Monday, August 08, 2005
Via our stalwart colleagues at Cursor: Whatever NORTHCOM wants, NORTHCOM gets, and what NORTHCOM has long desired most is the repeal of posse comitatus laws:
The U.S. military has devised its first-ever war plans for guarding against and responding to terrorist attacks in the United States, envisioning 15 potential crisis scenarios and anticipating several simultaneous strikes around the country, according to officers who drafted the plans.Nothing new here, of course: the notion that the military should be available to step in and help out with crowd control, misguided dissent, the enforcement of martial law, etc., has been run up the old flagpole on numerous occasions since 9/11, and the public, gratifyingly, has never raised much of a fuss. One such occasion was Mr. Bush's second inauguration in January of this year, and because we are in a slothful state of mind and nothing much has changed in the intervening months, we will take the liberty of reproducing a post we wrote at the time:
The classified plans, developed here at Northern Command headquarters, outline a variety of possible roles for quick-reaction forces estimated at as many as 3,000 ground troops per attack, a number that could easily grow depending on the extent of the damage and the abilities of civilian response teams.
The possible scenarios range from "low end," relatively modest crowd-control missions to "high-end," full-scale disaster management after catastrophic attacks such as the release of a deadly biological agent or the explosion of a radiological device, several officers said . . . .
The war plans represent a historic shift for the Pentagon, which has been reluctant to become involved in domestic operations and is legally constrained from engaging in law enforcement. Indeed, defense officials continue to stress that they intend for the troops to play largely a supporting role in homeland emergencies, bolstering police, firefighters and other civilian response groups.
[A NYT] article revealed that "super-secret commandos" with "state-of-the-art weaponry" were part of the massive inauguration security team (13,000 strong!) that would have swung into action had any unexpected cracks appeared in the Presidential Spokesmodel's mandate.
The Times story has gotten heavy play in Blogland because the deployment of U.S. troops in a civilian security exercise would seem to violate the terms of the Posse Comitatus Act of 1878, which prohibits military participation in domestic law enforcement. However, the article quotes several unnamed officials who say it just ain't so --Three senior Defense Department and Bush administration officials confirmed the existence of the plan and mission, but disputed Mr. Arkin's characterization of the mission as "extra-legal."-- and in fact, Posse Comitatus has been gradually eroded by a series of "exceptions" that have routinely found their way into federal legislation since the passage, in the early eighties, of the Military Cooperation with Law Enforcement Officials Act. (The pace has, naturally, picked up since 9/11. Talk Left links to an excellent post at the Samuel Taylor Coleridge Foundation where you will find background information aplenty on both the history of the act and the precise extent of its recent hobbling.)
One of the officials said the units operated in the United States under "special authority" from either the president or the secretary of defense.
Civilian and uniformed military lawyers said provisions in several federal statutes, including the Fiscal Year 2000 Defense Department Authorization Act, Public Law 106-65, permits the secretary of defense to authorize military forces to support civilian agencies, including the Federal Bureau of Investigation, in the event of a national emergency, especially any involving nuclear, chemical or biological weapons.
Posse Comitatus has never been a favorite of the Reagan-Bush axis; during the Iran-Contra hearings, you will recall, Congress learned of a plan Oliver North had helped to draft for the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), details of which includedsuspension of the constitution, the imposition of martial law, internment camps, and the turning over of government to the president and FEMA.The Reagan-North plan would have been triggered by "violent and widespread internal dissent or national opposition against a US military invasion abroad," Nicaragua in this case having been the obvious candidate for liberation. The military campaign against the Sandinistas never materialized, but its architects had already returned to power when the airplanes struck the towers, and the possibility of Arab internment camps began to be mentioned; a few sources remembered that prototypical plans already existed. Meanwhile, new Homeland Security czar Tom Ridge advocated "review" of Posse Comitatus restrictions on our military might, which might, he clearly felt, be profitably turned against our own citizenry.
A Miami Herald article on July 5, 1987, reported that the former FEMA director Louis Guiffrida's deputy, John Brinkerhoff, handled the martial law portion of the planning. The plan was said to be similar to one Mr Giuffrida had developed earlier to combat "a national uprising by black militants". It provided for the detention "of at least 21 million American Negroes"' in "assembly centres or relocation camps".
Today Mr Brinkerhoff is with the highly influential Anser Institute for Homeland Security. Following a request by the Pentagon in January that the US military be allowed the option of deploying troops on American streets, the institute in February published a paper by Mr Brinkerhoff arguing the legality of this.
He alleged that the Posse Comitatus Act of 1878, which has long been accepted as prohibiting such deployments, had simply been misunderstood and misapplied.
Mr. Ridge's concerns were shared by USAF Gen. Ralph Eberhart, first honcho of the US Northern Command. As Bob Dreyfuss explained in a 2003 Nation article, Rummy & co. truly hit the jackpot with the creation of Northcom:Just a year after the attacks of September 11, the Pentagon finally achieved a goal it had been seeking for years: the establishment of a military command for the domestic United States. The supposed rationale for creating the US Northern Command (Northcom, in Pentagon parlance) is primarily an antiterrorist one: to use the armed forces in response to a September 11-style or even more severe attack. "It's a recognition by the Department of Defense that the world has in fact changed," says Pete Verga, a retired US Army officer who served as the first head of the Pentagon's Homeland Security Task Force. "The idea that the homeland is not a combat zone turned out not to be true" . . . .The Pentagon rewarded Gen. Eberhart with the top job at Northcom after his sterling performance as commander of NORAD on the morning of 9/11. No doubt he did the very best he could under the circumstances (described last summer by Gail Sheehy, writing in the NY Observer):
[Eberhart] noted that before September 11 the idea of something like the Northern Command was a nonstarter. "It was too hard to get our minds around how to establish a regional command for North America," he said. Now that Northcom is up and running, Eberhart is resolute. "We will," he said, "do what's necessary to protect or to mitigate the situation, if something's gone down."
