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  • ACLU questions role of Active duty unit...

    ACLU questions homeland role of active unit




    By William H. McMichael - Staff writer
    Posted : Thursday Oct 23, 2008 7:14:31 EDT

    The American Civil Liberties Union is questioning the use of an active Army brigade as an on-call federal response force within the U.S., arguing that the military is barred from any role in civilian law enforcement and that the force could be used to help the Pentagon conduct domestic surveillance.
    The ACLU filed Freedom of Information Act requests Tuesday with the Pentagon and Department of Justice asking for “any and all records” related to the decision to align the unit under U.S. Northern Command, which is responsible for homeland defense of the U.S., and the “ongoing and possible use” of the unit, “including but not limited to contemplated functions; duties; surveillance activities; and relationship to existing civilian agencies or personnel or the National Guard.”
    The ACLU FOIA request cites a Sept. 30 Army Times online story, “3rd Infantry’s 1st BCT trains for a new dwell-time mission,” and a U.S. Army North news release, as its sources for the information.
    The brigade combat team is spending its 12-month “dwell time” period, which began Oct. 1 following 15 months in Iraq that ended in April, as NorthCom’s CBRNE (chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear or high-yield explosive) Consequence Management Response Force. In addition to terrorist attacks, the team will also get tapped to respond to natural or manmade emergencies and disasters.
    Active-duty units have previously been deployed within U.S. borders, most recently along the Gulf Coast in the aftermath of 2005’s Hurricane Katrina.
    But the 3rd Infantry, 1st BCT assignment marks the first time an active unit has been dedicated to NorthCom. Established in 2002, its commander is responsible for the land, air and sea defense of the U.S. and to lead forces operating within the U.S. in support of civilian authorities.
    The assignment, the ACLU said, “raises important questions about the longstanding separation between civilian and military government within the United States — a separation that dates to the nation’s founding and that has been reiterated in landmark statutes, most importantly, the Posse Comitatus Act.”
    The ACLU said its domestic surveillance concerns are “heightened by the government’s prior expansion of domestic surveillance activities in the name of national security.”
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