Talk:Posse Comitatus Act

From SourceWatch
Jump to navigation Jump to search

Needs fixing

This article has just been added to the Rights, Liberties, and Courts portal. It needs to be edited with the usual structure, format, references, etc... similar to the other legislation articles. --Alex Sweidel 15:50, 13 July 2007 (EDT)

This man, George Bush, is so without concern for the inherent rights acknowledged within the Bill of Rights and the Constitution of the United States that one wonders of his sanity and the sanity of the men that advise and support him.

Wherefore and by what reason does the executive press upon the public, posse comitatus?

James Horn

Bush maintains intent to change posse comitatus

In an interview in Covington, La, Bush stated, "We're going to change this law."

Bush used 911 as his excuse

Posse Comitatus; where hard right meets far left and the fringes reconnect to become a part of the fabric again; out on the elliptic. Where this meeting of antithesises shifts, becoming miscible, and those whose sight is not permanently fixed upon the imaginary plane, realize political relativity; comprehending the threat from flatworlder partisans and their stunted linear ideations. The citizenry afflicted with Political BiPolarity endanger liberty, and their battles lay barren waste to the fields where the seed of progressive (not the modern politicized meaning) alternatives has been sown.

Aside from that, it's the place to view the very latest in tin foil fashion accessories.

Alas, the publisher file i found is not the research i expected to find. Instead it is a satirical muse that was thrown at an old friend in July, 2002, who had lost his libertarianism during the Clinton years, and had begun to rabidly foam pro-bush after 911. He was unable to grasp the simple logic within the rhetorical question of:

If you were proudly and adamantly chaste around Reno,
why did you whore yourself so cheaply to General JohnBoy?

He refused to compare past with present and sense that the Bush plan was a return to the same vengeful policies from the past, and its methods of secrecy, lies, covert acts and devil-dealing, rationalized with a dishonest veneration of pragmaticism. The very same madness that had created al Qaeda in the first place.

I was able to pull some still extant references from the screed though. Some of it, you may find use for, even though is is dated, and a bit off-topic in places.

Clinton, reacting to Timmy McVeigh laid siege to posse comitatus back in the nineties, and the billydidit harpies loudly shrieked about it.

" response to the Oklahoma City bombing (which, if indeed perpetrated by a lone nut armed only with a rental van and fertilizer, begs the question of why sweeping new legislation was necessary), Congress passed the Anti-Terrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act, "antiterrorism" legislation which not only gives the attorney general the power to use the armed services against the civilian population, neatly nullifying the Posse Comitatus Act of 1878 (which prohibited the use of federal troops for civilian law enforcement), but also selectively suspends habeas corpus, the heart of Anglo-American liberty. As he signed it into law, President Clinton attacked critics of the bill as unpatriotic: "There is nothing patriotic about pretending that you can love your country but despise your government."
This is breathtaking since it includes, at one time or another, most of us. Put another way, was a German in 1939 who said that he detested the Nazi dictatorship unpatriotic?"
Gore Vidal, "The New War on Freedom", Alter Net - 2002.07.18

At approximately the same time, a scholarly piece showed up in The Washington University Law Quarterly, which seemed then to criticize Clinton, but now looks exceedingly prescient regarding Bush:

"The need for reaffirmation of the PCA's principle is increasing because in recent years, Congress and the public have seen the military as a panacea for domestic problems. Within one week of the bombing of the federal building in Oklahoma City, President Clinton proposed an exception to the PCA to allow the military to aid civilian authorities in investigations involving "weapons of mass destruction." In addition to this proposal Congress also considered legislation to directly involve federal troops in enforcing customs and immigration laws at the border. In the 1996 presidential campaign, candidate Bob Dole pledged to increase the role of the military in the drug war, and candidate Lamar Alexander even proposed replacing the Immigration and Naturalization Service and the Border Patrol with a new branch of the armed forces."
"The Posse Comitatus Act: A Principle in Need of Renewal", Washington University Law Quarterly; Volume 75, Number 2, Summer 1997 (prefered cite: 75 Wash. U. L.Q. 953)

Bob Barr, found a bit of clarity in the throes of his Clinton Envy and posted the following release on his congressional page:

