The Justice Department has quietly asked Congress for the ability to ask chief judges to detain people indefinitely without trial during emergencies — part of a push for new powers that comes as the coronavirus spreads through the United States, Politico reports.
Documents reviewed by POLITICO detail the department’s requests to lawmakers on a host of topics, including the statute of limitations, asylum and the way court hearings are conducted. POLITICO also reviewed and previously reported on documents seeking the authority to extend deadlines on merger reviews and prosecutions.
It is obvious that what is being described is actually de facto Martial Law and what it allows and provides the government to be able to do and the way it strips citizens of rights. This is known as the “Posse Comitatus Act in the United States”.
The request raised eyebrows because of its potential implications for habeas corpus — the constitutional right to appear before a judge after arrest and seek release.
“Not only would it be a violation of that, but it says ‘affecting pre-arrest,’” said Norman L. Reimer, executive director of the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers. “So that means you could be arrested and never brought before a judge until they decide that the emergency or the civil disobedience is over. I find it absolutely terrifying. Especially in a time of emergency, we should be very careful about granting new powers to the government.”
Reimer said the possibility of chief judges suspending all court rules during an emergency without a clear end in sight was deeply disturbing.
According to the United States Northern Command:
Section 1385 of Title 18, United States Code (USC), states:
“Whoever, except in cases and under circumstances expressly authorized by the Constitution or Act of Congress, willfully uses any part of the Army or Air Force as a posse comitatus or otherwise to execute the laws shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than two years, or both.”
The Posse Comitatus Act (PCA) does not apply to the U.S. Coast Guard, or to the National Guard in Title 32 or State Active Duty status. Although the PCA prohibits only the Army and Air Force as from performing domestic law enforcement activities, another statute, 10 USC Section 275, requires the Secretary of Defense to prescribe regulations to prohibit members of the Army, Navy, Air Force, or Marine Corps from direct participation in a search, seizure, arrest, or other similar activity unless participation in such activity by such member is otherwise authorized by law. Department of Defense Instruction 3025.21 implements the prohibitions required under the PCA and 10 USC Section 275.
These laws and regulations generally prohibit U.S. military personnel from direct participation in law enforcement activities. Some of those law enforcement activities would include interdicting vehicles, vessels, and aircraft; conducting surveillance, searches, pursuit and seizures; or making arrests on behalf of civilian law enforcement authorities. Prohibiting direct military involvement in law enforcement is in keeping with long-standing U.S. law and policy limiting the military’s role in domestic affairs.
The United States Congress has enacted a number of exceptions to these general prohibitions that allow the military, in certain situations, to assist civilian law enforcement agencies in enforcing the laws of the U.S. The most common examples are the support activities authorized under Chapter 15 of Title 10 (10 USC Sections 271-284), such as the provision of information collected during military operations, the use of military equipment and facilities, and the maintenance and operation of equipment. Other examples include:
- Counterdrug and counter-transnational organized crime assistance (10 USC Section 284). This statute authorizes the Department of Defense to provide certain expanded, non-reimbursable support to the counterdrug or counter-transnational organized crime activities of law enforcement agencies.
- The Insurrection Act, Chapter 13 of Title 10 (10 USC Sections 251-255). This act allows the President to use U.S. military personnel at the request of a state legislature or governor to suppress insurrections. It also allows the president to use federal troops to enforce federal laws when rebellion against the authority of the U.S. makes it impracticable to enforce the laws of the U.S. by the ordinary course of judicial proceedings.
- Assistance in the case of crimes involving nuclear materials (18 USC Section 831). This statute permits Department of Defense personnel to assist the Justice Department in enforcing prohibitions regarding nuclear materials, when the Attorney General and the Secretary of Defense jointly determine that an “emergency situation” exists that poses a serious threat to U.S. interests and is beyond the capability of civilian law enforcement agencies.
- Emergency situations involving weapons of mass destruction (10 USC Section 282). When the Attorney General and the Secretary of Defense jointly determine that an “emergency situation” exists that poses a serious threat to U.S. interests and is beyond the capability of civilian law enforcement agencies, Department of Defense personnel may assist the Justice Department in enforcing prohibitions regarding weapons of mass destruction.
Military support to civilian law enforcement is carried out in strict compliance with the Constitution and U.S. laws and under the direction of the President and Secretary of Defense.
Now only if it were that simple and clear, however Hurricane Katrina showed us that far more “authority” is given and h0w it is carried out is far different than what the definition discusses. The Army has a 95 page PDF on the Posse Comitatus Act.
The importance of what is going on in our nation right now is all in the verbiage being used by the President and individual states. National Guard units are being activated and people are thinking that it means martial law. It does not, states are saying “shelter in place” orders because only the federal government can declare martial law, which means the NG cannot carry firearms and cannot touch a citizen.
Chris “Badger” Thomas is a Veteran who served our country as an Army Combat Medic.
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Dean James at Right Wing Tribune
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