August 29, 2012
Despite the fact Isaac is a category one hurricane and New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu said the city had “dodged a bullet,” the Army National Guard has dispatched thousands of troops in Louisiana.
Gov. Bobby Jindal’s office said Tuesday it has asked the Defense Department to pay for up to 8,000 troops for 180 days. Moreover, the National Guard Bureau indicated another 35,000 troops and almost 100 aircraft are available for mobilization to Gulf Coast states, according to Paul Purpura of The Times-Picayune.
Jindal told the Wall Street Journal “Katrina-style flooding” wasn’t expected.
As has now become routine in federal responses to natural disasters, the demarcation between military and local law enforcement has all but disappeared. The Times-Picayune reports that soldiers are now assisting New Orleans cops with law enforcement duties in direct violation of Posse Comitatus, an 1878 law that prohibits troops from working with police.
The newspaper reports that police officers searched the house of a burglary suspect accompanied by “a soldier who carried an M-4 assault rifle, as other armed soldiers stood nearby on St. Claude Avenue beside their Humvees.”
Posse Comitatus came under intense scrutiny following Hurricane Katrina. The 16th Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. Peter Pace, called for the law to be scuttled and said it slowed down to deployment of troops in Louisiana. Sen. John Warner, a Virginia Republican and at the time chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, questioned Posse Comitatus restrictions following the September 11, 2001 attacks.
In a nationally televised address from New Orleans on September 15, 2005, President Bush said “a challenge on this scale requires greater federal authority and a broader role for the armed forces.” Scott McClellan, Bush’s press secretary, later said revision or repeal of the Posse Comitatus Act was an issue that “needs to be looked at” by Congress and the administration and said officials were in the “early planning of discussing it.”
The following year, Congress approved the National Defense Authorization Act. A rider to the bill allowed the president to declare martial law and take control of the National Guard without the consent of state governors. The provision, added to the bill at the request of the White House, gave the president the authority to bypass the Posse Comitatus Act. The chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, Vermont Democrat Sen. Patrick Leahy, mounted a spirited opposition to Bush’s brazen power grab.
Despite parading as limited government “conservatives,” the Bush administration had exploited the Katrina disaster to increase the power of the federal government. The Bush administration also exploited the No Child Left Behind Act, the Federal Marriage Amendment, the Terri Schiavo case, assisted suicide, medical marijuana, and other policies to push heavy-handed federalism. In response to the federal power grab, 50 state governors sent a letter to Congress opposing the increase in power of the executive over the National Guard.
In 2008, a commission of Congress convened to study the state of the National Guard and Reserves and to make recommendations regarding their composition, management, roles, funding and missions recommended they be assimilated into the regular U.S. military, under control and management of the Pentagon. “Some recommendations that were accepted and show this disturbing trend include the assertion that it should be codified into federal law that it is the DoD’s responsibility to provide support to civil authorities, is a ‘core competency’ and comprises and equal importance to its combat responsibilities,” writes Carolyn Harris.
The executive has repeatedly and purposely misinterpreted Article 2, Section 2, Clause 1 of the Constitution to argue that the federal government has the legal right to intervene in matters left to the states, as the Tenth Amendment specifies.
The obvious over reaction to Isaac, a mere category one hurricane, reveals once again that the government will exploit sensationalistic events to acclimate citizens to the military presence of the federal government in affairs that were once left up to the states.