ACLU on the U.S. Army's domestic deployment

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ACLU on the U.S. Army's domestic deployment

Glenn Greenwald
Monday Oct. 27, 2008 11:12 EDT
Salon Radio: ACLU on the U.S. Army's domestic deployment

Last month, The Army Times reported that for "the first time an active [U.S. Army] unit has been given a dedicated assignment to NorthCom, a joint command established in 2002 to provide command and control for federal homeland defense efforts and coordinate defense support of civil authorities." The brigade, the 1st Brigade Combat Team of the Army's 3rd Infantry Division, has spent most of the last four years fighting a war in Iraq, and will now be assigned on a permanent basis to engage in numerous domestic functions -- including, as the article put it, "to help with civil unrest and crowd control."


In response to the announced deployment, I wrote about the long-standing legal prohibitions against the use of the U.S. military for law enforcement purposes inside the U.S., and asked: "Why is a U.S. Army brigade being assigned to the "Homeland?" Several others asked similar questions, including Digby, who wrote about the dangers of relying on war-trained and combat-hardened U.S. Army soldiers for these sorts of domestic functions, and of the hazards of creating a precedent of this sort.


As a result of questioning the purpose and legality of this deployment, a tidal wave of trite invective came pouring forth -- not merely from the Right, which always traffics in that sort of rhetoric whenever government or military authorities are questioned, but also from some ostensible "liberals," for whom the greatest sin, apparently, is questioning any policies involving the U.S. military: Robert Farley, Jason Shigger, and Bob Bateman, who responded with riveting observations such as these: "Glenn Greenwald has got his panties twisted up" -- "STFU, you ridiculous ninnies and stop manufacturing plotlines from the late 1960s" -- "paranoid" -- "panic" -- "handwringing terror" -- "fevered fear of the military" -- "Glenn 'Chicken Little' Greenwald" -- "Your anti-military paranoia is a wee bit misplaced" -- "Oh Noes! The Army is Coming to Take our Democracy!!!!".


Last week, the ACLU -- disregarding those who, even after the last eight years, still insist upon the vesting of blind faith in our magnanimous leaders -- filed a FOIA request "demand[ing] information from the government about reports that an active military unit has been deployed inside the U.S. to help with 'civil unrest' and 'crowd control.'" As long-time FBI agent and current ACLU national security policy counsel Mike German put it:


This is a radical departure from separation of civilian law enforcement and military authority, and could, quite possibly, represent a violation of law. Our Founding Fathers understood the threat that a standing army could pose to American liberty. While future generations recognized the need for a strong military to defend against increasingly capable foreign threats, they also passed statutory protections to ensure that the Army could not be turned against the American people. The erosion of these protections should concern every American.


To explain its concerns, the ACLU cited this fact: "Since the terrorist attacks of 9/11, the Department of Defense has dramatically expanded its role in domestic law enforcement and intelligence operations, including the National Security Agency's warrantless wiretapping programs, the Department of Homeland Security's use of military spy satellites, and the participation of military personnel in state and local intelligence fusion centers."




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