Militarizing the "Homeland":
NORTHCOM's Joint Task Force-Civil Support
by Tom Burghardt
Antifascist Calling reported October 6
that nine months prior to the 9/11 terrorist attacks, Donald Rumsfeld
signed off on revisions for the Pentagon's secretive Continuity
of Operations Program (COOP).
Based on a document (AR 500-3) published
by the whistleblowing website Wikileaks, it described "all
hazards COOP planning" as the mechanism by which "the
Army remains capable of continuing mission-essential operations
during any situation, including military attack, terrorist activities,
and natural or man-made disasters."
The Wikileaks document is all the more
relevant since a September report in Army Times described how
the 3rd Infantry Division's 1st Brigade Combat Team (BCT) would
be deployed October 1 "under the day-to-day control of U.S.
Army North," the "service component" of NORTHCOM.
Since that article appeared September
8, Army Times has done a partial climb-down and now claims that
the "non-lethal crowd control package" described earlier
for operations in the heimat, "is intended for use on deployments
to the war zone, not in the U.S., as previously stated."
But this mendacious claim by Army Times
is belied by current political trends in the U.S. Under cover
of the "war on terror," driftnet surveillance and moves
toward suppressing dissent, most recently on display when protests
during the Democratic and Republican National Conventions were
criminalized and organizers were charged with "domestic terrorism"
under the Patriot Act, are but the tip of the proverbial iceberg.
Wholesale spying on activists by the Pentagon's
now defunct Counterintelligence Field Activity (CIFA), as well
as revelations that State police agencies in Maryland routinely
spied on antiwar organizers, shared this information with the
National Security Agency and classified them as "terrorists"
in government-run databases, are viewed as exemplary means to
"keep the rabble in line"-and under wraps, if necessary.
A highly-disturbing report by Christopher
Ketchum in the May/June 2008 issue of Radar Magazine, outlined
how the top secret Main Core database linked to Continuity of
Government contingency planning, "includes dissidents and
activists of various stripes, political and tax protesters, lawyers
and professors, publishers and journalists, gun owners, illegal
aliens, foreign nationals, and a great many other harmless, average
Reporting in July for Salon, investigative
journalist Tim Shorrock was told by a source that Main Core is
"'an emergency internal security database system' designed
for use by the military in the event of a national catastrophe,
a suspension of the Constitution or the imposition of martial
law. Its name is derived from the fact that it contains 'copies
of the 'main core' or essence of each item of intelligence information
on Americans produced by the FBI and the other agencies of the
U.S. intelligence community'."
As the historic economic and political
crisis gripping capitalism deepens and intensifies, and as stop-gap
measures deployed by the U.S. Treasury Department intended to
shore-up the crumbling financial sector crash, one by one, "forward
thinking" ruling class factions are openly preparing a "Pinochet
option" for the American people.
In this context, the militarization of
domestic law enforcement is now coupled with the military's own
rapid development and deployment of "non-lethal weapons"
systems which inevitably, will be "shared" with civilian
police for "crowd control." As with data mining, DHS
spy-satellite surveillance, blanket CCTV coverage of American
cities, illegal FBI deployment of infiltrators and provocateurs,
"mission creep" by the Pentagon into civil affairs are
signs that stronger measures to blunt the crisis may be in the
offing. (For more on the Pentagon's development of NLW's, see:
Antifascist Calling, "'Non-Lethal' Weapons: Where Science
and Technology Service Repression," July 8, 2008; and, Antifascist
Calling, "The Calmative Before the Storm," July 12,
During the recent Vibrant Response exercise
at Fort Stewart, Georgia, three units of NORTHCOM's Consequence
Management Response Force (CCMRF, pronounced "sea-smurfs"),
including two combat units from the 1st Brigade Combat Team, 3rd
Army Division and the elite 82nd Combat Aviation Brigade participated
in mock drills designed to "coordinate with local governments
and interagency organizations such as the Federal Bureau of Investigation
and the Federal Emergency Management Agency," according to
a report on U.S. Northern Command News.
Interestingly enough, Fort Stewart is
also the site of a top secret NSA listening post that routinely
"intercepted and transcribed satellite phone calls of American
civilians in the Middle East for the NSA," according to a
whistleblower and former Arab linguist attached to the illegal
NSA project, Wired reports.
