Word today that the United States Marine Corps has created “Law Enforcement Battalions”, three so far. The purpose?
…quickly deploy worldwide to help investigate crimes from terrorism to drug trafficking and train fledgling security forces in allied nations.
To do what, exactly?
…helping control civil disturbances, handling detainees, carrying out forensic work, and using biometrics to identify suspects. Durham said they could assist local authorities in allied countries in securing crime scenes and building cases so criminals end up behind bars and not back out on the streets because of mistakes.
My reaction is admittedly visceral. And negative. I don’t know exactly why, but I will try to identify the cause of my predilection against the formation of these units. Perhaps I am wrong. I sincerely hope so. It wouldn’t be the first time, nor certainly the last. Still….
There is the practical consideration that a combat Marine is different from a policeman. Different rules, different reactions, different training, different purpose. It is a fair-sized assumption, I wager, that the paradigm shift can be made with sufficient rapidity in either direction to avoid loss of life, both civilian, and more importantly, those of the Marines. And that an adaptive and ruthless enemy will not constantly exploit the seams between full-scale military operations and law enforcement to his significant advantage.
But I have other concerns, those of a somewhat more serious nature. Perhaps I am careening down the track of conspiracy theory and need to adjust my tinfoil. I probably shouldn’t have those concerns.
However, the idea of a militarized police force should be of concern to those who value our individual liberties, and we have seen the drastic militarizing of Federal, State, and municipal law enforcement over the last several years. SWAT teams and armored vehicles, automatic weapons, military uniforms, often in places where there hasn’t been a felony in years. Doors being kicked in, warrantless searches, and a heavy hand with the American public. The outcry has been notably absent. Have we gotten used to such things, accepted them? No, surely we haven’t.
Just the same, I would feel far better about it if I didn’t know that the Marine Corps is bound by only DoD regulation, and not Posse Comitatus, in the prohibition of performing police functions against American citizens on US soil. And that Veterans who believe in the Second Amendment, and smaller and less intrusive government have not already been identified by Federal law enforcement as “home grown terrorist” suspects. But I could be over-reacting. I must be.
Nonetheless, I am apprehensive to watch our own government decide that, despite the fact that Islamic Extremists have declared jihad on America, and were responsible for the Lockerbie bombing, Khobar Towers, USS Cole, 9/11, the Fort Hood massacre, and numerous other failed attempts to kill Americans in the name of Allah, our war is against “violent extremists”. While all the time constantly seeming to shape that term to define political opponents rather than actual threats to our national safety and security. My reasoning must be errant. Has to be.
Even so, I would be far less concerned if our Attorney General could show me in writing where the Federal Government has the authority to kill a US citizen abroad without trial, without, in fact, charging him with a crime. And if the Director of the FBI was a little more certain that he would rule such Government action out even on US soil. But that happening seems far-fetched, doesn’t it?
Yet, the language of the Defense Authorization Act of 2012 seems to grant powers to the Federal Government that our Constitution expressly forbade. And those whose voices were loudest in condemning the PATRIOT Act are decidedly mute. But there isn’t any way that our military would ever be called to arrest and detain US citizens on US soil without charge. It is unimaginable. Right?
Except, we see time and again, pliable senior civilian and senior uniformed Officers in our Defense Department seemingly much more concerned with currying favor with their political overlords than they are about training and preparing their services for war, or with upholding the Constitution they were sworn to support and defend. But perhaps I shouldn’t be concerned that true faith and allegiance seems in short supply. They will make the tough, correct, morally-sound but career-ending call when the time comes, won’t they? Sure they will.
I am probably wrong in my initial reaction to the Marine Corps standing up Police Battalions. Er, Law Enforcement Battalions, officially. But then, what’s in a name? And I could be entirely wrong regarding my ill-at-ease about the path we seem to be heading down with respect to expanding Federal powers and a curtailing of individual freedom. I sure hope so.
One thing I do know, know it for certain. Never, ever, ever give a government unbridled authority over its peoples, along with the quasi-legal apparatus to enforce it, and then expect that it not be used. Nor ever rely on the benevolence of those in charge to maintain your freedom. Our Founding Fathers, in their brilliance, knew it all too well. They even wrote it down for us.
“Society, in all its forms, is a blessing. Government, at best, is a necessary evil.”
-Thomas Paine, Common Sense