3rd Infantry Division to patrol US streets

A little-noted news story about the transfer of Iraq-hardened combat troops for active duty at home in the immediate prelude to the elections has been seized upon by Amy Goodman‘s Democracy Now! Oct. 2 and—with considerably greater paranoia—Naomi Wolf on AlterNet and YouTube Oct. 8, as evidence of an imminent “coup d’etat” or “October Surprise.” Gina Cavallaro wrote for Army Times, Sept. 30, emphasis added:

Brigade homeland tours start Oct. 1
3rd Infantry’s 1st BCT trains for a new dwell-time mission. Helping ‘people at home’ may become a permanent part of the active Army

The 3rd Infantry Division‘s 1st Brigade Combat Team has spent 35 of the last 60 months in Iraq patrolling in full battle rattle, helping restore essential services and escorting supply convoys.

Now they’re training for the same mission — with a twist — at home.

Beginning Oct. 1 for 12 months, the 1st BCT will be under the day-to-day control of U.S. Army North, the Army service component of Northern Command, as an on-call federal response force for natural or manmade emergencies and disasters, including terrorist attacks.

It is not the first time an active-duty unit has been tapped to help at home. In August 2005, for example, when Hurricane Katrina unleashed hell in Mississippi and Louisiana, several active-duty units were pulled from various posts and mobilized to those areas.

But this new mission marks the first time an active unit has been given a dedicated assignment to NorthCom, a joint command established in 2002 to provide command and control for federal homeland defense efforts and coordinate defense support of civil authorities.

After 1st BCT finishes its dwell-time mission, expectations are that another, as yet unnamed, active-duty brigade will take over and that the mission will be a permanent one.

“Right now, the response force requirement will be an enduring mission. How the [Defense Department] chooses to source that and whether or not they continue to assign them to NorthCom, that could change in the future,” said Army Col. Louis Vogler, chief of NorthCom future operations. “Now, the plan is to assign a force every year.”

The command is at Peterson Air Force Base in Colorado Springs, Colo., but the soldiers with 1st BCT, who returned in April after 15 months in Iraq, will operate out of their home post at Fort Stewart, Ga., where they’ll be able to go to school, spend time with their families and train for their new homeland mission as well as the counterinsurgency mission in the war zones.

Stop-loss will not be in effect, so soldiers will be able to leave the Army or move to new assignments during the mission, and the operational tempo will be variable.

Don’t look for any extra time off, though. The at-home mission does not take the place of scheduled combat-zone deployments and will take place during the so-called dwell time a unit gets to reset and regenerate after a deployment.

The 1st of the 3rd is still scheduled to deploy to either Iraq or Afghanistan in early 2010, which means the soldiers will have been home a minimum of 20 months by the time they ship out.

In the meantime, they’ll learn new skills, use some of the ones they acquired in the war zone and more than likely will not be shot at while doing any of it.

They may be called upon to help with civil unrest and crowd control or to deal with potentially horrific scenarios such as massive poisoning and chaos in response to a chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear or high-yield explosive, or CBRNE, attack.

Training for homeland scenarios has already begun at Fort Stewart and includes specialty tasks such as knowing how to use the “jaws of life” to extract a person from a mangled vehicle; extra medical training for a CBRNE incident; and working with U.S. Forestry Service experts on how to go in with chainsaws and cut and clear trees to clear a road or area.

The 1st BCT’s soldiers also will learn how to use “the first ever nonlethal package that the Army has fielded,” 1st BCT commander Col. Roger Cloutier said, referring to crowd and traffic control equipment and nonlethal weapons designed to subdue unruly or dangerous individuals without killing them.

The package is for use only in war-zone operations, not for any domestic purpose.

“It’s a new modular package of nonlethal capabilities that they’re fielding. They’ve been using pieces of it in Iraq, but this is the first time that these modules were consolidated and this package fielded, and because of this mission we’re undertaking we were the first to get it.”

