Army review: Troop use in Ala. shootings broke law
SAMSON, Ala. (AP) – An Army investigation found that soldiers should not have been sent to man traffic stops in a small Alabama town after 11 people were killed in March during a shooting spree.
An Army report released to The Associated Press on Monday in response to a Freedom of Information Act request said the decision to dispatch military police to Samson from nearby Fort Rucker broke the law. But an Army spokesman said no charges have been filed following the Aug. 10 report.
“As a result of the findings of the report, the Army took administrative action against at least one person,” Lt. Col. Christopher Garver said.
The action was less than a transfer or discharge but Garver would not elaborate.
The report from the Department of Army Inspector General found the use of military personnel in Samson violated the Posse Comitatus Act, which prohibits federal troops from performing law enforcement actions. The names of those involved were redacted from the report.
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Army review: Troop use in Ala. shootings broke law
I don’t begrudge the Police in Samson, AL. the use of troops to help them in their terrible tragedy. They were inundated. They were totally overwhelmed and they needed help. But that doesn’t mean that they can ask for Federal Troops to help out in that time of need.
Posse Comitatus Act – 20 Stat. L., 145 – June 18, 1878
CHAP. 263 – An act making appropriations for the support of the Army for the fiscal year ending June thirtieth, eighteen hundred and seventy-nine, and for other purposes.
SEC. 15. From and after the passage of this act it shall not be lawful to employ any part of the Army of the United States, as a posse comitatus, or otherwise, for the purpose of executing the laws, except in such cases and under such circumstances as such employment of said force may be expressly authorized by the Constitution or by act of Congress; and no money appropriated by this act shall be used to pay any of the expenses incurred in the employment of any troops in violation of this section And any person willfully violating the provisions of this section shall be deemed guilty of a misdemeanor and on conviction thereof shall be punished by fine not exceeding ten thousand dollars or imprisonment not exceeding two years or by both such fine and imprisonment.
10 U.S.C. (United States Code) 375
Sec. 375. Restriction on direct participation by military personnel:
The Secretary of Defense shall prescribe such regulations as may be necessary to ensure that any activity (including the provision of any equipment or facility or the assignment or detail of any personnel) under this chapter does not include or permit direct participation by a member of the Army, Navy, Air Force, or Marine Corps in a search, seizure, arrest, or other similar activity unless participation in such activity by such member is otherwise authorized by law.
18 U.S.C. 1385
Sec. 1385. 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. SOURCE
And situations such as this are exactly why we have the National Guard. Or so one would think.
The Federal government has steadily been chipping away at The Posse Comitatus Act for a number of years. Sadly, in the most recent of times, it appears that the constitution is nothing more than a piece of paper to some presidents, so it on seems a natural progression that The Posse Comitatus Act would tend to be kicked to the curb for the sake of, wait for it, wait for it, HOMELAND SECURITY!
The Posse Comitatus Act was passed in an era when the threat to national security came primarily from the standing armies and navies of foreign powers. Today the equation for national defense and security has changed significantly. With the fall of the Soviet Union our attention has been diverted—from the threat of aggression by massed armies crossing the plains of Europe to the security of our own soil against biological or chemical terrorism. Rather than focusing on massed Russian intercontinental ballistic missiles as our most imminent threat, we are increasingly more aware of the destructive potential of new forms of asymmetric warfare. For instance, the U.S. Office of Technology Assessment states that 100 kilograms of dry powdered anthrax released under ideal meteorological conditions could kill up to three million people in a city the size of Washington, DC. The chemical warfare attacks carried out by Japanese terrorists in the subways of Tokyo during the 1990s heightened our sense of vulnerability. The Oklahoma City bombing and the unsuccessful attempt to topple the World Trade Center have our domestic security planners looking inward for threats against the soil of the United States from small but technologically advanced threats of highly motivated terrorists. What legal bar does the Posse Comitatus Act present today to using the military to prevent or respond to a biological or chemical attack on the soil of the United States? In view of the erosion of the Posse Comitatus Act in the past 20 years, the answer is “not much.”
The erosion of the Posse Comitatus Act through Congressional legislation and executive policy has left a hollow shell in place of a law that formerly was a real limitation on the military’s role in civilian law enforcement and security issues. The plethora of constitutional and statutory exceptions to the act provides the executive branch with a menu of options under which it can justify the use of military forces to combat domestic terrorism. Whether an act of terrorism is classified as a civil disturbance under 10 U.S.C., 331–334, or whether the president relies upon constitutional power to preserve federal functions, it is difficult to think of a domestic terrorism scenario of sizable scale under which the use of the military could not be lawfully justified in view of the act’s erosion. The act is no longer a realistic bar to direct military involvement in counterterrorism planning and operations. It is a low legal hurdle that can be easily cleared through invocation of the appropriate legal justification, either before or after the fact. The Myth of Posse Comitatus
The complexion of terror threats today is looked at by some as the perfect opportunity to avoid, and possibly disregard the Posse Comitatus Act, all for the good of the people. The good of the people? Isn’t that usually the excuse? “We’re just doing this for YOUR OWN GOOD!”
This story about the troops from Fort Rucker being used to backstop the local Police Dept. in their time of crisis may not seem like a big deal to some, and other than the fact that is was an ILLEGAL act, it was relatively harmless. This time!
As the old saying goes, a time and a place. Situations such as that which took place in Samson, AL. last March are exactly the reason why we have STATE POLICE and NATIONAL GUARD.
One IDIOT went on a rampage and killed 10 people. That is a heinous crime, and surely it taxed the local Police in a way they had never been tried before. But the fact remains, it was a LAW ENFORCEMENT matter and should have remained such.
The Army got it right this time, and I am glad to know that there was an investigation into this matter. The only thing that bothers me now is the penalty assessed by the Army.
“Administrative actions less than a transfer or discharge” is pretty vague in my opinion. Rank reduction, loss of pay, confinement on base, there are many different penalties that could be imposed I am sure, but it would be nice if the Army made full disclosure in this particular case.