a hurricane or a nuclear attack, these changes were repealed in 2008 (after having been passed in October 2006 and then subsequently ruled unconstitutional by the Supreme Court). The verbiage that permitted the President to use the military as a domestic policing or disaster management tool is below:

The President may employ the armed forces... to... restore public order and enforce the laws of the United States when, as a result of a natural disaster, epidemic, or other serious public health emergency, terrorist attack or incident, or other condition... the President determines that... domestic violence has occurred to such an extent that the constituted authorities of the State or possession are incapable of maintaining public order... or [to] suppress, in a State, any insurrection, domestic violence, unlawful combination, or conspiracy if such... a condition... so hinders the execution of the laws... that any part or class of its people is deprived of a right, privilege, immunity, or protection named in the Constitution and secured by law... or opposes or obstructs the execution of the laws of the United States or impedes the course of justice under those laws.

I encourage you to note the “…or other condition…” portion and the fact that the circumstances governing the deployment of these forces were entirely subject to the President’s discretion. I’m stunned that this legislation passed in the first place and that I don’t remember it ever having done so or even showing up in the news. I am curious to see what sort of legal ramifications the deployment of this domestic security force will have, if any. From what the article says, the Cato Institute and the ACLU may be on the job already.

I hope that everyone recognizes what sort of dilemma is posed by the stationing of troops domestically that are under the direct command of the President. This is the sort of thing that banana republics and police states do, not the United States. Our National Guard units are under the command of state governors, in case you were wondering, and can be used for federal purposes only with their consent (it’s a bit more complicated, but that’s what it boils down to). And speaking of the National Guard, reacting to disasters of varying degrees within their specific state is their primary role. Why are they not the focus of this escalation of domestic security?
I'm not upset at the troops themselves, understand. They're following orders. I'm upset at their commanders, specifically their Commander-In-Chief, for using them in this manner, which is entirely inappropriate. As always, this is but a prelude to possible future expansions of government authority.

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