Posse Comitatus Act

The Article was originally posted in 2005. We thought we would just remind you of it……


The Posse Comitatus Act of 1878 was championed by far-sighted Southern lawmakers. They had experienced a fifteen year military occupation by the U.S. Army in post-Civil War law enforcement. They understood the heel of a jackboot.

In a nutshell, this act bans the Army, Navy, Air Force and Marines from participating in arrests, searches, seizure of evidence and other police-type activity on U.S. soil. The Coast Guard and National Guard troops under the control of state governors are excluded from the act.

In the aftermath of Hurricane’s Katrina and Rita, Federal troops could not be used other than for rescue and humanitarian reasons.

Just a little bit of states rights that still exist.

Another good reason for studying our history; “For those that do not heed the lessons of history are doomed to repeat it.”

I also like this profound quote from Winston Churchill; “The farther backward you will look, the farther forward you will see.”

Thanks to Joe Stout and Mat McClain


Image result for posse comitatus lawMore on the act

I was reminded in that in 1878, Congress enacted the Posse Comitatus law, which bans the use of American military personnel in domestic law enforcement. The inspiration for that law was the abusive behavior of military personnel used to enforce Reconstruction policies in the conquered South.

During debate over the measure, one congressman offered this grim recital of official abuses: “Our Army, degraded from its high position of defenders of the country from foreign and domestic foes, has been used as a police; has taken possession of polls and controlled elections; has been sent with fixed bayonets into the halls of State Legislatures in time of peace and under the pretense of threatened outbreak.”

The Posse Comitatus Act was intended to prevent a relapse of such outrages, as well as to fortify the critical barrier between law enforcement and the military.

In 2002, the Bush administration urged Congress to undertake a review of the Posse Comitatus law, with a view toward modifying it (or perhaps repealing it outright) in the name of fighting terrorism. The armed violence that erupted in New Orleans subsequent to Hurricane Katrina has triggered a renewed focus on “reexamining” Posse Comitatus.

In a September 14 letter to Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman John Warner (R-Va.) wrote:

“I recommend that you conduct a thorough review of the entire legal framework governing a President’s power to use the regular armed forces to restore public order in those limited situations involving a large-scale, protracted emergency like the present one. This review should include the Posse Comitatus Act itself…. The inquiry should not be limited to natural disasters, but should also include large-scale public health emergencies, terrorist incidents, and any other situations which could result in serious breakdowns in public order.”

Senator Warner’s formulation could be used to justify imposition of martial law in the event that a post-Super Bowl victory celebration gets out of hand.

The Bush administration had embraced this idea.

On September 25, President Bush indicated “that he may ask Congress to put the Pentagon in charge of the response to domestic disasters such as the two recent hurricanes — a change that could take authority from the hands of governors and local officials,” reported the Houston Chronicle.

%d bloggers like this: