under U.S. Northern Command, which is responsible for homeland defense of the U.S., and the “ongoing and possible use” of the unit, “including but not limited to contemplated functions; duties; surveillance activities; and relationship to existing civilian agencies or personnel or the National Guard.”
The assignment of the 3rd Infantry, 1st BCT to the North America command, first reported here at CowHen.Net on September 24, 2008, is the first time such U.S. military unit has been so assigned on U.S. soil.
NorCom (Northern Command), established in 2002, is responsible for the defense of the U.S. from attack by any means, and leads forces "operating within the U.S. in support of civilian authorities", according to the Military Times article.
The American Civil Liberties Union expresses concern about the use of active military forces within the borders of the U.S., suggesting that the assignment violates the separation within our government between military and civilian forces.
"The military's deployment within U.S. borders raises critical questions that must be answered," said Jonathan Hafetz, staff attorney with the ACLU National Security Project. "What is the unit's mission? What functions will it perform? And why was it necessary to deploy the unit rather than rely on civilian agencies and personnel and the National Guard? Given the magnitude of the issues at stake, it is imperative that the American people know the truth about this new and unprecedented intrusion of the military in domestic affairs." ***
Civilian authorities, not the military, have historically controlled and directed the internal affairs of the United States. This rule traces its origins to the nation's founding and has been reaffirmed in landmark statutes including the Posse Comitatus Act, which helps preserve the foundational principles of our Constitution and democracy.
"This is a radical departure from separation of civilian law enforcement and military authority, and could, quite possibly, represent a violation of law," said Mike German, ACLU national security policy counsel and former FBI Agent. "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."
According to the Army Times (opens in pdf), the 1st BCT’s soldiers have learned to use:
“the first ever nonlethal package that the Army has fielded,” 1st BCT commander Col. Roger Cloutier said, referring to crowd and traffic control equipment and nonlethal weapons designed to subdue unruly or dangerous individuals without killing them.
“It’s a new modular package of nonlethal capabilities that they’re fielding. They’ve been using pieces of it in Iraq, but this is the first time that these modules were consolidated and this package fielded, and because of this mission we’re undertaking we were the first to get it.”
The package includes equipment to stand up a hasty road block; spike strips for slowing, stopping or controlling traffic; shields and batons; and, beanbag bullets. “I was the first guy in the brigade to get Tasered,” said Cloutier, describing the experience as “your worst muscle cramp ever — times 10 throughout your whole body. “I’m not a small guy, I weigh 230 pounds ... it put me on my knees in seconds.”
Col. Cloutier denied any nefarious intent behind the homeland deployment of the unit:
“I can’t think of a more noble mission than this,” said Cloutier, who took command in July. “We’ve been all over the world during this time of conflict, but now our mission is to take care of citizens at home ... and depending on where an event occurred, you’re going home to take care of your home town, your loved ones.” While soldiers’ combat training is applicable, he said, some nuances don’t apply.
“If we go in, we’re going in to help American citizens on American soil, to save lives, provide critical life support, help clear debris, restore normalcy and support whatever local agencies need us to do, so it’s kind of a different role,” said Cloutier, who, as the division operations officer on the last rotation, learned of the homeland mission a few months ago while they were still in Iraq. Some brigade elements will be on call around the clock, during which time they’ll do their regular marksmanship, gunnery and other deployment training. That’s because the unit will continue to train and reset for the next deployment, even as it serves in its CCMRF mission...
Related post (September 24, 2008): U.S. Army Brigade to Be Deployed Within U.S., Starting October 1