The U.S. military expects to have 20,000 uniformed troops inside the United States by 2011 trained to help state and local officials respond to a nuclear terrorist attack or other domestic catastrophe, according to Pentagon officials.Here's my thought: These things start out so simply and innocently. The intent is good, but it can go bad so easily. If not substantially, then symbolically it is the wrong move. It conjures images that have seldom--Kent State comes to mind-- been a part of the American memory. Apart from the singular evil that was the American War Between The States, the idea of military troops bearing arms in the homeland (apart, of course, from training, which has always been closely confined to military bases) is a relatively new one.
Questions abound: How do military troops interact with other security and police forces within the country? The federal law known as posse comitatus was passed during the period of Reconstruction at the end of the civil war to restrict military presence and activities in the southern states that had attempted to secede from the Union. How far the interpretation of that law has extended to its application today I don't know. At first blush it doesn't apply, but it may have morphed into more extensive interpretations which would restrict the sort of thing the military has planned now. An opinion on the state of the statute here.
A further snippet from the article:
Domestic emergency deployment may be "just the first example of a series of expansions in presidential and military authority," or even an increase in domestic surveillance, said Anna Christensen of the ACLU's National Security Project. And Cato Vice President Gene Healy warned of "a creeping militarization" of homeland security.The "innocent" aspect to this is just that the military appears to be in a better position from a funding and training perspective to react to the extreme case of a terrorist nuclear attack. To not plan for such an event is foolhardy, and it appears Congress has been pushing the military to come up with substantial scenarios for some time, to which this plan is a response.