Skip to comments.Northern Command General Endorses Posse Comitatus Review
Posted on 07/22/2002 11:46:03 AM PDT by USA21
Northern Command General Endorses Posse Comitatus Review
Although Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld has said the Pentagon would not seek any changes in the venerable Posse Comitatus Act that restricts the use of the military in domestic operations, President Bush's new plan for domestic security included a notable provision calling for Justice and Defense attorneys to review it. Now Gen. Ralph E. Eberhart, the officer charged with defending the continental U.S., has gone on record that hes all for it and would endorse changes in the law if that translated into a better-defended country.
"My view has been that Posse Comitatus will constantly be under review as we mature this command, as we do our exercises, as we interact with FEMA, F.B.I., and those lead federal agencies out there," the New York Times quoted Gen. Eberhart Sunday.
The Posse Comitatus Act was enacted after the Civil War in response to the perceived misuse of federal troops who were charged with keeping order in the South.
Despite the Acts restrictions on using military forces to performing domestic law enforcement duties, the law has been amended and loosened in modern times. Examples: assisting federal agencies in drug interdiction work, protecting national parks, executing quarantine and certain health laws and most recently supporting civilian agencies at the Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City this year.
However, Eberhart stipulated that he had no specific changes in mind.
The Times noted that the willingness of General Eberhart and some other senior officers to consider amending the law signals a shift in thinking by many top Pentagon officials, who have historically steered away from involving the military in domestic law enforcement.
Since 9/11 the act has caused some dilemmas, according to the Times report. When National Guard troops were deployed on the Canadian border after Sept. 11, the Posse Comitatus law prevented those troops from conducting surveillance from the helicopters that flew them to their assignment.
In another example, administration lawyers opined that President Bush would violate Posse Comitatus if he directly called up National Guard troops to help provide security at airports nationwide. Bush instead asked governors to use their call-up authority to perform the same task.
Eberharts new Northern Command, which officially kicks off on Oct. 1, will run military flying patrols over American cities, search the waters up to 500 miles off the United States coast, and respond to major terrorist attacks.
Eberhart has said that he is anxious to use new technology, including unmanned surveillance blimps cruising at 70,000 feet and Predator drones scanning American coastlines.
The general said it was also possible that the North American Aerospace Defense Command would expand beyond the United States and Canada to include Mexico.
"To defend this nation, we have to defend as far out as possible," General Eberhart said. "Therefore we need the support of Canada and Mexico to be able to defend our interests."
From Kelli Arena
WASHINGTON (CNN) -- In a shift from its position 24 hours earlier, the U.S. Postal Service said Thursday it had decided to meet with the Justice Department to discuss Operation TIPS, a government plan to encourage U.S. postal workers to report suspicious activity as part of the government's war on terrorism.
USPS officials had said Wednesday their 800,000 employees would not participate in the proposed program, whose name is an acronym for Terrorist Information and Prevention System.
But the USPS explained Thursday, "That decision was made because we had insufficient information on the program, and because we had not discussed the issue internally or with the two unions affected."
In a statement, the postal service said it, the National Association of Letter Carriers and the National Rural Letter Carriers' Association agreed a meeting was necessary with Department of Justice representatives to discuss the initiative. No meeting has been scheduled. Several weeks ago, Homeland Security officials approached the postal service about Operations TIPS and held a preliminary meeting about the possible involvement of letter carriers in the proposed initiative. Plans for the program have raised concern across the political spectrum. Members of civil liberties and privacy groups have joined conservative groups in their condemnation of the proposed program, dubbing it "Operation Snoops."
July 23, 2002
WASHINGTON: US homeland security chief Tom Ridge yesterday cautiously backed President George W. Bush's call for the military to be used for domestic law enforcement, saying there was a need for "discussion" on the proposal.
A 90-page strategy document released by Mr Bush last week outlines the creation of a Homeland Security Department and the review of a law which bans the military from arrests, searches, seizing evidence and other police activity on US soil. The Coast Guard and National Guard troops, under the control of state governors, are excluded from the law, known as the "Posse Comitatus Act".
Mr Ridge, speaking ahead of a Bush speech on the strategy planned for last night, Australian time, admitted it went "against our instincts as a country to empower the military with the ability to arrest", and called the prospect "very unlikely", but said it was important the law be examined.
