Skip to comments.Military May Play Bigger Relief Role (some urge loosening of Posse Comitatus Act)
Posted on 09/18/2005 4:41:37 AM PDT by Erik Latranyi
President Bush's push to give the military a bigger role in responding to major disasters like Hurricane Katrina could lead to a loosening of legal limits on the use of federal troops on U.S. soil.
Pentagon officials are reviewing that possibility, and some in Congress agree it needs to be considered.
Bush did not define the wider role he envisions for the military. But in his speech to the nation from New Orleans on Thursday, he alluded to the unmatched ability of federal troops to provide supplies, equipment, communications, transportation and other assets the military lumps under the label of "logistics."
The president called the military "the institution of our government most capable of massive logistical operations on a moment's notice."
At question, however, is how far to push the military role, which by law may not include actions that can be defined as law enforcement _ stopping traffic, searching people, seizing property or making arrests. That prohibition is spelled out in the Posse Comitatus Act of enacted after the Civil War mainly to prevent federal troops from supervising elections in former Confederate states.
Speaking on the Senate floor Thursday, Sen. John Warner, R-Va., chairman of the Armed Services Committee, said, "I believe the time has come that we reflect on the Posse Comitatus Act." He advocated giving the president and the secretary of defense "correct standby authorities" to manage disasters.
Presidents have long been reluctant to deploy U.S. troops domestically, leery of the image of federal troops patrolling in their own country or of embarrassing state and local officials.
The active-duty elements that Bush did send to Louisiana and Mississippi included some Army and Marine Corps helicopters and their crews, plus Navy ships. The main federal ground forces, led by troops of the 82nd Airborne Division from Fort Bragg, N.C., arrived late Saturday, five days after Katrina struck.
They helped with evacuations and performed search-and-rescue missions in flooded portions of New Orleans but did not join in law enforcement operations.
The federal troops were led by Lt. Gen. Russel Honore. The governors commanded their National Guard soldiers, sent from dozens of states.
Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld is reviewing a wide range of possible changes in the way the military could be used in domestic emergencies, spokesman Lawrence Di Rita said Friday. He said these included possible changes in the relationship between federal and state military authorities.
Under the existing relationship, a state's governor is chiefly responsible for disaster preparedness and response.
Governors can request assistance from the Federal Emergency Management Agency. If federal armed forces are brought in to help, they do so in support of FEMA, through the U.S. Northern Command, which was established in 2002 as part of a military reorganization after the 9/11 attacks.
Di Rita said Rumsfeld has not made recommendations to Bush, but among the issues he is examining is the viability of the Posse Comitatus Act. Di Rita called it one of the "very archaic laws" from a different era in U.S. history that limits the Pentagon's flexibility in responding to 21st century domestic crises.
Another such law, Di Rita said, is the Civil War-era Insurrection Act, which Bush could have invoked to waive the law enforcement restrictions of the Posse Comitatus Act. That would have enabled him to use either National Guard soldiers or active-duty troops _ or both _ to quell the looting and other lawlessness that broke out in New Orleans.
The Insurrection Act lets the president call troops into federal action inside the United States whenever "unlawful obstructions, combinations or assemblages _ or rebellion against the authority of the United States _ make it impracticable to enforce the laws" in any state.
The political problem in Katrina was that Bush would have had to impose federal command over the wishes of two governors _ Kathleen Blanco of Louisiana and Haley Barbour of Mississippi _ who made it clear they wanted to retain state control.
The last time the Insurrection Act was invoked was in 1992 when it was requested by California Gov. Pete Wilson after the outbreak of race riots in Los Angeles. President George H.W. Bush dispatched about 4,000 soldiers and Marines.
Di Rita cautioned against expecting quick answers to tough questions like whether Congress should define when to trigger the president's authority to send federal troops to take charge of an emergency, regardless of whether a governor agreed.