Code-named "Operation Highlander,"
the top secret program was initiated in the wake of the September
11 attacks on orders from the Bush administration. According to
If the allegations are true, it would
seem to indicate that warrantless spying of Americans approved
by President Bush following 9/11 expanded rapidly beyond U.S.
borders to citizens overseas, notwithstanding United States Signals
Intelligence Directive 18, or USSID 18-an NSA rule that bars overseas
surveillance of Americans without authorization and probable cause.
(Kim Zetter, "Inside Operation Highlander," Wired, October
While the ostensible purpose of Vibrant
Response was to wargame scenarios where chemical, biological,
radiological, nuclear, or high-yield explosive incidents (CBRNE)
were launched "in the nation's heartland," what other
events could trigger the declaration of a "national security
emergency," or even martial law in the U.S.?
As Amy Goodman reported in a column for
Military participation in domestic operations
was originally outlawed with the Posse Comitatus Act in 1878.
The John Warner National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal
Year 2007, however, included a section that allowed the president
to deploy the armed forces to "restore public order"
or to suppress "any insurrection." While a later bill
repealed this, President Bush attached a signing statement that
he did not feel bound by the repeal. ("Invasion of the Sea-Smurfs,"
Democracy Now!, October 2, 2008)
As I pointed out in my October 6 article,
current Army doctrine is heavily-weighted towards contingency
planning for "civil disturbances." While these programs
are not new and in fact, plans such as Garden Plot and Cable Splicer
have been integral to military doctrine since the late 1960s,
what is new-and highly disturbing-is the launch of NORTHCOM's
Joint Task Force Civil Support (JTF-CS).
Located at Ft. Monroe in Hampton, Virginia,
JTF-CS is described on NORTHCOM's website as "a subordinate
command of U.S. Northern Command, a unified combatant command
formed in October 2002 to plan, organize and execute both homeland
defense and civil support missions."
While NORTHCOM claims that JTF-CS would
be deployed "only after a Governor requests federal assistance
from the President, and after the President issues a Presidential
Disaster Declaration," the Bush signing statement as well
as secret annexes in updated Continuity of Government planning
documents, National Security Presidential Directive 51/Homeland
Security Presidential Directive 20 (NSPD 51/HSPD 20) means, as
The President shall lead the activities
of the Federal Government for ensuring constitutional government.
In order to advise and assist the President in that function,
the Assistant to the President for Homeland Security and Counterterrorism
(APHS/CT) is hereby designated as the National Continuity Coordinator.
Federal Government COOP, COG, and ECG
plans and operations shall be appropriately integrated with the
emergency plans and capabilities of State, local, territorial,
and tribal governments, and private sector owners and operators
of critical infrastructure, as appropriate, in order to promote
interoperability and to prevent redundancies and conflicting lines
of authority. The Secretary of Homeland Security shall coordinate
the integration of Federal continuity plans and operations with
State, local, territorial, and tribal governments, and private
sector owners and operators of critical infrastructure, as appropriate,
in order to provide for the delivery of essential services during
an emergency. (The White House, President George W. Bush, NSPD
51/HSPD 20, May 7, 2007)
It should be kept in mind that top secret
annexes of this document have been withheld from Congress, despite
repeated requests-and legal oversight requirements-by the House
Homeland Security Committee, as Peter Dale Scott reported in March
NORTHCOM avers that,
The Primary Federal Agency [PFA] is the
federal civilian agency designated to coordinate and direct the
government's response to a disaster or emergency situation. Presidential
Decision Directive 39 designated the Federal Emergency Management
Agency as the PFA for managing the consequences of CBRNE events.
In most instances, FEMA will be the PFA, however, the Federal
Bureau of Investigation serves as the PFA for crisis management
in events designated as an act of terrorism. Although the JTF-CS
supports the PFA throughout a CBRNE consequence management operation,
the unit operates within a clear Department of Defense chain of
command. (U.S. Northern Command, Joint Task Force Civil Support,
FAQ, no date)
In other words, although civilian agencies
are the nominal PFA's during a "disaster or emergency situation,"
JTF-CS "operates within a clear Department of Defense chain
of command" that begins and ends with the Executive Branch,
that is, the President in his role as the leader of the "unitary
executive branch" and Commander-in-Chief. Were a "national
emergency" of any kind declared by the President, rules governing
Continuity of Government operations would place civilian agencies,
including "State, local, territorial, and tribal governments,
and private sector owners and operators of critical infrastructure,"
under the effective control of the military.