The package includes equipment to stand up a hasty road block; spike strips for slowing, stopping or controlling traffic; shields and batons; and, beanbag bullets.

“I was the first guy in the brigade to get Tasered,” said Cloutier, describing the experience as “your worst muscle cramp ever — times 10 throughout your whole body.

“I’m not a small guy, I weigh 230 pounds … it put me on my knees in seconds.”

The brigade will not change its name, but the force will be known for the next year as a CBRNE Consequence Management Response Force, or CCMRF (pronounced “sea-smurf”).

“I can’t think of a more noble mission than this,” said Cloutier, who took command in July. “We’ve been all over the world during this time of conflict, but now our mission is to take care of citizens at home … and depending on where an event occurred, you’re going home to take care of your home town, your loved ones.”

While soldiers’ combat training is applicable, he said, some nuances don’t apply.

“If we go in, we’re going in to help American citizens on American soil, to save lives, provide critical life support, help clear debris, restore normalcy and support whatever local agencies need us to do, so it’s kind of a different role,” said Cloutier, who, as the division operations officer on the last rotation, learned of the homeland mission a few months ago while they were still in Iraq.

Some brigade elements will be on call around the clock, during which time they’ll do their regular marksmanship, gunnery and other deployment training. That’s because the unit will continue to train and reset for the next deployment, even as it serves in its CCMRF mission.

Should personnel be needed at an earthquake in California, for example, all or part of the brigade could be scrambled there, depending on the extent of the need and the specialties involved.
Other branches included

The active Army’s new dwell-time mission is part of a NorthCom and DOD response package.

Active-duty soldiers will be part of a force that includes elements from other military branches and dedicated National Guard Weapons of Mass Destruction-Civil Support Teams.

A final mission rehearsal exercise is scheduled for mid-September at Fort Stewart and will be run by Joint Task Force Civil Support, a unit based out of Fort Monroe, Va., that will coordinate and evaluate the interservice event.

In addition to 1st BCT, other Army units will take part in the two-week training exercise, including elements of the 1st Medical Brigade out of Fort Hood, Texas, and the 82nd Combat Aviation Brigade from Fort Bragg, N.C.

There also will be Air Force engineer and medical units, the Marine Corps Chemical, Biological Initial Reaction Force, a Navy weather team and members of the Defense Logistics Agency and the Defense Threat Reduction Agency.

One of the things Vogler said they’ll be looking at is communications capabilities between the services.

“It is a concern, and we’re trying to check that and one of the ways we do that is by having these sorts of exercises. Leading up to this, we are going to rehearse and set up some of the communications systems to make sure we have interoperability,” he said.

“I don’t know what America’s overall plan is — I just know that 24 hours a day, seven days a week, there are soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines that are standing by to come and help if they’re called,” Cloutier said. “It makes me feel good as an American to know that my country has dedicated a force to come in and help the people at home.”


A non-lethal crowd control package fielded to 1st Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division, described in the original version of this story, is intended for use on deployments to the war zone, not in the U.S., as previously stated.

Now, this is pretty ominous no matter how you slice it. But it is also disingenuous of Naomi Wolf and Amy Goodman not to mention the correction, or the line disavowing domestic use of the “nonlethal package.” Even if these caveats were added after Wolf and Goodman referenced the story, they should still add an update line.

Wolf also writes on AlterNet, “George Bush struck down Posse Comitatus, thus making it legal for military to patrol the U.S.” This isn’t exactly right. Bush has certainly significantly eroded Posse Comitatus. But “struck down” implies the act has been formally repealed. This is of course not the case. What we are witnessing is more insidious than that.

We have previously noted provisions of the 2007 Defense Authorization Act which granted unprecedented leeway for Pentagon domestic operations. We’ve also noted last year’s National Security Presidential Directive 51, with provisions for emergency powers in the event of a “national catastrophe”—certainly worrisome given the impending econocataclysm. Our recent feature on the military response to Hurricane Katrina by Frank Morales argued that it was a de facto domestic counterinsurgency operation.

