Police Battalions

Word today that the United States Marine Corps has created “Law Enforcement Battalions”, three so far.   The purpose?

…quickly deploy worldwide to help investigate crimes from terrorism to drug trafficking and train fledgling security forces in allied nations.

To do what, exactly?

…helping control civil disturbances, handling detainees, carrying out forensic work, and using biometrics to identify suspects. Durham said they could assist local authorities in allied countries in securing crime scenes and building cases so criminals end up behind bars and not back out on the streets because of mistakes.

My reaction is admittedly visceral.  And negative.  I don’t know exactly why, but I will try to identify the cause of my predilection against the formation of these units.  Perhaps I am wrong.  I sincerely hope so.  It wouldn’t be the first time, nor certainly the last.   Still….

There is the practical consideration that a combat Marine is different from a policeman.  Different rules, different reactions, different training, different purpose.   It is a fair-sized assumption, I wager, that the paradigm shift can be made with sufficient rapidity in either direction to avoid loss of life, both civilian, and more importantly, those of the Marines.    And that an adaptive and ruthless enemy will not constantly exploit the seams between full-scale military operations and law enforcement to his significant advantage.

But I have other concerns, those of a somewhat more serious nature.   Perhaps I am careening down the track of conspiracy theory and need to adjust my tinfoil.   I probably shouldn’t have those concerns.

However, the idea of a militarized police force should be of concern to those who value our individual liberties, and we have seen the drastic militarizing of Federal, State, and municipal law enforcement over the last several years.   SWAT teams and armored vehicles, automatic weapons, military uniforms, often in places where there hasn’t been a felony in years.   Doors being kicked in, warrantless searches, and a heavy hand with the American public.  The outcry has been notably absent.  Have we gotten used to such things, accepted them?    No, surely we haven’t.

Just the same, I would feel far better about it if I didn’t know that the Marine Corps is bound by only DoD regulation, and not Posse Comitatus, in the prohibition of performing police functions against American citizens on US soil.   And that Veterans who believe in the Second Amendment, and smaller and less intrusive government have not already been identified by Federal law enforcement as “home grown terrorist” suspects.    But I could be over-reacting.   I must be.

Nonetheless, I am apprehensive to watch our own government decide that, despite the fact that Islamic Extremists have declared jihad on America, and were responsible for the Lockerbie bombing, Khobar Towers, USS Cole, 9/11, the Fort Hood massacre, and numerous other failed attempts to kill Americans in the name of Allah, our war is against “violent extremists”.  While all the time constantly seeming to shape that term to define political opponents rather than actual threats to our national safety and security.   My reasoning must be errant.  Has to be.

Even so, I would be far less concerned if our Attorney General could show me in writing where the Federal Government has the authority to kill a US citizen abroad without trial, without, in fact, charging him with a crime.  And if the Director of the FBI was a little more certain that he would rule such Government action out even on US soil.   But that happening seems far-fetched, doesn’t it?

Yet, the language of the Defense Authorization Act of 2012 seems to grant powers to the Federal Government that our Constitution expressly forbade.    And those whose voices were loudest in condemning the PATRIOT Act are decidedly mute.  But there isn’t any way that our military would ever be called to arrest and detain US citizens on US soil without charge.  It is unimaginable.   Right?

Except, we see time and again, pliable senior civilian and senior uniformed Officers in our Defense Department seemingly much more concerned with currying favor with their political overlords than they are about training and preparing their services for war, or with upholding the Constitution they were sworn to support and defend.   But perhaps I shouldn’t be concerned that true faith and allegiance seems in short supply.   They will make the tough, correct, morally-sound but career-ending call when the time comes, won’t they?  Sure they will.

I am probably wrong in my initial reaction to the Marine Corps standing up Police Battalions.  Er, Law Enforcement Battalions, officially.  But then, what’s in a name?   And I could be entirely wrong regarding my ill-at-ease about the path we seem to be heading down with respect to expanding Federal powers and a curtailing of individual freedom.  I sure hope so.