This is clearly delineated in Department
of Defense Directive 3025.12 (DoD 3025.12), "Military Assistance
for Civil Disturbances (MACDIS)":
Ensure continuous planning by the DoD
Components, both in the Department of Defense and in cooperation
with civil government agencies for MACDIS operations that may
be required during any time or condition of peace, war, or transition
to war, including any national security emergency.
The President is authorized by the Constitution
and laws of the United States to employ the Armed Forces of the
United States to suppress insurrections, rebellions, and domestic
violence under various conditions and circumstances. Planning
and preparedness by the Federal Government and the Department
of Defense for civil disturbances are important due to the potential
severity of the consequences of such events for the Nation and
Military resources may be employed in
support of civilian law enforcement operations in the 50 States,
the District of Columbia, the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, and
the U.S. territories and possessions only in the parameters of
the Constitution and laws of the United States and the authority
of the President and the Secretary of Defense, including delegations
of that authority through this Directive or other means.
The primary responsibility for protecting
life and property and maintaining law and order in the civilian
community is vested in the State and local governments. Supplementary
responsibility is vested by statute in specific Agencies of the
Federal Government other than the Department of Defense. The President
has additional powers and responsibilities under the Constitution
of the United States to ensure that law and order are maintained.
("Military Assistance for Civil Disturbances [MACDIS],"
Department of Defense Directive, No. 3025.12, February 4, 1994,
pp. 1, 3) [emphasis added]
The Executive Branch's leading role in
MACDIS operations are underscored by the following:
Delegations of Authority. The Secretary
of Defense shall be assisted in executing his responsibility for
MACDIS by the following:
The Secretary of the Army shall be the
DoD Executive Agent and shall act for the Secretary of Defense
in accordance with this Directive and any supplemental direction
or guidance received from the Secretary of Defense. In that capacity,
the DoD Executive Agent shall develop planning guidance, plans,
and procedures for MACDIS, in accordance with this Directive.
The DoD Executive Agent has the authority of the Secretary of
Defense to task the DoD Components to plan for and to commit DoD
resources, in response to requests from civil authorities under
MACDIS. The DoD Executive Agent shall coordinate with the Chairman
of the Joint Chiefs of Staff any commitment of Military Forces
assigned to the Combatant Commands.
The Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff
shall communicate to the Commanders of the Combatant Commands
appropriate guidance issued by the DoD Executive Agent for their
compliance with this Directive, and also shall assist the DoD
Executive Agent in developing MACDIS planning guidance for all
conditions of war or attacks on the United States or its territories.
For response to domestic terrorist incidents
and other purposes, the DoD Executive Agent shall obtain authority
from the Secretary of Defense for any employment of U.S. counterterrorism
forces. The DoD Executive Agent shall coordinate with the Chairman
of the Joint Chiefs of Staff any request, contingency plan, directive,
or order affecting the employment of such forces and, simultaneously,
shall provide all applicable information to the Assistant Secretary
of Defense (Special Operations and Low-Intensity Conflict), who
provides policy oversight for the Secretary of Defense, in accordance
with DoD Directive 5138.3 (reference (h)).
The Secretary of Defense reserves the
authority to modify or terminate the Executive Agency established
by this Directive if operational needs so require in a particular
situation. (MACDIS, op. cit., pp. 5-6)
What those "operational needs"
are that might require the Secretary of Defense to "modify
or terminate" the "Executive Agency" are not specified
in the MACDIS Directive. However, in this regard, it is clear
that a leading role of U.S. military "civil disturbance"
operations will be assumed by the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs
of Staff (JCS) and not a "Prime Federal Authority,"
that is a civilian agency. The JCS will,
In coordination with the DoD Executive
Agent, facilitate communications by the DoD Executive Agent with
Commanders of Combatant Commands, as appropriate.
Ensure the compatibility of MACDIS plans
with other military plans.
Assist in the DoD Executive Agent's determination
of military units and capabilities sufficient for all contingencies
of the GARDEN PLOT plan.
Support training for and coordinated evaluation
of MACDIS plans and capabilities by the Commanders of the Combatant
Commands through exercises or other means, as appropriate. (MACDIS,
op. cit., pp. 10-11)
Clearly, NORTHCOM's Vibrant Response exercise,
initiated by the Joint Task Force-Civil Support falls under the
broad purview of Garden Plot and other planning "contingencies."
