(ed. Read and Learn about how your government in Washington DC has unconstitutionally decided to allow one person, the president, to declare Martial Law.
This is serious business and unless Americans wake up to the fact we have a runaway government in Washington, who believe the Constitution is "just a piece of paper", we will all be back to serving foreign masters.
Inside the Martial Law Act of 2006
by James Bovard
Martial law is perhaps the ultimate
stomping of freedom. And yet, on September 30, 2006, Congress
passed a provision in a 591-page bill that will make it easy
for President Bush to impose martial law in response to a terrorist
"incident." It also empowers him to effectively declare
martial law in response to what he or other federal officials
label a shortfall of "public order" -- whatever that
It took only a few paragraphs
in a $500 billion, 591-page bill to raze one of the most important
limits on federal power. Congress passed the Insurrection Act
in 1807 to severely restrict the president's ability to deploy
the military within the United States. The Posse Comitatus Act
of 1878 tightened those restrictions, imposing a two-year prison
sentence on anyone who used the military within the United States
without the express permission of Congress. (This act was passed
after the depredations of the U.S. military throughout the Southern
states during Reconstruction.)
But there is a loophole: Posse
Comitatus is waived if the president invokes the Insurrection
The Insurrection Act and Posse
Comitatus Act aim to deter dictatorship while permitting a narrow
window for the president to temporarily use the military at home.
But the 2006 reforms basically threw any concern about dictatorial
abuses out the window.
Section 1076 of the Defense
Authorization Act of 2006 changed the name of the key provision
in the statute book from "Insurrection Act" to "Enforcement
of the Laws to Restore Public Order Act." The Insurrection
Act of 1807 stated that the president could deploy troops within
the United States only "to suppress, in a State, any insurrection,
domestic violence, unlawful combination, or conspiracy."
The new law expands the list of pretexts to include "natural
disaster, epidemic, or other serious public health emergency,
terrorist attack or incident, or other condition" -- and
such a "condition" is not defined or limited.
One might think that given
the experience with the USA PATRIOT Act and many other abuses of power, Congress would
be leery about giving this president his biggest blank check
yet to suspend the Constitution. But that would be naive.
The new law was put in place
in response to the debacle of the federal response to Hurricane
Katrina. There was no evidence that permitting a president far
more power would avoid future debacles, but such a law provides
a comfort blanket to politicians. The risk of tyranny is irrelevant
compared with the reduction of risk of embarrassment to politicians.
According to Washington, the correct response to Katrina is not
to recognize the failure of relying on federal agencies a thousand
miles away but rather to vastly increase the power of the president
to dictate a solution, regardless of whether he knows what
he is doing and regardless of whether local and state rights
The new law also empowers the
president to commandeer the National Guard of one state to send
to another state for as many as 365 days. Bush could send the
South Carolina National Guard to suppress anti-war protests in
New Haven. Or the next president could send the Massachusetts
National Guard to disarm the residents of Wyoming, if they resisted
a federal law that prohibited private ownership of semi-automatic
weapons. Governors' control of the National Guard can be trumped
with a simple presidential declaration.
Section 1076 had bipartisan
support on Capitol Hill, including support from Sen. Carl Levin
(D-Mich.), Sen. John Warner (R-Va.), Sen. Ted Kennedy (D-Mass.),
and Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-Calif.), chairman of the House Armed
Services Committee. Since the law would give the feds more power,
it was very popular inside the Beltway.
On the other hand, every governor
in the country opposed the changes. Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.),
the ranking Democrat on the Senate Judiciary Committee, warned
on September 19, 2006, that "we certainly do not need to
make it easier for presidents to declare martial law." Leahy's
alarm got no response. Ten days later, he commented in the Congressional
Record, "Using the military for law enforcement goes against
one of the founding tenets of our democracy."
A U.S. Enabling
The new law vastly increases
the danger from the actions of government provocateurs. If there
is an incident now like the first bombing of the World Trade
Center in February 1993, it would be far easier for the president
to declare martial law -- even if, as then, it was an FBI informant
who taught the culprits how to make the bomb. Even if the FBI
masterminds a protest that turns violent, the president could
invoke the "incident" to suspend the Constitution.