One thing I do know, know it for certain.  Never, ever, ever give a government unbridled authority over its peoples, along with the quasi-legal apparatus to enforce it, and then expect that it not be used.    Nor ever rely on the benevolence of those in charge to maintain your freedom.   Our Founding Fathers, in their brilliance, knew it all too well.  They even wrote it down for us.

“Society, in all its forms, is a blessing.  Government, at best, is a necessary evil.”

-Thomas Paine, Common Sense

19 thoughts on “Police Battalions”

  1. URR, I wish I could tell you to take off your tinfoil hat.

    I really, REALLY wish I could.

    But I can’t.

    Because I don’t think you’re wearing one.

  2. I agree with everything you are concerned about, and must say I find a lot of what is going on here in LE disturbing. I do wear Bates Enforcer boots, as they are so very comfortable, but I do not blouse my pants into them. I wear just plain Dickies uniform trousers, rather than BDU pants, but I am told that BDUs are pretty comfortable. I are LE, not military, and prefer to look LE. I am gonna keep my duty belt suspenders though, with all the stuff on the Bat Belt, suspenders are the way to go.

  3. This doesn’t exactly smell right. But what can you say about a dumb old vet. Marines are Marines, LE is LE, but you never mix the two. Where do they serve? What is their “Area of Responsibility”? What is their “Rules of Engagement”? If my memory doesn’t fail me, I remember a “Police Action”, that was a real nightmare. Let’s not follow that path again.

  4. 1) The NDAA does not authorize the detention of American Citizens. It could be argued that the Senate version did, but it was amended prior to passage to specifically deny any such argument.

    2) The killing of American Citizens in the Yemeni hinterlands is nothing more than a revival of the ancient legal concept of outlaw.

    Our military is always going to be outnumbered, especially the Marines. In conventional battle we rely on the force multipliers of air dominance and networking to ensure victory. Those tools are ill-suited to COIN, while leveraging local power structures is much more effective. To do that we must have the capability to build and support those structures. You may say that we have no business participating in COIN operations, but you have to remember that the enemy gets a vote, and it’s better to have and not need than to need and not have.

    1. Jeff,

      Whether Section 1022 does or does not allow for indefinite detention is still much in debate. Check PPD-14. Carefully.

      As for the killing of an AMCIT without trial or charge, if what you say is true, why would not the FBI Director say so? Mueller was given plenty of opportunity to do so, and to clarify the extraterritorial nature of the authority, and refused.

      Whether the concept of “Law Enforcement Battalions” that pull 1,700 Marines from the end-strength of a stretched and shrinking Corps is a sensible one or a “fight the last war” idea can be debated as well.

    2. “For purposes of this Directive, the phrase “Covered Person” applies only to a person who is not a citizen of the United States…” (emphasis added). Frankly anyone who debates whether or not a law that states “Nothing in this section is intended to limit
      or expand the authority of the President or the scope of the
      Authorization for Use of Military Force.” allows detention of US citizens has demonstrated a complete inability to comprehend written English.

      OK, so Mueller is an idiot (not that he’s without company). How is that my problem?

      I think we’ll see more fighting like the last (well, current) war for the simply fact that our enemies in the current war are more successful than any opponent to the US military in over 150 years. Success breeds imitation. It’s true that a future enemy might come up with an innovation we are totally unprepared for. But, by definition, we don’t know what that is and so we can’t prepare for it. We need to focus our training and structure on likely threats, such as COIN, as well as impossible threats that convey ancillary benefits, such as conventional war with China.

  5. “Section 1022(a)(4) of the NDAA authorizes the President to waive application of the military custody requirement under section 1022(a)(1) where doing so is “in the national security interests of the United States.” Such waivers (“National Security Waivers”) apply to the requirements of section 1022 of the NDAA.”

    Oh, and the Viet Cong may beg to differ.

    1. You’re reading that backwards. The NDAA requires military detention of “covered persons” (it’s explicitly agnostic on the subject of US citizens being covered persons). What you’re quoting says the President, in the interests of national security, can choose not to use military detention for a covered person. That is, the President can, if he feels like it, hand a critter over to the local constabulary.

      I’ll see the Viet Cong right after I talk to the ARVN about how they spend the ’70’s.

  6. You sure of that interpretation, Jeff? Others aren’t quite so. If it were simply to be as you interpret, it would be worded that way.

