Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Posse Comitatus Act. United States Code; Section 1385 of Title 18.

United States media have opened the debate on the necessity of revising Posse Comitatus Act or establishment of a conceptual framework for revising Posse Comitatus Act to confront threats to homeland security. A unique confluence of circumstances supports the timing of this debate: 1) September 11, 2001; 2) Hurricane Katrina/ Hurricane Rita; 3) pervasive influence of current national security applications, 4) establishment of a cabinet level Department of Homeland Security; 5) establishment of Northern Command within the Department of Defense. Over time, Posse Comitatus Act has been gradually weakened by exceptions to prohibitions on the use of United States Armed Forces. In a perfect world, local police and state police enforce domestic law while soldiers fight threats abroad. But the dichotomy between law enforcement and national security has blurred. In some cases, using United States Armed Forces to counter threats by terrorists indeed constitute effective and efficient means to preserve national security.

United States security policy makers are calling for a revision of Posse Comitatus Act or establishment of a conceptual framework for revising Posse Comitatus Act. Growing majority of individuals are calling for repeal of Posse Comitatus Act.

Department of Justice and Department of Defense understanding of Posse Comitatus Act is right:

"The Posse Comitatus Act expresses one of the clearest political traditions in Anglo-American history: that using military power to enforce the civilian law is harmful to both civilian and military interests. The authors of the Posse Comitatus Act drew upon a melancholy history of military rule for evidence that even the best intentioned use of the Armed Forces to govern the civil population may lead to unfortunate consequences. They knew, moreover, that military involvement in civilian affairs consumed resources needed for national defense and drew the Armed Forces into political and legal quarrels that could only harm their ability to defend the country. Accordingly, they intended that the Armed Forces be used in law enforcement only in those serious cases to which the ordinary processes of civilian law were incapable of responding."

Tight budgets and desire for short term solutions does not create an emergency justifying the repeal of Posse Comitatus Act. Relegating to only military options and to only military solutions poses dangers to individual rights and to the history and structure of United States of America that should not be ignored.

Resources must be made available to create effective and efficient civilian law enforcement responses. The military should be the last resort, not the first option and not the first solution.

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