Online Journal Contributing Writer
August 19, 2005?Of course, few are putting it that way. But in an August 8, 2005, Washington Post article, its author Bradley Graham headlined it this way: “War Plans Drafted To Counter Terror Attacks in U.S.?Domestic Effort is Big Shift for Military.” What a flair for understatement.
Datelined from Colorado Springs, the Evangelical Christian, Northern Command headquarters, Graham writes, “The U.S. Military has devised its first-ever war plans for guarding against and responding to terrorist attacks in the United States, envisioning 15 potential crisis scenarios and anticipating several simultaneous strikes around the country, according to officers who drafted the plans.” Well thanks, fellas, for the effort, but it’s been nearly four years since 9/11.
Nevertheless, “the classified plans . . . outline a variety of possible roles for quick-reaction forces estimated at as many as 3,000 ground troops per attack, a number that could easily grow depending on the extent of the damage and the abilities of civilian response teams.” Huh? When, where, who?
And “the possible scenarios range from ‘low end,’ relatively modest crowd-control missions to ‘high-end,’ full-scale [and/or multiple] disaster management after catastrophic attacks such as the release of a deadly biological agent or the explosion of a radiological device, several officers said.”
Translated into everyday English, if there’s a real or, dare I say, “false flag” op/disaster in the A (atomic), B (biological) or C (chemical) areas, a la 9/11, or like the Maryland-based, government “anthrax” attack, we could be in a national state of martial law, up to our ears. C’est la vie, n’est pas, or non?
The article says, “The war plans represent a historic shift for the Pentagon, which has been reluctant [not] to become involved in domestic operations and is legally constrained from engaging in law enforcement. Indeed, defense officials continue to stress that they intend for troops to play largely a supporting role in homeland emergencies, bolstering police, the firefighters and other civilian reponse groups.”
Bolstering is it? A largely supporting role? That may be. “But the new plans provide for what several senior officers acknowledged is the likelihood that the military will have to take charge in some situations, especially when dealing with mass-casualty attacks that could quickly overwhelm civilian resources.” Take charge? Take civil liberties away. Okay, and take what else?
Admiral Timothy J. Keating, head of NORTHCOM, which coordinates military involvement in homeland security operations, said, “In my estimation in a biological, a chemical or nuclear attack in any of the 50 states, the Department of Defense is best positioned?of the various eight federal agencies that would be involved?to take the lead.”
I’m sure you’ll also be running parallel drills left and right. I know the military exercises code-named Vital Arch involve troops in lead roles and are zip-the-lips secret. But “other homeland exercises featuring troops in supporting roles are widely publicized,” you say. I haven’t heard of one. Also, who knows if and when a real attack strikes how much of your ability to respond will be siphoned off or even caused by drills?giving you the power to take over a city, a state, even the nation. And what about the cops, firemen and EMS?I guess they’re under your command as well?
In general, Admiral, it seems like a stretch of the law let alone your capability “to build a more credible homeland defense force . . .” As you say, “They come at a time when senior Pentagon officials are engaged in an internal, year-long review of force levels and weapons systems, attempting to balance the heightened requirement of homeland defense against the heavy demands of overseas deployments in Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere.” Seems like you’ve got a lot on your plate as well as phrases in that sentence, sir.
Maj. Gen. Richard J. Rowe, NORTHCOM’s chief operations officer, worries that the “‘stress points’ in some military capabilities probably would result if troops were called on to deal with multiple homeland attacks.” Well, internal stress points certainly complicated things on 9/11, like United Airlines Flight 93 going down over southwest Pennsylvania. Ironically, many witnesses claimed it was shot down by a military looking plane accompanied by two F-16’s. What’s more, American Airlines Flight 77 somehow managed to squeeze itself into the Pentagon and vanish in an 18-foot wide hole (including fuselage, wings, baggage, body parts, et al). Yet some part of it [?] exited from an 8-foot wide hole three rings through. And we weren’t even at war with Afghanistan then or illegally at war with Iraq. Nor had we lost thousands of men or experienced thousands more casualties. So how are you guys going to juggle all this?
Presenting the Plan
The Pentagon talks about two command plans. First (and don’t be put off by the names) CONPLAN 2002, over 1,000 pages, is an “umbrella document.” The CON is for concept, not what you may have thought, or maybe not. This draws together previous orders for homeland missions for air, sea and land ops, both for post-attack responses and prevention/deterrence actions to intercept threats before they reach the United States. Whew. Pity we couldn’t do a whit of this on 9/11 just in old New York, D.C. or Pa. The second plan (aptly named CONPLAN 2005) is solely about managing the attacks’ consequences as presented in the 15 scenarios. What if it’s something not in the scenarios, like two jetliners whacking the Twin Towers for the first time? Do we still call 911? Or will the Pentagon make sure it’s one of the 15 scenarios as only it can do?
Now CONPLAN 2002, we’re told, has passed muster with the Pentagon’s Joint Staff and will soon get passed up to Donald H. Rumsfeld for study and stamp of approval. You remember Rumsfeld, don’t you? He’s the one who in the October 12, 2002, interview with Parade Magazine was noted in regard to the Pentagon attack to say, “Here we’re talking about plastic knives and using an American Airlines flight filled with our citizens, and the missile to damage this building and similar (inaudible) that damaged the World Trade Center.”
Missile? What missile? Did he know something we didn’t? Did he have any proof? He’d better or he’d be in a helluva lot of hot water. Missile. Jesus.