    Whether the Director of Federal Law Enforcement thinks the Attorney General and the Federal Government has a right to assassinate US citizens on US soil without trial or charge is also rather pertinent.

    1. Yes I’m certain. Here’s the text of the law (all emphasis mine):

      (1) IN GENERAL.—Except as provided in paragraph (4), the
      Armed Forces of the United States shall hold a person described
      in paragraph (2) who is captured in the course of hostilities
      authorized by the Authorization for Use of Military Force
      (Public Law 107–40) in military custody pending disposition
      under the law of war.
      (2) COVERED PERSONS.—The requirement in paragraph (1)
      shall apply to any person whose detention is authorized under
      section 1021 who is determined—
      (A) to be a member of, or part of, al-Qaeda or an
      associated force that acts in coordination with or pursuant
      to the direction of al-Qaeda; and
      (B) to have participated in the course of planning or
      carrying out an attack or attempted attack against the
      United States or its coalition partners.
      (3) DISPOSITION UNDER LAW OF WAR. {paragraph deleted for brevity -JG}
      (4) WAIVER FOR NATIONAL SECURITY.—The President may
      waive the requirement of paragraph (1) if the President submits
      to Congress a certification in writing that such a waiver is
      in the national security interests of the United States.
      (1) UNITED STATES CITIZENS.—The requirement to detain
      a person in military custody under this section does not extend
      to citizens of the United States.

      (2) LAWFUL RESIDENT ALIENS.—The requirement to detain
      a person in military custody under this section does not extend
      to a lawful resident alien of the United States on the basis
      of conduct taking place within the United States, except to
      the extent permitted by the Constitution of the United States.

      Paragraph (1) contains the requirement for military detention. Paragraph (2) covers who, exactly, Congress wants detained. Paragraph (4) gives the President his national security escape clause and is the justification for what you quoted. Maybe it’s my experience working under NAVSEA procedures, but I don’t see this as terribly complicated. Though I can see how certain types could benefit from complicating the situation.

      I’m also certain it’s inadvisable to read too much into one government official’s hesitancy to comment to Congress on a speech given by his superior. Testifying under oath is a bad time to practice your Amazing Kreskin impersonation.

  7. Then you are a lot more certain about trusting our government than I am. We shall see how that turns out.

    1. All I’m trusting them to do is comply with the law as written. If that trust is misplaced then there’s no point in arguing any law, including the Constitution.

  8. Yeah, see, I gotta go with the Bill of Rights on that one.

    Which is precisely the point with Mueller and Holder. Loyalty is to their political bosses, instead of the Constitution they are sworn to support and defend.

    1. The Bill of Rights isn’t a suicide pact. We have routinely killed American Citizens without trial multiple times in our history, mostly in the latter half of the 19th century.

      I’m going to back off my characterization of Mueller as an idiot. It was a patently unfair question. Equivalent of asking the CO of the Stennis comment on the appropriateness of bombing Iran. If the question had been specific to the FBI and its plans (or lack thereof) to fly armed drones in the US to kill terrorists I would expect an answer, but to ask the head of the FBI general policy for the DOJ is simple grandstanding.

  9. Then what we have is disagreement and typing in this little box will not change that. I will stick by the wisdom of the Founding Fathers.

    1. I shall stand by you. I will also put my faith in James Madison and Friends. Jeff makes a good argument, but I belive him to be in error. This sort of thing can lead to the killing of the inconvenient. Capitol punishment must only be applied to our citzens after a trail.

    2. Your argument boils down to the slippery slope fallacy, which Madison would reject.

      There is nothing inherent to American Citizenship that allows every criminal to be brought to trial. If it is permissible to kill foreign members of Al Queda in drone strikes it is permissible to kill members of Al Queda who happen to carry US passports. (If drone strikes aren’t permissible can we use artillery or snipers, or must we dispatch our enemies with cold steel?)

      Yes this power, like any other, could be misused. That’s why I’d like to see a system more rigorous than the NSC picking names over a game of poker. I’d like something like the FISC issue writs of Caput Lepinum, which would be voided immediately upon the surrender of the subject to authorities.

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