Influential Democratic senators Carl Levin and Joe Bidden told television news programs separately yesterday they supported reviewing the law, but they expressed no interest in granting the military new powers to arrest Americans.
Congress is racing to approve Mr Bush's proposed legislation by the end of its autumn session. In the Senate, a version of the measure by Democrat Joseph Lieberman tracks closely with Mr Bush's plan.
It also would augment the agency's ability to gather intelligence from the FBI, CIA and others. That bill is to be considered by the Governmental Affairs Committee, which Senator Lieberman heads, tomorrow.
House Majority Leader Dick Armey said on NBC's Meet the Press there was a strong possibility Congress would resolve its differences and send Mr Bush a bill enacting the sweeping reorganisation by September 11.
Some lawmakers have expressed concern about rushing decisions on far-reaching changes in the bureaucracy, but Mr Armey said: "It's time to move forward with this. The President's got a good plan."
Are you saying that the Posse Comitatus Act is the only statute on the books that has divine perfection in past, present, and infinitely distant future?
Hadn't thought about it much until just now. But the New World is overflowing with banana republics, what's one more?
The Coast Guard and National Guard troops under the control of state governors are excluded from the Reconstruction-era law, known as the Posse Comitatus Act.
By Mimi Hall, USA TODAY
By Larry Downing, Reuters
President Bush, with Vice President Cheney, discusses homeland security strategy Tuesday.
WASHINGTON President Bush's national strategy for homeland security offers a chilling reminder of the dangers the nation faces at the hands of terrorists and a dizzying list of high-tech solutions that could cost the government and industry billions of dollars.
From futuristic systems that would detect a person's "hostile intent" to consideration of military enforcement of quarantines, the strategy is a blueprint for how the government and private sector should prepare for another terrorist attack.
"This comprehensive plan lays out clear lines of authority and clear responsibilities ... for federal employees and for governors and mayors and community and business leaders and the American citizens," Bush said upon releasing the 71-page report. "With a better picture of those responsibilities, all of us can direct money and manpower to meet them."
White House officials acknowledged that implementing the plan would take years and billions of dollars. Much of it would require action by Congress, cash-strapped state and local governments, businesses and foreign governments.
Bush's strategy calls for a national effort that also would include developing new vaccines to fight bioterrorism, creating high-tech chemical detection systems and expanding extradition authority.
"Our society presents an almost infinite array of potential targets that can be attacked through a variety of methods," the strategy says. "We must be prepared to adapt as our enemies in the war on terrorism alter their means of attack."
Much of what is in the plan is already underway, such as increasing security at U.S. borders with Canada and Mexico and stockpiling vaccines against anthrax and smallpox. Congress also is on its way to creating a 170,000-employee department of homeland security.
Homeland security experts praised the strategy as a solid outline of the ongoing terrorist threat, the nation's vulnerabilities and what needs to be done. To that end, the plan says the government should:
Create "red teams" of federal agents who would run mock-terrorism drills to try to find weaknesses in preparedness. Use the military for civilian defense, including enforcing quarantines in case of an attack using a contagious virus. Review state quarantine laws, some of which are more than 100 years old.
Increase the availability of terrorism insurance. Develop a scientific system to detect a person's hostile intent, so security officials could find possible terrorists.
Review public disclosure laws that might discourage some companies, such as those that have dangerous chemical plants, from sharing proprietary information with the government.
Randall Larsen, director of the ANSER Institute for Homeland Security, called the report "a great step forward."
Others questioned whether the strategy is fiscally realistic. The federal government and the states have spent more than $50 billion on homeland security; the strategy says the private sector, which spent $55 billion a year on security before Sept. 11, might need to double that.
In Congress, which is on a fast track to approve a new department, lawmakers welcomed the strategy, but Democrats questioned some elements.
Rep. Robert Menendez, D-N.J., expressed concern that the Bush administration will try to amend the Posse Comitatus Act of 1878, which forbids the military from engaging in civilian law enforcement. Menendez also said he worried that a recommended national standard for driver's licenses could infringe on Americans' civil liberties.
Former acting CIA director Jack Devine said the focus should remain on hunting down terrorists abroad. "This is more of an offensive game than a defensive game," he said. "Homeland security improves our position somewhat, but it doesn't get you to the point where you can sleep at night."