U.S. Army Preparing for Civil Unrest
• Feds unveil Army manual that permits use of troops on “rebellious” Americans.
By Keith Johnson —
The paramilitary response to the race riots in Ferguson, Missouri is a stark reminder of the ever-blurring distinction between police officer and soldier. Now, a recently unclassified document from the United States Army reveals how future domestic turmoil may be regularly met by armed federal troops trained and equipped to quell dissent by any means possible.
On August 15, the feds made public Army Techniques Publication (ATP) 3-39.33, a 132-page manual that describes, in great detail, how Armed Forces personnel can be utilized in response to civil disturbances that erupt within the boundaries of the continental U.S.
“Civil unrest may range from simple, nonviolent protests that address specific issues, to events that turn into full-scale riots,” the manual states. “The level of violence is determined by the willingness of demonstrators to display and voice their opinions in support of their cause and the actions and reactions of the control force on scene.”
Although the manual’s authors acknowledge that the Posse Comitatus Act (18 USC 1385) prohibits them from conducting civil disturbance missions on American soil, they go on to say that the “Constitution of the United States” and “[l]aws passed by the U.S. Congress” provide exemptions that give the U.S. government an “inherent right” to “ensure the preservation of public order and to carrying out governmental operations within its territorial limits by force, if necessary.”
Among the loopholes cited in the manual is 10 USC 332, part of the Insurrection Act of 1807, which states: “When ordinary enforcement means are unworkable due to unlawful obstructions or rebellion against the authority of the United States, use of the militia or Armed Forces is authorized.”
The vague language in this section vests the federal government with broad interpretative powers to determine what constitutes rebellion. Since no clear distinction is made between armed insurrections and other, more peaceful forms of rebellion, the feds could easily justify mobilizing troops to deal with mass sit-ins or demonstrations that draw large numbers of protesters.
One of the most disturbing aspects of ATP 3-39.33 is the manner in which the Army is prepared to deal with what they classify as civil disturbances. Though the manual places emphasis on using “non-lethal” methods for dealing with dissenters, it also leaves open the option of resorting to deadly force, including the deployment of snipers staged in strategic locations with their guns trained on the “target leaders and troublemakers” within a given crowd.
“Lethal overwatch, in the form of a designated marksman (DM), always covers the control force,” the manual states. “During an engagement, the use of a DM provides confidence and safety to those facing a riot. The DM in an overwatch position scans the crowd to identify threats and designates personnel for recovery, as well as firing lethal rounds (if a lethal threat is presented).”
Also troubling is the manual’s endorsement of domestic snooping and intelligence gathering on groups that plan to stage upcoming protests or demonstrations.
“Information superiority helps forces to anticipate problems and requirements,” the manual states, which then goes on to list radio, newspapers and the Internet as “the best” and most “diverse source pool” of information.
In recent years, the U.S. government has made no secret of its intent to plant armed troops on American soil. In 2008, for example, the Pentagon announced that 20,000 uniformed troops would be stationed inside the U.S. by 2011 to help bolster domestic security and assist state and local authorities in responding to terrorist attacks. At the time, Paul McHale, then-assistant defense secretary for homeland defense, said that this sevenfold increase in domestic troop strength marked a “fundamental change in military culture” that “would have been extraordinary to the point of unbelievable” prior to the events of September 11, 2001.
This 2008 announcement coincides with a report the same year by the U.S. Army War College Strategic Studies Institute that warned the U.S. government of being too complacent to domestic threats and encouraged the Department of Defense (DoD) to play a more active role in homeland security.
“Widespread civil violence inside the United States would force the defense establishment to reorient priorities in extremis to defend basic domestic order and human security,” wrote Lieutenant Colonel Nathan Freir, who went on to say that the “DoD might be forced by circumstances to put its broad resources at the disposal of civil authorities to contain and reverse violent threats to domestic tranquility. Under the most extreme circumstances, this might include use of military force against hostile groups inside the United States.”
Taking this concept one step further, on December 31, 2012, President Barack Hussein Obama signed the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2012, a liberty-crippling federal law that establishes the U.S. as a battlefield and authorizes the military to arrest and detain American citizens indefinitely without charges or due process of law.
Since then, the U.S. Armed Forces has been accelerating their efforts to establish a domineering presence over the American populace and training its soldiers to fight on familiar territory.
“The Army operates a 1,000 acre Urban Training Center in south-central Indiana that boasts over 1,500 ‘training structures’ designed to simulate houses, schools, hospitals and factories,” wrote Bill Van Auken of the Centre for Research on Globalization. “The center’s web site states that it ‘can be tailored to replicate both foreign and domestic scenarios.’”
Keith Johnson is a writer based in Tennessee. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.