"Martial law" is
a euphemism for military dictatorship. When foreign democracies
are overthrown and a junta establishes martial law, Americans
usually recognize that a fundamental change has occurred. Perhaps
some conservatives believe that the only change when martial
law is declared is that people are no longer read their Miranda
rights before they are locked away. "Martial law" means:
Obey soldiers' commands or be shot. The abuses of military rule
in Southern states during Reconstruction were legendary, but
they have been swept under the historical rug.
Section 1076 is an Enabling
Act-type legislation -- something which purports to preserve
law and order while formally empowering the president to rule
Bush can commandeer a state's
National Guard any time he declares a "state has refused
to enforce applicable laws." Does this refer to the laws
as they are commonly understood -- or to the "laws"
after Bush "fixes" them with a signing statement? Unfortunately,
it is not possible for Americans to commandeer the federal government
even when Bush admits that he is breaking a law (such as the
Section 1076 is the type of
"law" that would probably be denounced by the U.S.
State Department's Annual Report on Human Rights if enacted by
a foreign government. But when the U.S. government does the same
thing, it is merely another proof of benevolent foresight.
The "comfort blanket"
on Section 1076 is that the powers will not be abused because
the president will show more concern with the Bill of Rights
than Congress did when it rubberstamped this provision. This
is the same "pass the buck on the Constitution" that
worked so well with the PATRIOT Act, the McCain Feingold Campaign
Reform Act, and the Military Commissions Act. As long as there
is hypothetically some branch of the government that will object
to oppression, no one has the right to fear losing his liberties.
on the home front
Section 1076 is more ominous
in light of the Bush administration's long record of Posse Comitatus
violations. Since 2001, the Bush administration has accelerated
a trend of using the military as a tool in the nation's domestic
affairs. From its support of the Total Information Awareness
surveillance vacuum cleaner, to its use of Pentagon spy planes
during the Washington-area sniper shootings in 2002, to the Pentagon's
seizures of Americans' financial and other private information
without a warrant, the Bush administration has not hesitated
to use military force and intimidation at home whenever convenient.
And Americans may have little or no idea of how far the military
has actually gone on the home front, given the Bush team's obsessive
The Pentagon has sent U.S.
military intelligence agents on domestic fishing expeditions.
In 2004, two U.S. Army intelligence agents descended on the University
of Texas's law school in Austin. They entered the office of the
Journal of Women and the Law and demanded that the editors turn
over a roster of the people who attended a recent conference
on Islam and women. The editors denied having a list; the behavior
of one agent was described as intimidating. The agents then demanded
contact information for the student who organized the conference,
Sahar Aziz. University of Texas law professor Douglas Laycock
"We certainly hope that
the Army doesn't believe that attending a conference on Islamic
law or Islam and women is itself ground for investigation."
Military officials later declared
that U.S. Army intelligence agents had overstepped their bounds.
But this did not stop the Bush administration from having a provision
inserted in a bill passed in secret session by the Senate Intelligence
Committee that would allow military intelligence agents to conduct
surveillance and recruit informants in the United States. Wired.com
"Pentagon officials say
the exemption would not affect civil liberties and is needed
so that its agents can obtain information from sources who may
be afraid of government agents."
The provision would authorize
military agents to go undercover and never inform their targets
that they were dealing with a G-man. Kate Martin, director of
the Center for National Security Studies, denounced the provision:
"This ... is giving them
the authority to spy on Americans. And it's all been done with
no public discussion, in the dark of night."
The controversy over the amendment
scuttled its enactment, though it is unclear whether that has
deterred the military from expanding its domestic spying.
There is no Honesty-in-Absolute-Power
mandate in the federal statute books. The more power government
seizes, the more easily it can suppress the truth. There is nothing
to prevent a president from declaring martial law on false pretexts
-- any more than there is to prevent him from launching a foreign
war on false pretenses. And when the lies become exposed years
later, it could be far too late to resurrect lost liberties