FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Bird Flu and the Posse Comitatus Act

Montesquieu, famous for his articulation of the theory of separation of powers, said, “There is no crueler tyranny than that which is perpetrated under the shield of law and in the name of justice.”

The latest test balloon of federal power enhancement comes in the form of public health response to the possibility of an outbreak of pandemic bird flu.

This administration seeks for Congress to grant it the power to use America’s military to enforce domestic order and impose martial law. President Bush stated, “I think the president ought to have all options on the table, all assets on the table to be able to deal with something this significant.” That ought to bother us deeply; so deeply that we take decisive action and let our elected officials know that this proposed action is a step too far.

On June 18, 1878, during the Reconstruction, recognizing the inherent danger to liberty posed by using soldiers for civilian law enforcement, Congress passed the Posse Comitatus Act (PCA). Title 18 US Code, Part I, Chapter 67, § 1385, reads:

Use of Army and Air Force as posse comitatus. Whoever, except in cases and under circumstances expressly authorized by the Constitution or Act of Congress, willfully uses any part of the Army or the Air Force as a posse comitatus or otherwise to execute the laws shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than two years, or both.

Democrats as well as Republicans have been guilty of eyeing-up the PCA for reform. After the Okalahoma City bombing Senator Joseph Biden introduced legislation that would “moderately alter the posse comitatus,” and President Clinton proposed an exception to allow the military to aid civilian investigations involving “weapons of mass destruction.” In the 1996 presidential campaign candidate Bob Dole pledged to fight the drug war using our military, and candidate Lamar Alexander suggested creating a new branch of the military to replace the Immigration and Naturalization Service and the Border Patrol. If Biden and company had been able to reform the PCA in 1995, could B! ill Clinton have sent troops to Florida to stand guard over the ballot recount of 2000?

The gargantuan federal government will never resist the temptation to grant itself additional power. It is up to us at the grassroots level to confront it when it oversteps its bounds. It is incumbent upon us to tell it when it is wrong for the simple fact that they are wrong and not submit to the whims of “our side.” Precedent is real and it will be used against us sooner or later. In their turn when they are appointing department heads and granting various political favors, the “other side” will use every privilege we grant the federal government to their benefit.

Exceptions to the PCA already exist: In 1981, Congress created an exception to allow passive military assistance to civilian law enforcement, such as the provision of equipment, information training and advice. Eight years later, the Department of Defense became the “single lead agency” in drug interdiction efforts, requiring the Secretary of Defense to conduct annual briefings regarding the availability of military equipment and expertise to civilian law enforcement. In 1993, the PCA was amended to provide procedures for civilian agencies to purchase “law enforcement equipment suitable for counter-drug activities” through the Department of Defense, such as flash-bang grenades, assault rifles and armored personnel carriers.! The PCA could easily become completely undermined if we do not put a halt to the growing perception of our military as a panacea for all domestic problems. While modifications of the PCA do not necessarily make Americans safer, they do open us up to old abuses and possibly a few new ones.

U.S. Armed Forces are spread across the globe. Further expanding the role of the military on domestic soil would certainly stretch the military to beyond its currently too-thin capacity, weaken or destroy the healthy division between military and civilian duties and most frighteningly, weaken civilian control of the military. This should keep you up at night.

After risking all of this, who can promise that a military solution would work, and not devolve into some unintended consequence? Look at governments around the world and throughout history that tried this quick-fix-easy-answer approach. The results are not pretty.

This administration claims to be referring to a “catastrophe,” in which the Pentagon would be the only agency with enough strength to respond. However, the federalizing of emergency management has not proven itself worthy of expansion. The federal government should instead consider releasing monies back to the states to fund and re-equip National Guard and public health services, which are the proper channels for managing a national, or more accurately state-by-state, health emergency. These first-responders need to have materials, facilities and training (which should include practice drills) in order to make them effective. Governors in each state will certainly be held accountable to fulfill their role as st! ate commander-in-chief by the voting citizenry and the press.

