Monday, December 01, 2008

US prepares for "continuity of government"

Think Again: The Invisible Battle Over Posse Comitatus

SOURCE: AP/Petros Giannakouris

A largely silent battle has been fought over the president's ability to deploy military troops in the United States. Overturning longstanding statues limiting this ability has implications for martial law.

By Eric Alterman, George Zornick | October 23, 2008

My late friend and mentor I.F. Stone spent his career devouring public documents—the congressional record, government reports, debates, meetings—to get all of the news his more consensus-minded colleagues found of little import.

If Izzy was alive today, he might have spent some time with Section 1076 of the John Warner National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2007. And knowing Izzy, he would have paused just a few paragraphs into the $500 billion, 591-page bill as he noticed that it happen to undermine a centuries-old tenet of American law: the Posse Comitatus Act of 1878, which restricts the president’s ability to deploy the Army inside the United States.

Before the bill passed, the president could deploy troops inside the United States only if he invoked the Insurrection Act of 1807, which allows for deployment only “to suppress, in a State, any insurrection, domestic violence, unlawful combination, or conspiracy.” The new law expands the list to include “natural disaster, epidemic, or other serious public health emergency, terrorist attack or incident, or other condition”—and such a “condition” is not defined or limited.

Lo and behold, President Bush has done just this, deploying an entire brigade from Iraq for domestic activities inside the United States. The 3rd Infantry Division’s 1st Brigade Combat Team has, since October 1st, been under the day-to-day control of U.S. Army North, the Army service component of Northern Command, as an on-call federal response force. Yet the mainstream media has raised nary an eyebrow at this striking expansion of presidential power taken in defiance of centuries of legal precedent—yet another in a series so large as to defy calculation.


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