Friday, May 12, 2006

Buh-Bye Posse Comitatus

Remember this?
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.
Well, now you can forget it.
The Pentagon is looking at ways the military can help provide more security along the U.S. southern border, defense officials said Thursday, once again drawing the nation's armed forces into a politically sensitive domestic role.

...Defense officials said they have been asked to map out what military resources could be made available if needed — including options for using the National Guard under either state or federal control. The strategy would also explore the legal guidelines for use of the military on domestic soil, the officials said.

On Capitol Hill on Thursday, the House voted 252-171 to allow Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld to assign military personnel under certain circumstances to help the Homeland Security Department with border security. The House added the provision to a larger military measure.

...Under the Civil War-era Posse Comitatus Act, federal troops are prohibited from performing law enforcement actions, such as making arrests, seizing property or searching people. In extreme cases, however, the president can invoke the Insurrection Act, also from the Civil War, which allows him to use active-duty or National Guard troops for law enforcement.
Although a quick look at the Insurrection Act's provisions will show it is hardly applicable in the case of border crossings, unless you happen to be a paranoid, xenophobic wingnut. Nor is there any real "invasion" beyond the delusions of those selfsame wingnuts. That is why even some of the more sane rightwing are helluva worried by this one:
It is a bedrock principle of American politics that the military does not get involved in domestic policing under any but the gravest of conditions. Peacetime standing armies were anathema until necessitated by the enduring Cold War. We even have a provision in the Bill of Rights precluding quartering of troops in private homes...Short of an armed invasion from Mexico, it is simply bizarre to consider militarizing the border.
And I think they are right to be worried.

Even James Joyner and other moderate conservatives are figuring out - among the various revalations about signing statements, military takeovers of the intelligence community, NSA domestic surveillance and general trampling on Congress - that the current occupant of the Oval Office will take every mile he can and always begins by taking an inch. It's called "mission creep" and the creepiest thing about it is that it is White House policy to creep as far and as fast as it can.

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