The Posse Comitatus Act
is the United States federal law (18 U.S.C. § 1385, original at 20 Stat. 152) that was passed on June 18, 1878, after the end of Reconstruction and was updated in 1981. Its intent (in concert with the Insurrection Act of 1807) was to limit the powers of Federal government in using federal military personnel to enforce the State laws.
The Bill/Act as modified in 1981 refers to the Armed Forces of the United States. It does not apply to the National Guard under state authority from acting in a law enforcement capacity within its home state or in an adjacent state if invited by that state's governor. The U.S. Coast Guard, which operates under the Department of Homeland Security, is also not covered by the Posse Comitatus Act, primarily because the Coast Guard has both a maritime law enforcement mission and a federal regulatory agency mission.
The Pentagon is proposing the creation of a four-star command to oversee federal troops engaged in “homeland defense” activity on American soil. While CINC regional chiefs have long coordinated deployments overseas, none exist for North America. Soon, however, the circle will be complete, and the noose will be around our necks.
Supporters defend this proposal as a way to “streamline” the command system. We should have learned by now that making government more efficient and effective only makes it easier for that institution to transgress against the rights of the people.
Traditionally, Americans have been wary of using the military for domestic law enforcement. The 1878 Posse Comitatus Act (18 U.S.C. 1385) enshrines this principle into law. Article One, Section Eight, Clause Twelve of the Constitution attempts to curb the ability of the executive to wield domestic standing armies, by stipulating that appropriations for the military cannot be extended at any one time beyond a two-year period.
Few Americans stop to think about the Third Amendment, ostensibly still in force, which prohibits the government from quartering soldiers in the peoples’ homes. Taken together, these laws indicate that the aversion to standing armies is a well-established and justified part of the American way of life.
The military is not in our homes yet, but they are roaming about the country, and they are in our neighborhoods. Delta Force and Night Stalker types have terrorized a number of American communities over the years, conducting SWAT-like “training” with live ammunition near residential areas, including in Kingsville, Texas during the 1999 domestic program, “Operation Last Dance.” Extensive sales of military equipment, including armored personnel carriers and concussion grenades, to local and state police departments have also taken place.
On another front, a bill re-instituting the draft made its way into Congress just before the New Year, HR 3598 IH, the “Universal Military Training and Service Act of 2001.”
The militarization of American society is apparently of greater importance to our leaders than recognizing that the government was not granted the authority to conscript citizens into service, especially in light of the Thirteenth Amendment’s prohibition of involuntary servitude.
From a market perspective, even the military should realize that a draft would be contrary to its own interests. A draft would cause military pay rates to stagnate and even plummet, since Congress would no longer feel pressure to enact pay raises when they can just press more people into service. This logic is lost on our leaders, however, as they lay the groundwork for the Garrison State.
Since 9/11, our leaders have turned the fear of the American people into a blank check to create a global prison camp. Should the reader suspect this an exaggeration, consider that we may never see a blatant headline one morning in the newspaper stating, “President Declares Police State, End to Constitution.” Rather, the only headlines heralding the coming of the American Garrison State will be buried deep in the hindmost pages, telling us, “Pentagon Seeks Creation of Four Star Command for North America.” This is incrementalism, where our leaders silently slip each puzzle piece into place, one at a time.
Incrementalism provides the government with plausible deniability about its end game, making it easier for its defenders to characterize libertarian warnings as “paranoia.” Not that this necessarily implies a conscious conspiracy at work—it is a well-known feature of any government to expand infinitely, however well intentioned this growth might be, unless checked by the vigilance of the people. Post 9/11, the vigilance of the people seems more scarce than usual, as they rush to cling to a State-provided security blanket.
If you say of the coming Garrison State, “it’ll never happen,” ask yourself if you can be certain of that, since history shows that many unlikely and strange things do happen. Ask yourself what President Hillary Rodham Clinton might do with her newfound powers in 2008.
Recall Lord Acton’s famed quote:
power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Are you willing to take such risks with the precious jewel that is this Republic?February 1, 2002