  • Congressman Bob Barr - September 29, 1998
WASHINGTON, DC -- U.S. Representative Bob Barr (GA-7) released today information exposing an effort by the Department of Justice to obtain massive new enforcement powers in the closing days of the 105th Congress. Barr obtained the information from a confidential source within federal law enforcement. Among other things, the Department's "wish list" for new authority includes (among others):
  • A vastly expanded definition of terrorism to include domestic crimes having no relationship to terrorism.
  • The power to seize commercial transportation assets for federal use.
  • The ability to commander personnel from other federal agencies without reimbursement.
  • Expanded wiretap authority to allow "roving" wiretaps, and wiretaps without any court authority.
  • Enlarged asset forfeiture provisions to allow the FBI to seize personal property in both criminal and civil matters.
  • The establishment of a permanent "FBI Police Force."
  • Loosening of Posse Comitatus restrictions to allow more military involvement in domestic law enforcement.
  • Authority to force telephone and Internet companies to divulge information on their customers.
"These requests belong in some bizarre conspiracy novel, not in serious legislative documents being circulated at the top levels of federal law enforcement. These proposals represent a sneak attack on the most cherished principles of our democracy. If they become a part of our law, freedom and privacy in America will be permanently and severely diminished," said Barr.
Barr also noted the Department and the FBI are "shopping" this wish list in an effort to get the items placed in a spending measure without hearings or debate.

There are times when Barr sees clearly, there are other times, when Barr offers great comedic relief, but generally he is an otiose ass dissembling platitudes which change when the party of the president does.

Here are two live NY Times articles from July 21, 2002:

Here's one in archives (addendum at end of my post)

Posse Comitatus was mentioned by Hamilton in the Federalist Papers:

Alexander Hamilton, "Concerning the Militia", The Federalist No. 29, Wednesday, January 9, 1788

An old indie rag called The Progressive has a bit of data:

Sam Smith, "Mission creep: the militarizing of America", Progressive Review, March 1996
Sam Smith, "Road Signs on the March to a Military Takeover", Undernews Blog, Archive Category


  • This Usenet Gem of a news article archive, not so much posse comitatus directly, but related, and a tip regarding google's archive of usent. It is especially verdant with data about topics often discussed by conspiracy neurotics. Just be careful pulling data from the bozos without second or third backups in usenet to reference it with.

cheers --Hugh Manatee 14:20, 11 Oct 2005 (EDT)

WASHINGTON, July 15 - The Bush administration's broad new proposal for domestic security, to be made public on Tuesday, calls for sweeping changes that include the creation of a top-secret plan to protect the nation's critical infrastructure and a review of the law that could allow the military to operate more aggressively within the United States.

Tom Ridge, the president's adviser on domestic security, has been at work on the plan for more than eight months - beginning long before the proposal for a new department of homeland security, which was hastily announced last month as Congressional investigators were making public new information about intelligence lapses before Sept. 11.

The administration could impose some changes on its own authority, while others would require Congressional action. Dozens of the recommendations are familiar initiatives that the government has tried to enact for years but are newly popular to help reach the goal of preventing terrorist attacks within the United States. Many fall outside the scope of the proposed new department.

Given the difficulties the president's proposal for the department is facing in Congress, the idea that this new plan could be enacted as written is questionable.

These are among the administration's proposals:

  • Establish national standards for state driver's licenses.
  • Create an "intelligence threat division" in the new department that uses what the plan calls "red teams" of intelligence experts. These teams would act like terrorists and plot attacks on vulnerable new targets in the country so that means of preventing such attacks can be devised.
  • Increase inspections of international shipping containers before they leave foreign ports and as they cross United States borders.
  • Ensure that government agencies can communicate with one another, something successive administrations have tried and failed to do.

The plan also calls for the first thorough inventory of the country's critical infrastructure - both public and private - followed by a secret plan to protect it. The inventory would include, for example, highways, pipelines, agriculture, the Internet, databases and energy plants.

"That's one of the big points," said a senior administration official, who provided a copy of the plan to The New York Times. "The whole society is vulnerable with hundreds, thousands of targets we have to protect, but the most important stuff we do won't be released."

In a letter accompanying the plan, also provided by the official, President Bush said that the federal, state and local governments and private companies should share the responsibility for - and the $100 billion annual cost of - combating what he called the greatest threat to the United States this century. It was a sign that full financing for his plan would not come from the federal budget.