See our last posts on the domestic police state and October Surprise paranoia.

  1. Did Bush threaten “martial law”?
    From Wolf on AlterNet:

    U.S. Rep. Brad Sherman of California said to Congress, captured on C-Span and viewable on YouTube, that individual members of the House were threatened with martial law within a week if they did not pass the bailout bill:

    “The only way they can pass this bill is by creating and sustaining a panic atmosphere… Many of us were told in private conversations that if we voted against this bill on Monday that the sky would fall, the market would drop two or three thousand points the first day and a couple of thousand on the second day, and a few members were even told that there would be martial law in America if we voted no.”

    If this is true and Rep. Sherman is not delusional, I ask you to consider that if they are willing to threaten martial law now, it is foolish to assume they will never use that threat again. It is also foolish to trust in an orderly election process to resolve this threat.

    Told by whom, Rep. Sherman?

  2. Praetorians
    I hope that the next president – either Obama or McCain – will promptly ‘strike down’ some of the more excessive displays of the dictatorial powers that the ‘unitary executive’ doled himself by an unprecedented imperial use of signing statements during the Bush-Cheney administration. Otherwise, the US will turn from an oligarchy to a tyranny. With this news Bush just created his Praetorian Guard, fitting for an emperor of the “free” world. The only thing we need now is a natural or a man-made disaster, so the troops can train their response. Since it is difficult to predict whether the nature would cooperate by sending an earthquake to California so that they can clear debris, we can expect a man-made disaster, so the troopers can fulfill their destiny. Hey, but we still have our Second Amendment – which was created precisely for this purpose, so that people can protect themselves from the dictatorial government. Jefferson, Franklin, Paine and Madison might have had visions, nightmares of Dick Cheney when they decided on that. What if we see popular riots, due to economic crisis, in near future? Are Praetorians going to be deployed to subdue them? How does this infringe on the State rights? And States have their own muscle – National Guard. They can work together, they can ignore each other, or they can work against each other. Then we have what we had in former Yugoslavia – where Territorial Defense Forces (National Guards) of Republics (States) got into the conflict with Yugoslav Army (federal forces like the 3rd Infantry Division 1st Brigade Combat Team). This works great as a preparation for the Second American Civil War. Federal forces will lose, just as they did in Yugoslavia – because they will have to fight on at least three fronts (West Coast, Northeast, Rust Belt), they will eventually be outnumbered and outsupplied.

    1. good crime fiction
      The disaster fiction level of this thread is entertainingly high and not as far fetched as one might hope but an issue not addressed is whether there is any evidence that large portions of the US Military would be complicit in a bold attempt to seize power, suspend Constitution, etc … Are regular US army going to fire on National Guard? Are the Blackwater types leaping from a Tom Clancy novel into some well honed force that can subdue all the nations police forces with their cool sunglasses. Is there a right wing secret weapon involved?

      It’s pretty far fetched to imagine the Congress in on the coup (1933 ref redacted for Godwin violation) and the majority of the wing nut right, who have been expecting it all along – admittedly more from the UN (which brings the entertaining vision of Kofi Annan – I know he’s former but it’s funnier – in some secret cabal with Bill, Hillary and Tony Blair) wouldn’t stand for anything of the sort even if it meant defending the Godless black guy who just won the election.

      So there are mysterious terrorist strikes in the next few weeks, McCain says it’s ‘irresponsible’ to have an election when the country is in danger, Bush assumes emergency powers. Then what?

  3. Amy Goodman clarifies
    Amy Goodman on AlterNet, Oct. 8:

    Is Posse Comitatus Dead?
    In a barely noticed development last week, the Army stationed an active unit inside the United States. The Infantry Division’s 1st Brigade Team is back from Iraq, now training for domestic operations under the control of U.S. Army North, the Army service component of Northern Command. The unit will serve as an on-call federal response for large-scale emergencies and disasters. It’s being called the Consequence Management Response Force, CCMRF, or “sea-smurf” for short.

