Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Rand Paul and Militarizing U.S. Soil

Senator Rand Paul (R-KY) filibustered in the Senate until the Obama administration provided an explicit statement that the U.S. government does not have the right to assassinate (with an unmanned aerial systems—UAS) a U.S. citizen on U.S. soil when that person is not deemed to pose an imminent threat to anyone’s life or physical safety.

Senator Paul’s victory garnered some support for his action. Yet he gained criticism as well—and not just from the political left.

Senators McCain and Graham criticized Senator Paul’s arguments. Former federal prosecutor and conservative pundit Andrew McCarthy also criticized his arguments.

But concerns about the safety of law-abiding U.S. citizens on U.S. soil have not come merely from the use of UAS and assassinating U.S. citizens on U.S. soil.

Multiple reports have emerged of the Department of Homeland Security and other federal organizations massing ammunition and moving ammunition containers around the nation.

WND reported this month that the federal government has amassed enough ammunition for 100 years.

This has raised questions and concerns among people throughout the U.S. published, “Why are the feds loading up on so much ammo?” this February. And radio host Mark Levin and former Alaskan governor Sarah Palin have noted that the federal government could be preparing for societal collapse with its large purchases of ammunition.

Others have dismissed such questions and concerns.

Charles C. W. Cooke writing at National Review Online (“The Great Ammunition Myth”) concluded that while there are some legitimate questions about which agencies are purchasing ammunition, there is no plan by the federal government to use the ammunition during a time of civil unrest.

But the federal government hasn’t just been purchasing large amounts of ammunition. The Department of Homeland Security has also purchased approximately 2,700 Mine-Resistant, Ambush-Protected (MRAP) vehicles from the Department of Defense.

MRAP vehicles were specifically designed to protect U.S. troops against improvised explosive devices (IED) in Afghanistan and Iraq.

The combination of massive ammunition purchases and MRAP purchases has garnered enough attention that U.S. Representative Leonard Lance (R-7th District, NJ), in response to a question, has stated that he wants the Department of Homeland Security to explain why it has made the purchases of ammunition and MRAPs it has made.

Military training in U.S. civilian, urban environments is yet another concern of Americans about their federal government.

Training exercises have been reported in cities such as Minneapolis, Boston, Los Angeles, Miami, St. Louis, Seattle, Houston, and Harrisburg (PA) during the past few years.

These training exercises are sometimes announced to the public and sometimes explained.

WND published a typical explanation for these exercises during January of this year.

Army spokesman Michael Noggle told WND that the military considers the drills routine, and it’s the responsibility of local authorities who give the military permission to stage practice assaults to notify their residents.
“These are standard training exercises known [as] realistic urban training conducted by units from United States Special Operations Command,” he said.
He continued, “The purpose of the realistic urban training is to give our Special Operators an opportunity to hone their skills in a controlled, but unfamiliar, realistic urban environment that cannot be replicated with the bare-boned facades found on military installation ranges.”

This explanation is undoubtedly partially true. Yet, the answer does not address the properness of conducting such realistic training exercises in civilian urban environments, especially when they often frighten people.
Other official explanations are blunter and less forthcoming, essentially saying that public has no right to know about them.
ABC 27 News reported on a training exercise during January of this year after federal and state officials cooperated on an unannounced training exercise at the Capitol in Harrisburg, PA.

Troy Thompson, PA General Services Spokesman, explained why there was no early warning about the maneuvers.
“We didn’t alert the public because there was no danger to the public by conducting the drill, and it needed to be an in and out type of drill for this particular law enforcement agency,” he said.
Capitol police and Dauphin County 911 did know this was going to happen.
They didn’t tell the general public because they didn’t want people videotaping it and seeing the tactics being practiced.

In addition to the ammunition massing and increased visibility of military training in urban environments, the Obama administration has made some questionable comments about military or paramilitary operations in the United States.
President Obama said in 2008 (when he was a presidential candidate):

We cannot continue to rely only on our military in order to achieve the national security objectives that we’ve set. We’ve got to have a civilian national security force that’s just as powerful, just as strong, just as well-funded.

US Attorney General Eric Holder Jr. has shown interest in examining the Saudi Munasaha (Counseling) counter-terrorism program so as to apply it in the United States.
“Too many of our young people are disaffected and attracted to violent ideologies and so we want to work with our Saudi allies and examine the program and see how we might apply that in the United States,” he told a press conference at the US Embassy here Sunday.
“I’m more concerned about the threat from inside the US and people who turn to violent extremism,” he said, underscoring the importance of cooperation with the Saudi government to ensure the safety of both nations.

While Holder, could be referring to the recent report from the Henry Jackson Society that claims a large number of U.S. Islamic terrorism comes from U.S. citizens, his remarks could also be interpreted as being aimed at so-called “right-wing extremists,” especially when considering that the Associated Press ran a piece this month on the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC).

In a letter today to U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder and Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano, the SPLC warned of the potential for domestic terrorism and urged the creation of a task force to assess whether there are enough federal resources devoted to the threat.

That letter from the SPLC to the Attorney General and Homeland Security Secretary is particularly noteworthy considering evidence uncovered by Judicial Watch in January of this year that the SPLC and Attorney General / Department of Justice have a close working relationship.
The long-term political effect of Senator Paul’s filibuster remains to be seen. However, the concern for the safety of U.S. citizens on U.S. soil from the federal government is a concern that a growing number of Americans have, not just because of the increased use of UAVs on American soil, but because of a number of other issues as well.

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