"Is there a way to define a threshold, or an anticipated threshold, above which a different set of relationships would kick in?" Di Rita asked. "That's a good question. It's only been two weeks, so don't expect us to have the answers. But those are the kinds of questions we need to be asking."
This was the time that they should have been used to forcibly deport L.A. illegals. Think of how much better off the city would be today.
Keep in mind the only reason it was "impracticable to enforce the laws" in" LA was the impotency of the Governor. The tell tale hypocrisy of those that want soldiers to be able enforce law inside the U.S., will be when they then squeal about the use of Soldiers on the border. Of course that's waht's meant by "loosening", we get the parts we like and the parts we don't like are still illegal. It's a good principle in law and should remain.
I agree. Not a good idea. Not good at all.
Mission creep is a bad idea.
Posse Comitatus is just a "feelgood" law anyhow. The military has been working around it for years, particularly in drug enforcement. The Navy routinely works drug interdiction missions supporting the Coast Guard. During these missions, Navy vessels simply change their name to "Coast Guard Cutter ___________" instead of the true name of their vessel.
The real concern is that certain populations within the United States are becoming "ungovernable" by civilian authority. Gangs and criminals can outgun our civilian police. Any city with a large, dependent underclass can count on looting and civil unrest during a state of emergency.
When America was founded, restraints of Christian morality (not Christianity, but the social constraints and mores) enabled self-government. Today, those underpinnings have been so undermined that American can only be governed by force. Inasmuch as we become uncivil, increased measures of force will be implemented to maintain order.
The answer doesn't reside in the political realm. The solution comes from a return to taking spiritual responsibility to live within certain behavioral parameters.
Could someone post the picture of Elian Gonzles being forcably taken during the Clinton years?
That picture says it all.
Bingo! All the hate speech coming from the left has had an effect. You can see the result all over, i.e. driving and road rage, you name it. Thank you Democrats for the lack of civility we are seeing today. It can begin to change back when we no longer accept it, fight back against it, and vote for those who can provide solutions to some serious problems and work together for the common good. Perhaps in 2006. I don't know.
It's like punishing the whole class because of one bad kid's behavior.
Why not just make Louisiana a federal entity like Washington D.C.?
No, Posse Comitatus is a safeguard, like the Second Amendment, against the creation of a military state.
Yes, drug enforcement has stretched the limits to a degree---however, we do not have soldiers going through the streets after drug dealers. Not yet.
The deconstruction of the welfare state is needed. President Bush alluded to this in his speech as New Orleans presents an opporunity to implement conservative programs to change the staus quo that seems perfectly acceptable to liberal democrats.
That picture says it all.
But it is what many conservatives want to happen all across this country --- the MSM will show pictures of illegals being rounded up, put on trucks and deported.
We want to solve illegal immigration, but we need to be careful of what we ask for, less we become that which we hate.
The most cost effective way to rid ourselves of the invading hordes is to have a few high profile arrests and deportations. A few thousand at most.
The invaders aren't as dumb or helpless as the RATS would have us believe. Such arrests would dramatically slow the invasion, and a voluntary exodus of those here would begin.
They're NOT dumb, in fact I believe they are some of the best that Mexico has to offer, including their criminal element. Except for the criminals, for the most part, they are the kind of people who can build countries. In small part, that's why there is little effort on Mexico's part to stop them. That way Mexico doesn't have to deal with highly motivated citizens clamering for more opportunities in Mexico.
I agree. This needs to be revisited.
No, no, no, no, no!
Right. Then during the next natural disaster, we will have the military disarming citizens.
That's where the shooting starts.
Yes. Looters should be shot on sight.
As civil government increasingly reveals itself to be composed of bunglers there will be no institution left capable of handling the inevitable disasters. Hence, more and more the military will have to become involved. Eventually some smart military guy will simply say to the civilian "leaders" who needs you? Yet another consequence of "tolerance," "power sharing," "room at the table," "the big tent," human dignity," "rights," all code words for allowing ineptitude to be elevated to positions of authority..
Just because gov't is inept, does not mean a military state is justified.
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