    It’s the first time an active unit has been given a dedicated assignment to USNORTHCOM, which was itself formed in October 2002 to “provide command and control of Department of Defense homeland defense efforts.”

    An initial news report in the Army Times newspaper last month noted, in addition to emergency response, the force “may be called upon to help with civil unrest and crowd control.” The Army Times has since appended a clarification, and a September 30th press release from the Northern Command states: “This response force will not be called upon to help with law enforcement, civil disturbance or crowd control.”

    When Democracy Now! spoke to Air Force Lieutenant Colonel Jamie Goodpaster, a public affairs officer for NORTHCOM, she said the force would have weapons stored in containers on site, as well as access to tanks, but the decision to use weapons would be made at a far higher level, perhaps by Secretary of Defense, SECDEF.

    “On site”? On what site?

    She then goes on to interview Col. Michael Boatner of Northern Command, who does acknowledge that the force could be armed under some circumstances. He says:

    Any military force has the inherent right to self-defense. And if the situation was inherently dangerous, then potentially the Secretary of Defense would allow them to carry their weapons, but it would only be for self- and unit-defense. This force has got no role in a civil disturbance or civil unrest, any of those kinds of things.

    He adds:

    I would say that our soldiers are trustworthy. They can deploy in the homeland, and American citizens can be confident that there will be no abuses.

    This does not satisfy Goodman’s other guest, Matt Rothschild of The Progressive magazine, who says:

    The whole question here about what the Pentagon is doing patrolling in the United States gets to the real heart of the matter, which is, do we have a democracy here? I mean, there is a law on the books called the Posse Comitatus Act and the Insurrection Act that says that the president of the United States, as commander-in-chief, cannot put the military on our streets. And this is a violation of that, it seems to me.

    So Goodman gets creds for accuracy (if not for perfect clarity). Now it is Wolf’s turn. We’re waiting, Naomi…

  4. Clarification on Posse Comitatus
    Another quote from Democracy Now! of Oct. 2:

    Military participation in domestic operations was originally outlawed with the Posse Comitatus Act in 1878. The John Warner National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2007, however, included a section that allowed the president to deploy the armed forces to “restore public order” or to suppress “any insurrection.” While a later bill repealed this, President Bush attached a signing statement that he did not feel bound by the repeal.

    Presumably that “later bill” was the 2008 defense authorization act. Here is Bush’s signing statement, dated Jan. 28, 2008:

    President Bush Signs H.R. 4986, the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2008 into Law
    Today, I have signed into law H.R. 4986, the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2008. The Act authorizes funding for the defense of the United States and its interests abroad, for military construction, and for national security-related energy programs.

    Provisions of the Act, including sections 841, 846, 1079, and 1222, purport to impose requirements that could inhibit the President’s ability to carry out his constitutional obligations to take care that the laws be faithfully executed, to protect national security, to supervise the executive branch, and to execute his authority as Commander in Chief. The executive branch shall construe such provisions in a manner consistent with the constitutional authority of the President.



    January 28, 2008.

  5. Coup d’etat in the making?
    David Neiwert writes for the Crooks and Liars blog:

    Violence predictably follows right-wing hysteria about ACORN
    Just as surely as night follows day, violence is being directed at ACORN offices and officials in the wake of the flood of right-wing demagoguery about its vote-gathering efforts [McClatchy Newspapers, Oct. 17]:

    An ACORN community organizer received a death threat and the liberal activist group’s Boston and Seattle offices were vandalized Thursday, reflecting mounting tensions over its role in registering 1.3 million mostly poor and minority Americans to vote next month.

    Attorneys for the Association of Community Organizers for Reform Now were notifying the FBI and the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division of the incidents, said Brian Kettenring, a Florida-based spokesman for the group.

