December 31, 2008
The Posse Comitatus Act was passed in 1878, just after the end of the Reconstruction following the Civil War, and prohibited the federal government from using the military for domestic law enforcement purposes except in very rare cases. Per Wikipedia, the Act was a political concession to Southern states, withdrawing the Union military forces that policed ex-Confederate states during the Reconstruction.
A couple months ago, the Department of Defense announced it was assigning a full-time Army unit to be on call to facilitate military cooperation with the Department of Homeland Security in the event of another terrorist attack.
A report in the Army Times last month first brought the domestic deployment to light. The Army’s 3rd Infantry Division 1st Brigade Combat Team became the first unit assigned permanently to Northern Command.
According to the Army Times report, the Team would be on-call to respond in the event of a natural disaster or terror attack anywhere in the country, or they could be used to “help with civil unrest and crowd control.” (Link)
This clearly raises issues with respect to the Posse Comitatus Act, but even more troubling are recent reports a U.S. Army War College professor has written a report asserting military intervention would be required in a number of domestic scenarios.