Hurricane Isaac Exploited to Acclimate Citizens to Federal Military Role in Natural Disasters
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.”