    Republicans, including presidential candidate John McCain, have verbally attacked the group repeatedly in recent days, alleging a widespread vote-fraud scheme, although they’ve provided little proof. It was disclosed Thursday that the FBI is examining whether thousands of fraudulent voter-registration applications submitted by some ACORN workers were part of a systematic effort or isolated incidents.

    Kettenring said that a senior ACORN staffer in Cleveland, after appearing on television this week, got an e-mail that said she “is going to have her life ended.”

    A female staffer in Providence, R.I., got a threatening call from someone who said words to the effect of “We know you get off work at 9,” then uttered racial epithets, he said.

    John McCain has played a leading role in whipping up this frenzy of hatred. In Wednesday’s debate, he charged:

    We need to know the full extent of Sen. Obama’s relationship with ACORN, who is now on the verge of maybe perpetrating one of the greatest frauds in voter history in this country, maybe destroying the fabric of democracy.

    This is consistent with the hateful language being spewed from the right by the likes of Lou Dobbs, who has taken to routinely characterizing ACORN as a “radical left-wing activist group” as well as “a Democratic Party adjunct”.

    In fact, the hysteria’s being generated across a broad spectrum of the Right, from Outer Malkinite Wingnuttia to Inside Beltway Villagers, from McCain and Palin to the frothiest freepers.

    And we can see what’s coming, too: We’re being set up for a running yammer from the right after Obama wins questioning his legitimacy because of a supposedly “tainted” vote. Conspiracy theories and talking points from the right will circulate, driving up the temperature and feeding the right-wing populist frenzy.

    And they’re not even waiting until Election Day to begin.

  6. Coup d’etat in the making, Pt. II
    Life imitates art. In this case, West Virginia imitates The Simpsons. From the Charleston Gazette, Oct. 18:

    More W.Va. voters say machines are switching votes
    In six cases, Democratic votes flipped to GOP

    WINFIELD, W.Va.— Three Putnam County voters say electronic voting machines changed their votes from Democrats to Republicans when they cast early ballots last week.

    This is the second West Virginia county where voters have reported this problem. Last week, three voters in Jackson County told The Charleston Gazette their electronic vote for “Barack Obama” kept flipping to “John McCain”.

    In both counties, Republicans are responsible for overseeing elections. Both county clerks said the problem is isolated.

    They also blamed voters for not being more careful.

    “People make mistakes more than machines,” said Jackson County Clerk Jeff Waybright.

    Shelba Ketchum, a 69-year-old nurse retired from Thomas Memorial Hospital, described what happened Friday at the Putnam County Courthouse in Winfield.

    “I pushed buttons and they all came up Republican,” she said. “I hit Obama and it switched to McCain. I am really concerned about that. If McCain wins, there was something wrong with the machines.

    “I asked them for a printout of my votes,” Ketchum said. “But they said it was in the machine and I could not get it. I did not feel right when I left the courthouse. My son felt the same way.

    “I heard from some other people they also had trouble. But no one in there knew how to fix it,” said Ketchum, who is not related to Menis Ketchum, a Democratic Supreme Court candidate.

    Ketchum’s son, Chris, said he had the same problem. And Bobbi Oates of Scott Depot said her vote for incumbent Democratic Sen. John D. Rockefeller was switched to GOP opponent Jay Wolfe.

    “I touched the one I wanted, Rockefeller, and the machine put a checkmark on the Republican instead,” Oates said of her experience Thursday.

    She said she caught the mistake, called over a worker in the county clerk’s office and was able to correct her vote. But she worries other voters may not catch such a mistake.

    When asked if she is sure she touched the box for Rockefeller, she said, “I’m absolutely positive.”

    We can assume similar things are happening across the country, reported only in local newspapers like the Charleston Gazette. Combine this with the polling places being overwhelmed by a record turn-out… and it sounds to us like a recipe for chaos, a contested election, drawn lines and rapid polarization. We sure hope we’re wrong.