When I asked him about what kind of support his command could provide for US law enforcement, he cited recent experiences at the Super Bowl, the Olympics and air patrols over US cities, and he promised to try actively to engage the military in future events. "Day in and day out, we're going to be working with the [Department] of Homeland Security," he said. "If it's inside the United States, and we think we have capabilities that we think are applicable, then we will offer those." Making it clear that his unit is not just designed to bring in blankets, tents and medical supplies, he said that his command's engagement will depend on what he called "probability of kill," referring to the armed forces' ability to neutralize terrorists . . . .
Also last year, during the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City, nearly 5,000 soldiers -- including 3,100 from the Guard and 1,800 members of the regular armed forces -- surrounded the arenas, flew air patrols above the city and deployed high-tech surveillance equipment. At the time, 4,000 US soldiers were occupying Afghanistan after ousting its Taliban regime, leading Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld to tell war-whooping troops in Utah: "We have more people in Utah participating in this Joint Task Force-Olympics...than we do in Afghanistan" . . . .
[S]o riddled with loopholes is the Posse Comitatus tradition and law that the President can decide to deploy the armed forces and the National Guard on his own authority. "The consistent DoD view has been that the President has sufficient legal authority to use the military in the US when he determines that doing so is appropriate," says Pentagon spokesman Maj. Ted Wadsworth. That's exactly what happened after September 11, when troops took over airports and downtown intersections and flew combat air patrols over major US cities. Federalization of National Guard troops is not a new phenomenon (it was used sporadically in the civil rights era), but in the current climate it is something that could come to be regarded as routine. Pentagon officials cite the precedent of the 1992 uprising in Los Angeles after the not-guilty verdict in the trial of police officers charged with beating Rodney King. Then, nearly 10,000 members of the California National Guard were federalized on orders from President Bush, who sent an additional 4,000 Army soldiers and Marines to Los Angeles to serve as a virtual occupying army.So many unconnected dots, contradictions and implausible coincidences. Like the fact that NORAD was running an imaginary terrorist-attack drill called "Vigilant Guardian" on the same morning as the real-world attacks. At 8:40 a.m., when a sergeant at NORAD’s center in Rome, N.Y., notified his northeastern commander, Col. Robert Marr, of a possible hijacked airliner—American Flight 11—the colonel wondered aloud if it was part of the exercise. This same confusion was played out at the lower levels of the NORAD network.President Bush said in April 2004 that "Nobody in our government, at least, and I don't think the prior government, could envision flying airplanes into buildings on such a massive scale," echoing Condi Rice's famously disingenous remarks from September of 2001, a mere two months after the G-8 summit in Genoa. And Gen. Eberhart chimed right in: "We have planned and executed numerous scenarios over the years to include aircraft originating from foreign airports penetrating our sovereign airspace," he told USA TODAY. "Regrettably, the tragic events of 9/11 were never anticipated or exercised."
What’s more, the decades-old procedure for a quick response by the nation’s air defense had been changed in June of 2001. Now, instead of NORAD’s military commanders being able to issue the command to launch fighter jets, approval had to be sought from the civilian Defense Secretary, Donald Rumsfeld. This change is extremely significant, because Mr. Rumsfeld claims to have been "out of the loop" nearly the entire morning of 9/11. He isn’t on the record as having given any orders that morning. In fact, he didn’t even go to the White House situation room; he had to walk to the window of his office in the Pentagon to see that the country’s military headquarters was in flames.
Mr. Rumsfeld claimed at a previous commission hearing that protection against attack inside the homeland was not his responsibility. It was, he said, "a law-enforcement issue."
Why, in that case, did he take onto himself the responsibility of approving NORAD’s deployment of fighter planes?
Here's the lede of the story in which those quotes appear:In the two years before the Sept. 11 attacks, the North American Aerospace Defense Command conducted exercises simulating what the White House says was unimaginable at the time: hijacked airliners used as weapons to crash into targets and cause mass casualties.Even if the full extent of their duplicity were known, we doubt the Bush administration would have much to fear from a population of willing -- make that eager -- dupes. But you can certainly see why, if worst came to worst, our beloved leaders might not wish to reject outright the option of interposing an armed division between the White House and the angry, pitchfork-wielding mob.
One of the imagined targets was the World Trade Center. In another exercise, jets performed a mock shootdown over the Atlantic Ocean of a jet supposedly laden with chemical poisons headed toward a target in the United States. In a third scenario, the target was the Pentagon — but that drill was not run after Defense officials said it was unrealistic, NORAD and Defense officials say.
NORAD, in a written statement, confirmed that such hijacking exercises occurred. It said the scenarios outlined were regional drills, not regularly scheduled continent-wide exercises.