Instead of asserting excessive executive power and trying to centralize, federalize and militarize America, why not revitalize the systems that we have in place and enable them to fulfill their intended purposes?

JILL S. FARRELL is a conservative communications and media relations professional. She can be reached at: jillsfarrell@yahoo.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

More articles by:
September 25, 2018
Kenneth Surin
Fact-Finding Labour’s “Anti-Semitism” Crisis
Charles Pierson
Destroying Yemen as Humanely as Possible
James Rothenberg
Why Not Socialism?
Patrick Cockburn
How Putin Came Out on Top in Syria
John Grant
“Awesome Uncontrollable Male Passion” Meets Its Match
Guy Horton
Burma: Complicity With Evil?
Steve Stallone
Jujitsu Comms
William Blum
Bombing Libya: the Origins of Europe’s Immigration Crisis
John Feffer
There’s a New Crash Coming
Martha Pskowski
“The Emergency Isn’t Over”: the Homeless Commemorate a Year Since the Mexico City Earthquake
Fred Baumgarten
Ten Ways of Looking at Civility
Dean Baker
The Great Financial Crisis: Bernanke and the Bubble
Binoy Kampmark
Parasitic and Irrelevant: The University Vice Chancellor
September 24, 2018
Jonathan Cook
Hiding in Plain Sight: Why We Cannot See the System Destroying Us
Gary Leupp
All the Good News (Ignored by the Trump-Obsessed Media)
Robert Fisk
I Don’t See How a Palestinian State Can Ever Happen
Barry Brown
Pot as Political Speech
Lara Merling
Puerto Rico’s Colonial Legacy and Its Continuing Economic Troubles
Patrick Cockburn
Iraq’s Prime Ministers Come and Go, But the Stalemate Remains
William Blum
The New Iraq WMD: Russian Interference in US Elections
Julian Vigo
The UK’s Snoopers’ Charter Has Been Dealt a Serious Blow
Joseph Matten
Why Did Global Economic Performance Deteriorate in the 1970s?
Zhivko Illeieff
The Millennial Label: Distinguishing Facts from Fiction
Thomas Hon Wing Polin – Gerry Brown
Xinjiang : The New Great Game
Binoy Kampmark
Casting Kavanaugh: The Trump Supreme Court Drama
Max Wilbert
Blue Angels: the Naked Face of Empire
Weekend Edition
September 21, 2018
Friday - Sunday
Alexandra Isfahani-Hammond
Hurricane Florence and 9.7 Million Pigs
Andrew Levine
Israel’s Anti-Semitism Smear Campaign
Paul Street
Laquan McDonald is Being Tried for His Own Racist Murder
Brad Evans
What Does It Mean to Celebrate International Peace Day?
Nick Pemberton
With or Without Kavanaugh, The United States Is Anti-Choice
Jim Kavanagh
“Taxpayer Money” Threatens Medicare-for-All (And Every Other Social Program)
Jonathan Cook
Palestine: The Testbed for Trump’s Plan to Tear up the Rules-Based International Order
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: the Chickenhawks Have Finally Come Back Home to Roost!
David Rosen
As the Capitalist World Turns: From Empire to Imperialism to Globalization?
Jonah Raskin
Green Capitalism Rears Its Head at Global Climate Action Summit
James Munson
On Climate, the Centrists are the Deplorables
Robert Hunziker
Is Paris 2015 Already Underwater?
Arshad Khan
Will There Ever be Justice for Rohingya Muslims?
Jill Richardson
Why Women Don’t Report Sexual Assault
Dave Clennon
A Victory for Historical Accuracy and the Peace Movement: Not One Emmy for Ken Burns and “The Vietnam War”
W. T. Whitney
US Harasses Cuba Amid Mysterious Circumstances
Nathan Kalman-Lamb
Things That Make Sports Fans Uncomfortable
George Capaccio
Iran: “Snapping Back” Sanctions and the Threat of War
Kenneth Surin
Brexit is Coming, But Which Will It Be?
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail