Tuesday, November 04, 2008

The National Law Journal

The American Civil Liberties Union has filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request with the departments of Defense, Justice and Homeland Security, seeking an explanation for the Army's decision to station what the ACLU believes is an active-duty military unit inside the United States.

The ACLU says this is the first-ever permanent deployment of an active-duty unit within the country. The deployment threatens "a significant erosion" of the Posse Comitatus Act of 1878, according to the civil rights organization, and raises critical questions "about the longstanding separation between civilian and military government within the United States -- a separation that dates to the Nation's founding."

In its FOIA request, the ACLU asked for records relating to the decision to deploy the unit, as well as documents concerning its purpose, including "contemplated functions; duties; surveillance activities; and relationship to existing civilian agencies or personnel or the National Guard."

The ACLU said media reports indicate that the military unit, entitled the Chemical, Biological, Radiological/Nuclear and Explosive Consequence Management Response Force (CCMRF) will be stationed for one year in Fort Stewart, Ga., with the expectation -- according to Army Times -- that another active-duty brigade will then take over and that the deployment will be permanent.

The first unit to be deployed will be the 3rd Infantry Division's 1st Brigade Combat Team, or "First Raiders," which spent 35 of the past 60 months "in Iraq patrolling in full battle rattle," according to the Army Times.

The unit's explicit mission will be to provide support for civilian law-enforcement branches like local police and rescue personnel: It may be called upon in situations involving civil unrest, crowd control or catastrophes such as chemical, biological or nuclear attack, and it will be trained in skills like search and rescue and crowd control.


The ACLU said the CCMRF deployment jeopardizes the Posse Comitatus Act, which prevents the government from using the military as a tool for law enforcement, except in situations of explicit national emergency based on express authorization from Congress, for example in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.

The release of the records sought in its FOIA request, according to the ACLU, will allow the public to decide whether the deployment is enabling the Defense Department to circumvent limits on its authority to act domestically in violation of federal law.

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