Sunday, January 14, 2007


Hello again, boys and girls! It's nice to see all your shining faces in Spot's monitor. Just a short post tonight about a subject that Spot has been meaning to get to, but just hasn't. The Military Commissions Act wasn't the only funny business in the year 6 NDA. Here's another one.

What's NDA, Spotty?

Oh, sorry grasshopper. NDA means "New Dark Age," a period that commenced in 2001, the year of George II's ascendancy to the Presidential Throne. Year 6 NDA was last year.

The Defense Authorizations bill adopted by Congress last October contained a troubling change in an old statute in the United States, the Insurrection Act. This was the general object of the Act:
The general aim is to limit Presidential power as much as possible, relying on state and local governments for initial response in the event of insurrection.
The Act, now charmingly called "Enforcement of Laws to Restore Public Order," significantly broadened the events for which the president can call out - federalize - the National Guard for domestic law enforcement purposes. Here are the new grounds:
Under this act [as amended], the President may also deploy troops as a police force during a natural disaster, epidemic, serious public health emergency, terrorist attack, or other condition, when the President determines that the authorities of the state are incapable of maintaining public order.
Kavan Peterson at recently wrote an online story that provides an excellent background on the Act and its recent change:
Under the U.S. Constitution, state's National Guard unit is controlled by the governor in time of peace but can be called up federal duty by the president. National Guard employs 444,000 part-time soldiers between its two branches: the Army and Air National Guards.

The Posse Comitatus Act of 1878 forbids U.S. troops from being deployed on American soil for law enforcement. The one exception is provided by the Insurrection Act of 1807, which lets the president use the military only for the purpose of putting down rebellions or enforcing constitutional rights if state authorities fail to do so. Under that law, the president can declare an insurrection and call in the armed forces. The act has been invoked only a handful of times in the past 50 years, including in 1957 to desegregate schools and in 1992 during riots in south central Los Angeles after the acquittal of police accused of beating Rodney King.

Congress changed the Insurrection Act to list "natural disaster, epidemic, or other serious public health emergency, terrorist attack or incident" as conditions under which the president can deploy U.S. armed forces and federalize state Guard troops if he determines that "authorities of the state or possession are incapable of maintaining public order."

The conditions in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina was given as an example of the need for the change in the Insurrection Act. But the governors are not amused:
The change adds to tensions between governors and the White House after more than four years of heavy federal deployment of state-based Guard forces to fight in Iraq and Afghanistan. Since the 2001 terrorist attacks, four out of five
guardsmen have been sent overseas in the largest deployment of the
National Guard since World War II. Shortage of the Guard’s military
equipment – such as helicopters to drop hay to snow-stranded cattle in
Colorado – also is a nagging issue as much of units’ heavy equipment is
left overseas and unavailable in case of a natural disaster at home.

The changes in the Insurrection Act, and the recent call out of the Guard to patrol the border with Mexico are both trends that should give us pause. Where is Katie, our Commissioner of Troubling Signs, when we need her?

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