"We must rally our entire society to overcome a new and very complex challenge," Mr. Bush said.

The senior official said that the idea for the homeland security department actually grew out of the secret deliberations on this broader plan. But the official insisted that the administration actively fought Congressional efforts to legislate a new department throughout the winter and spring because the White House wanted to keep deliberations secret.

"People were asking for a strategy, but we weren't ready," the senior official said. "We announced the department first because we had finished that part of the study."

Congressional Democrats are openly criticizing the White House for having been too closed and secretive in the development of what amounts to the largest reorganization of government in 50 years.

Democratic lawmakers on the House Appropriations Committee issued a statement today complaining that the legislation for the security department was written by White House political appointees without proper consultations. "That kind of secretive and arrogant behavior has produced a plan that, in many areas, is poorly constructed and complicates Congress's ability to produce a good final bill," said David Sirota, a committee spokesman.

The plan begins with an acknowledgment of the difficulty of defining the problem: "Terrorism is not so much a system of belief, like fascism or communism, as it is a strategy and a tactic - a means of attack."

Domestic attacks like Timothy J. McVeigh's on Oklahoma City in 1995 and the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon should be treated as terrorism even if the motives may differ widely, according the study. For that reason, it proposes to make better use of the military to counter domestic threats.

Before today, senior Pentagon officials had repeatedly said that they had no plans to ask Congress to revamp the Posse Comitatus Act of 1878, which sharply restricts the military's ability to participate in domestic law enforcement.

In a hearing before the Senate Appropriations Committee in May, Senator Ted Stevens, Republican of Alaska, asked Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld whether the administration was hoping to make changes in the act.

"No, Senator, we're not," Mr. Rumsfeld replied. "We're not looking for any long-term or short-term change with respect to Posse Comitatus."

But the Bush plan says that "the threat of catastrophic terrorism requires a thorough review of the laws permitting the military to act within the United States in order to determine whether domestic preparedness and response efforts would benefit from greater involvement of military personnel, and if so how."

Adding these initiatives could only complicate relations with Congress, where members of both parties insist that the administration's proposed department is conceptually too unwieldy. A series of House committees, controlled by Republicans, essentially rewrote the Bush plan last week, voting not to move the Coast Guard, the Secret Service, the Federal Emergency Management Agency and a large part of the Immigration and Naturalization Service to the department.

Mr. Ridge, appearing today before a special House committee that is managing the legislation on the department, said the administration opposed each of those changes and more demanded by lawmakers.

"The president's reorganization is well planned and well thought out, based on input from every level of government, the private sector, the academic community and of course the Congress of the United States," Mr. Ridge said.

He also said the department must have wide-ranging flexibility to move money to different uses as needs arise.

The chairman of the special committee, Representative Dick Armey of Texas, the House Republican leader, told Mr. Ridge flatly that "it's not likely that that's going to happen," but Mr. Ridge said the usual close Congressional oversight could cripple the new department's ability to respond to terrorism.

"We're at war," Mr. Ridge said. "The enemy - if you agree that they're agile, that they'll move and change targets - we ought to be able to give the secretary some flexibility to target some of these resources based on the threat, based on the vulnerability."

2 more references

WASHINGTON, Oct. 10 - The military's Northern Command is developing a proposal to organize a specially trained and equipped active-duty force that could respond quickly to assist relief efforts in the event of overwhelming natural disasters, like major hurricanes, floods or earthquakes.
The proposal, one of the first results from the military's study of shortcomings in the relief effort after Hurricane Katrina, could resolve significant stumbling blocks to the deployment of active-duty forces into a disaster area on American soil.
President Bush has urged Congress to consider laws allowing a greater role for the active-duty armed forces in disaster relief.
The force under consideration would keep hundreds of soldiers standing by on short notice to assist National Guard soldiers. The new unit could include military communications technicians, logistics specialists, doctors and nurses, engineers and even infantry.
The active-duty forces could rapidly fill the gap if state and local police officers, firefighters and local medical personnel were overwhelmed and unable to serve as the first line of relief, as happened during Hurricane Katrina.
Eric Schmitt and Thom Shanker, "Military May Propose an Active-Duty Force for Relief Efforts", New York Times, October 11, 2005

--Hugh Manatee 23:35, 11 Oct 2005 (EDT)

Posse Comitatus Act Senate Debate - 4/16/1996

(Search for string: "Mr. NUNN")

Mr. Nunn (Senator Sam Nunn{D-GA-Ret})

[. . .]

