Operation Garden Plot -- From FEMA to the Military, a Prelude to Martial Law?
Why is this an issue? Well, because it potentially violates the Posse Comitatus Act of 1887.
Pursuant to the Posse Comitatus Act, Federal military personnel and units are forbidden to act in a law enforcement capacity within the United States, except where expressly authorized by the Constitution or the Congress. Coupled with the Insurrection Act, the powers of the Federal government to use the US military for law enforcement are limited. Although there are a few exceptions to the Posse Comitatus Act, it seems that the President is urging militarization that goes well beyond those exceptions. In essence, the President is attempting a universal circumvention of Posse Comitatus under the guise of disaster relief.
Is this a surprise? Not really.
Under the heading of "civil disturbance planning", the U.S. military has been training troops to deal with American citizens for quite some time. The master plan, Department of Defense Civil Disturbance Plan 55-2, is code-named, "Operation Garden Plot". Originating in 1968, Operation Garden Plot has spawned military training courses which teach federal troops, inter alia, how to institute and enact martial law.
According the the military curriculum under Operation Garden Spot:
PART F - MARTIAL LAW (Also see Appendix A)In other words, the President is taking disaster relief out of the hands of an organization that was created "to lead America to prepare for, prevent, respond to and recover from disasters" and putting it into the hands of an organization that was trained in instituting martial law! Disaster relief has gone from being a civilian matter to a military operation.
1. General. Martial law depends on public necessity. The extent of the military force and the measures taken will depend upon the actual threat to order and public safety. The decision to impose federal martial law is normally made by the President. (See Appendix A for details of martial law.)
2. Legal Effects of Martial Law. In an area where martial law is maintained by federal military forces, the local civil and criminal laws will continue. Their actual enforcement may be suspended because of the inability of the civil authorities to function. Laws may also be suspended by order of the President or by order of the military commander acting under authority of the President. Under martial law, the President may cause military agencies to arrest civilians charged with offenses against special rules and regulations issued by the military commander. They may stay in military custody until they can be released safely or delivered for trial.
3. General Restrictions on Civilian Population in the United States. In martial law, the military commander manages the local government. He may have to protect civil officials. He may also provide for emergency public service to prevent or relieve human suffering. Proclamations and restrictions on the rights of citizens or on the civilian economy are normally issued by the commander through the media."
Along with militarization comes everything that typically comes with the military. Military law. Military courts. Reduction in transparency. You name it.
Was this necessary? No.
FEMA was not always as inept as it is today. Even FEMA's website gives credit to the Clinton administration for initiating "sweeping reforms that streamlined disaster relief and recovery operations." FEMA even gives Clinton kudos for insisting "on a new emphasis regarding preparedness and mitigation, and focus[ing] agency employees on customer service". It wasn't until the Bush administration put FEMA under the umbrella of the Department of Homeland Security, cut it's funding, and put an unqualified former Arabian Horse Show Judge in control of the organization that FEMA became so dysfunctional.
Who is to blame?
Well, it's not unfair to blame George W. Bush for the current shape of FEMA. After all, he did create the Department of Homeland Security and he (and the Republican congress) did pass legislation that put FEMA under the umbrella of the Department of Homeland Security. He is also responsible for putting an unqualified former Arabian horse show judge in charge of FEMA. And certainly, if our national guard are spread too thin because of the war in Iraq, President Bush is responsible for that too. And certainly, hurricanes are not unforeseeable events. In fact, as far back as July, scientists predicted:
So, it's certainly fair to say that circumvention of Posse Comitatus was avoidable at one point, and could certainly still be avoidable if the Bush Administration was willing to change it's course and take FEMA seriously.
"Based on current and projected climate signals, the Tropical Storm Risk (TSR) consortium, which is led by the BHRC, predicts:
* A 97% probability of an above-normal Atlantic hurricane season
* 15 tropical storms for the Atlantic basin as a whole, with nine of these being hurricanes and four intense hurricanes
* Five tropical storm strikes on the US, of which two will be hurricanes
* Two tropical storm hits, including one hurricane on the Caribbean Lesser Antilles."
As usual, the Bush administration has no patience for complex issues. Like Iraq, the same goes for disaster relief. In each instance, it seems the best Bush can suggest is militarization. Essentially, when the going gets tough, George W. Bush sends in the troops.
Without concern for the risks, this administration would rather go ahead and circumvent well-established law. Rather than fix FEMA, the Bush administration would rather militarize the American citizenry.
At what point will these so-called conservatives realize that the military budget is still a part of the overall budget? At what point will they realize that spending, for example, $10 billion dollars on the military is still spending $10 billion dollars, and that perhaps, the military isn't always the best option for America?
At what point will they learn that a big military is a big government?