In terms of dealing with a "national security emergency"
declared by the Executive Branch under rules governing Continuity
of Government operations, DoD 3025.12 describes "civil disturbances"
Group acts of violence and disorders prejudicial
to public law and order in the 50 States, the District of Columbia,
the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, the U.S. possessions and territories,
or any political subdivision thereof. The term "civil disturbance"
includes all domestic conditions requiring the use of Federal
Armed Forces under this Directive. (MACDIS, op. cit., p. 17)
Would, let's say, the eruption of mass
protests as a result of a stolen presidential election or mass
actions as a legitimate and exemplary civilian response to limiting
bank withdrawals, a freeze on Social Security payments, a prohibition
on strikes or the declaration of a "national security emergency"
as a result of prerevolutionary challenges to the legitimacy of
federal authority (as took place in Argentina in 2000 during that
nation's economic meltdown) trigger MACDIS and other Continuity
of Government operations?
DoD 3025.12 states, "Under reference
(r), the terms "major disaster" and "emergency"
are defined substantially by action of the President in declaring
that extant circumstances and risks justify Presidential implementation
of the legal powers in those statutes." In other words, "extant
circumstances" are "defined substantially" by the
President. Once triggered by Executive Order, the scope of operations
undertaken by the military acting as the enforcement arm of the
"unitary executive branch" are virtually unlimited.
Under these rules, martial law, suspension
of habeas corpus, indefinite detention would render lawful rules
guiding a constitutional republic moot; mere footnotes written
on the "blank page" of America's "new normal,"
what Naomi Klein has termed "disaster capitalism." Klein
A more accurate term for the system that
erases the boundaries between Big Government and Big Business
is not liberal, conservative or capitalist, but corporatist. Its
main characteristics are huge transfers of public wealth to private
hands, often accompanied by exploding debt, an ever-widening chasm
between the dazzling rich and the disposable poor and an aggressive
nationalism that justifies unlimited spending on security. For
those inside the bubble of extreme wealth created by such an arrangement,
there can be no more profitable way to organize a society. But
because of the obvious drawbacks for the vast majority of the
population left outside the bubble, other features of the corporatist
state tend to include aggressive surveillance (once again, with
government and large corporations trading favors and contracts),
mass incarceration, shrinking civil liberties and often, though
not always, torture. (The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster
Capitalism, New York: Metropolitan Books, 2007, p. 15)
Now that the economic bubble for the vast
majority of Americans has burst, "shrinking civil liberties"
are rushing headlong towards the vanishing point.
While DoD 3025.12 states that "any
employment of Military Forces in support of law enforcement operations
shall maintain the primacy of civilian authorities," as noted
above JTF-CS "operates within a clear Department of Defense
chain of command," answerable to the President, the Secretary
of Defense and the Secretary of the Army as the "DoD Executive
Agent for MACDIS."
Clearly, a "terrorist attack"
or "any national security emergency" so designated by
the President would trigger MACDIS guidance for "civilian
law enforcement operations" and fall under the purview of
NORTHCOM and JTF-CS as "a subordinate command" and would
play a leading role in responding to "any national security
emergency" declared by the President.
Despite the repeal of the "Insurrection
Act Rider" to the 2007 Defense Appropriations bill that gave
the President sweeping emergency power to deploy the military
for any "condition" he might cite, not merely a terrorist
atrocity or CBRNE "event," the Bush "signing statement"
reported by Amy Goodman above, effectively nullified Congress'
intent not to give the president carte blanche to station U.S.
troops on American streets.
While NORTHCOM insists that JTF-CS, "will
not be called upon to help with law enforcement, civil disturbance
or crowd control, but will be used to support lead agencies involved
in saving lives," as I have outlined above, citing the DoD's
own documents and Executive Branch National Security Presidential
Directives, contingency plans for suppressing "civil disturbance"
such as the Garden Plot scenario are, like an iron fist inside
a velvet glove, already in place and capable at a moment's notice
of striking the American people.
During these dark times, it is well-worth
recalling the sage advice of the great American revolutionary
Thomas Jefferson: The strongest reason for the people to retain
the right to keep and bear arms is, as a last resort, to protect
themselves against tyranny in government.
Tom Burghardt is a researcher and activist
based in the San Francisco Bay Area. In addition to publishing
in Covert Action Quarterly, Love & Rage and Antifa Forum,
he is the editor of Police State America: U.S. Military "Civil
Disturbance" Planning, distributed by AK Press. Read other
articles by Tom, or visit Tom's website.
Thirdworldization of America