The Armed Forces have special capabilities, and they are the only people that have special capabilities to counter nuclear, biological, and chemical weapons. They are trained and equipped to detect, suppress, and contain these dangerous materials in hostile situations. The police authorities of our country and the fire departments of our country do not have the capability to deal with chemical and biological attacks or the threat of those attacks. They do not have the equipment. They do not have the protective gear.

[. . .]

In the wake of the devastating bombing of the Federal building in Oklahoma City and also the World Trade Center, with the tragic loss of life in Oklahoma and the disruption of governmental facilities, I think it is appropriate and absolutely necessary to reexamine Federal counterterrorism capabilities, including the role of the Armed Forces. For more than 100 years, military participation in civilian law enforcement activities has been governed by the Posse Comitatus Act. The act precludes military participation in the execution of laws except as expressly authorized by Congress. That landmark legislation was the result of congressional concern about increasing use of the military for law enforcement purposes in post-Civil War era, particularly terms of enforcing the reconstruction laws in the South and suppressing labor activities in the North.

There are about a dozen express statutory exceptions to the Posse Comitatus Act, which permit military participation in arrests, searches, and seizures. Some of the exceptions, such as the permissible use of the Armed Forces to protect the discoverer of Guano Islands, reflect historical anachronisms. Others, such as the authority to suppress domestic disorders when civilian officials cannot do so, have continuing relevance--as shown most recently in the 1992 Los Angeles riots.

[. . .]

During the late 1970's and early 1980's, I became concerned that the lack of clarity was inhibiting useful indirect assistance, particularly in counterdrug operations. I initiated legislation, which was enacted in 1981 as chapter 18 of title 10, United States Code, to clarify the rules governing military support to civilian law enforcement agencies.

Chapter 18, as enacted and subsequently amended, generally retains the prohibitions on arrest, search, and seizure, but clarifies various forms of assistance involving loan and operation of equipment, provision of advice, and aerial surveillance. Chapter 18 does not authorize military confrontations with civilians in terms of arrests, searches, and seizures. Chapter 18 also ensures that DOD receives reimbursement for military assistance that does not serve provide a training benefit that is substantially equivalent to that which would otherwise be provided by military training or operations.

The administration requested legislation that would permit direct military participation in specific law enforcement activities relating to chemical and biological weapons of mass destruction similar to the exception that already exists under current law that permits the direct military participation in the enforcement of the laws concerning the improper use of nuclear materials.

[. . .]

The Senate provision was drafted to reflect the traditional purposes of the Posse Comitatus Act and the limited nature of the exceptions to that act. The motion to recommit that we will be voting on in a few minutes would require the conferees to reinstate that provision with a minor technical clarification that has come to our attention since the Senate bill was passed.

Under the motion to recommit, the Attorney General would be authorized to request the assistance of the Department of Defense to enforce the prohibitions concerning biological and chemical weapons of mass destruction in an emergency situation.

The Secretary of Defense could provide assistance upon a joint determination by the Secretary of Defense and the Attorney General that there is an emergency situation, and a further determination by the Secretary of Defense that the provisions of such assistance would not adversely affect military preparedness. Military assistance could be provided under the motion to recommit only if the Attorney General and the Secretary of Defense jointly determined that each of the following five conditions is present. This is very narrowly drawn.

First, the situation involves a biological or chemical weapon of mass destruction.

Second, the situation poses a serious threat to the interests of the United States.

Third, that civilian law enforcement expertise is not readily available to counter the threat posed by the biological or chemical weapon of mass destruction involved.

Fourth, that the Department of Defense special capabilities and expertise are needed to counter the threat posed by the biological or chemical weapon of mass destruction involved.

Fifth, that the enforcement of the law would be seriously impaired if Department of Defense assistance were not provided.

I have a very hard time understanding why the House of Representatives would not accept this provision. Maybe there is a reason, but I certainly have not heard that reason.

Nunn made a strong case for term limits with that last inanity.

--Hugh Manatee 05:57, 19 Dec 2005 (EST)