Posse Comitatus

October 28, 2008 at 2:00 am 3 comments

If you’re an avid reader of the ThinkingShift blog, you would know what Posse Comitatus means. And you might even be concerned that an active-duty military unit is within the borders of the United States. If you have no clue about what I’m talking about, then go here and here.

I’ve been surprised (or maybe not!) by the lack of coverage over the battering of Posse Comitatus and I’ve been waiting to see what the American Civil Liberties Union (great watchdog that they are!) would do about it. Well, they’ve come out slugging by filing a request under the US Freedom of Information Act with the Departments of Defense, Justice, and Homeland Security. It demands an explanation for the decision to deploy a permanent active-duty unit within the borders of the United States. Let’s recall, this is an active-duty unit not a bunch of retired generals relaxing during a bit of R&R. I have been amazed, speechless, aghast (add any other term you like) over the fact that America effectively has a standing army that potentially disturbs the balance of powers because what we have here is the military with an increasing role in domestic surveillance.

You need to read my previous two posts to gain a full understanding of the seriousness of this situation. But the ACLU is asking for some serious stuff:

  • disclosure of any records relating to the decision to deploy the unit
  • any documents relating to the purpose of the unit eg functions, surveillance activities, duties and the unit’s relationship to existing civilian agencies or the National Guard

In my previous posts, I asked where the unit was actually located. Now we know: Fort Stewart, Georgia. Fort Stewart is the home of the US Army 3rd Infantry Division’s 1st Brigade Combat Team, which is the unit now deployed within US borders.  The unit is called the Chemical, Biological, Radiological/Nuclear, and Explosive (CBRNE) Consequence Management Response Force or CCMRF (pronounced, strangely enough, “sea-smurf”) – sinister sounding if you ask me.

So I had a look at Fort Stewart’s website to see what I could find out. The latest issue of their newsletter, Frontline, was full of news about valour being recognised; the career counsellor of the week; a seafood fest; an article on General Patton; Halloween safety tips (what the?); Marine Television TV Guide (mmm….must check that out to see if they’re showing my favourite show, Inspector Rex!). But I didn’t find news that would inform the public about what the permanent unit’s duties are. But in their September 11 issue, I found this:

“The 1st Brigade Combat Team (of the 3rd Infantry) is currently conducting a mission readiness exercise for its new homeland mission. The Raider Brigade was selected to be part of a joint service task force responsible for providing support to the designated lead federal agency in the event of a Chemical, Biological, Radiological, Nuclear, High-yield Consequence Management Response Force, or CCMRF. Representatives from U.S. Northern Command at Peterson Air Force Base, Colo.; U.S. Army North at Fort Sam Houston, Texas; and Joint Task Force Civil Support at Fort Monroe, Va., will be present for the exercise at Evans Army Airfield until Sept. 18, the first time these agencies will have an active-duty brigade committed to the CCMRF team as its primary mission. The subordinate battalions are scheduled to conduct individual preparatory training for the mission during the exercise and throughout the month of September as well”.

Clearly, Prez Bush is expecting some serious stuff happening in the US soon – civil unrest or catastrophes that may involve nuclear weapons. The CCMRF is a fully trained and experienced unit that has spent the last 35 months in Iraq patrolling in “full battle rattle” (as the Army Times put it). They are well used to confronting an enemy in a theatre of war. They weren’t hanging around painting their nails! The situation in Iraq is pretty overstretched so why bring back home a combat unit a little over one month before the Prez elections (they were deployed on October 1st). Should Obama lose the unloseable election, are authorities concerned about civil unrest from the Afro-American community? The CCMRF’s brief is to provide support to civilian authorities. What are the Americans not being told here? Is this the militarisation of civil agencies? So many questions need to be asked.

I nosed around some more and found this bit in the Air Force Times back in June 2008: not one but three CCMRF’s were slated to return to the US, each unit having 4,500 troops. My cunning maths ability tells me this would be 13,500 troops within US borders. CCMRF 1 is clearly the unit deployed on October 1. CCMRF 2 is expected to be fully operational by the start of fiscal 2010, with CCMRF 3 ready by the start of fiscal 2011, according to the article. So…..what authorities are describing as an innocent bunch of military personnel ready to come to US citizens’ aid in the event of a catastrophe is really a purposely staged standing army? The National Guard provides help to citizens after man-made or natural disasters, so why bring in the sea-smurfs?

I found the CCMRF Consequence Management Handbook, an annexure of which is “Standing Rules for the use of Force”. There is a very scary image on page 129 entitled Continuum of Force Levels that shows what level of force the sea-smurfs can use. There are 5 broad categories and they don’t require movement from one level to the next in sequential order. So the 5th level is Lethal Combative and the CCMRF appropriate response would be Cause Death/Serious Injury.  Download the pdf version of the Handbook and check it out. I’m wondering why this continuum is necessary – unless of course US authorities are expecting something serious in the near future like civil unrest due to the financial meltdown or Obama losing the Prez elections.

I’m smelling a huge rat here. Critics of this suss mission point to a General Accounting Office study in 2003, which found that domestic security missions put a strain on a military stretched thin by the Iraq war and that a unit’s readiness for combat is reduced if the members have to take time out to respond to an emergency at home. Gene Healy, a vice president of the conservative think-tank Cato Institute, quipped that the US military “is not a Swiss Army knife,” ready to fight the Taliban one week, respond to a hurricane the next and put down a major political protest the third week.

Back to the ACLU: here’s hoping that can surface what’s really going on. As they say: “We have a right to know why the government has made the unprecedented decision to implement the CCMRF program, and the true threat it poses to our civil liberties”.

Entry filed under: ACLU, Civil liberties, Politics, Surveillance society, United States. Tags: , , .

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3 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Emmanuel Dreisbach  |  April 29, 2010 at 4:05 pm

    This is excellent research, and thank you for providing the links. I have been trying to find out about these CCMRFs for the past two weeks, and this is the most concise and helpful resource I’ve come across. As a note, I don’t think the ACLU’s FOIA request has come through yet – I was checking their website the other day but didn’t see anything about it.

  • 2. Chris  |  July 30, 2011 at 11:17 pm

    Your are one paranoid idiot!

    • 3. thinkingshift  |  August 2, 2011 at 6:45 am

      Thanks for your profound comment Chris.


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