New Law Allows U.S. Military to Quell ‘Civil Disturbances’ Without Presidential Authorization
BY ANDREW MIILLER
May 28, 2013
As media outlets focus on how the Internal Revenue Service is targeting conservative political groups and how the Justice Department is phone tapping the press, yet another game-changing story has slipped past almost unnoticed.
The Department of Defense issued a directive on February 27, replacing several older directives and changing the rules regarding federal military involvement in civilian law enforcement. In a major power grab, this rule change overturns a 200-year-old system that strictly limits the military from becoming involved in civilian law enforcement.
Whereas the Insurrection Act of 1807 explicitly states the military cannot be used in civilian law enforcement except by presidential authorization in the advent of an insurrection or foreign invasion, this new law change states that federal military commanders can use force to put down unexpected civil disturbances in cases where prior authorization by the president is deemed impossible.
While such a change may at first seem minor, the new rule’s chief danger lies in its vagueness. Reference page 16 of the new directive (emphasis added):
When permitted under emergency authority in accordance with Reference (c.), federal military commanders have the authority, in extraordinary emergency circumstances where prior authorization by the president is impossible and duly constituted local authorities are unable to control the situation, to engage temporarily in activities that are necessary to quell large-scale, unexpected civil disturbances .…