Getting back to CONPLAN 0500, that’s still undergoing rewrites, like any good script. Both CONPLANs tend to be shortened versions of an OPLAN, or “operations plan,” which we’re told specifies forces and timelines for movement into a time zone. I’ll bet. Today New Jersey, tomorrow California.
We’re also told the plans, like much about NORTHCOM, “mark a new venture by a U.S. military establishment still trying to find its comfort level with the idea of a greater homeland defense role after the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks.” Uh huh, got it.
Ranking military and civilian Pentagon policymakers understand, they say, that on one hand the armed forces have a lot to offer in numbers of troops, and also in their breadth of experience managing crises and responding to emergencies. On the other hand, they do worry too much involvement in homeland missions would cut the military’s clout to deal with threats abroad. And I say it might also make America look like a fascist state, what with the U.S. boots filling your town and mine, coast to coast. We certainly wouldn’t want that.
In fact, the Pentagon’s new homeland defense strategy actually emphases in boldface type that “domestic security is primarily a civilian law enforcement function.” Ah the Pentagon doth protest too much, though the caveat is that ground troops might be sent into action on U.S. soil to counter security threats and deal with major emergencies. And I guess they decide what such threats are and what constitutes major.
But have no fear. James Carafano, who deals with homeland security issues for the slightly-to-the-right-of-Ghengus Khan Heritage Foundation, says, “For the Pentagon to acknowledge that it would have to respond to catastrophic attack and needs a plan was a big step.” Wow, that is large, James: really big thinking. Their motives must be pure. But just so you know, “since NORTHCOM’s inception in October 2002, its headquarters staff has grown to about 640 members, making it larger than the Southern Command, which oversees operations in Latin America, but smaller than the regional commands for Europe, the Middle East and the Pacific.” Well, at least there’s some perspective. No one would want it that big, would we America? Nevertheless, “A brief tour late last month of NORTHCOM’s operations center . . . found officers monitoring not only aircraft and ship traffic around the United States but also the Discovery space shuttle mission, the National Scott Jamboree in Virginia, several border surveillance operations and a few forest firefighting efforts.” And tomorrow the world. And how?
Introducing the “Dual-Use” Approach
The command settled on using one big pool of troops trained for both the homeland und overseas assignments. And they’ll be counting on the old National Guard, which has a growing network of 22-member civil support teams for all states while putting together a dozen or so 12-member regional response units. Sounds like they are spread a little thin, though I realize the NORTHCOM chief can call on active-duty troops as well. Would he call them back from Iraq or Afghanistan if need be, or call some more from high school and college classes? Congress did give the Guard a wider authority to perform homeland missions, including securing power plants and other important facilities. So, they could be very busy guys.
Also, Admiral Keating gained authority to send fighter jets out, even to dispatch Navy and Coast Guard ships for off-coast threats. Plus he has immediate access to four, count ’em, four active duty Army battalions based around the USA. Don’t mess with him.
But, supposedly, even if they had to take the lead role in homeland ops, it would “probably” just be temporary. Sooner (preferably) or later, the leadership responsibility would pass back to civilian authorities. Or else, someone might get that old martial law feeling again.
Nasty Legal Questions
Now, those pesky civil liberties groups are waving fingers at all this, saying the military’s widened participation in homeland defense could conflict with the Posse Comitatus Act of 1878. It definitely restricts the use of troops in homeland law enforcement. But then why did the Pentagon tell Congress they saw no need to change the law? Are they just going to ignore it?
The military lawyers say the use of ground troops would be likely justified under the president’s authority in Article 2 of the Constitution, where he serves as commander in chief to protect the nation. What? Like starting an illegal unilateral war with Iraq was supposed to protect us from weapons of mass destruction? Does he have the credibility and judgment to do that?even though Col. John Gereski, a senior NORTHCOM lawyer cites Article 2 as a good starting place to hand Bush these powers?
What’s more, there’s another sticky wicket that Admiral Keating pointed out. National Guard officers put in command of task forces including active-duty and/or Guard units, which act under state control, are not covered under the Posse Comitatus restrictions. As Keating said, “It could be a challenge for the commander who’s a Guardsman, if we end up in a fairly complex, dynamic scenario.” He envisioned a situation in which Guard units might begin to round up people while regular forces could not. Well, they could toss a coin for who’s really in control, and best two out of three flips for which people should be “rounded up.” Let’s be fair here. Works in the Superbowl.
But hey, the command is sensitive to legal issues, Gereski noted. Why they’ve got 14, count ’em, 14 lawyers on staff, compared to 10 or fewer at other commands. One lawyer, we’re told, serves “full time at the command’s Combined Intelligence and Fusion Center, which joins military analysts with law enforcement and counterintelligence specialists from such civilian agencies as the FBI, CIA and the Secret Service.” Boy, that makes me feel safe, the Fusion Center. In fact, we’re told, there’s no intelligence collection at all there, only analysis. Well, I can relax now.
One senior supervisor noted “the military operation under long-standing rules [is] intended to protect civilian liberties. The rules, for instance, block military access to intelligence information on political dissent or purely criminal activity.” I bet you all feel like a million bucks now, especially you bloggers, Internet writers and investigative reporters. Though keep in mind, the center’s lawyer is called in every now and then to rule on the right or wrong-ness of some kinds of info sharing. Recently, he was called in twice in 10 days, but declined to give specifics. You know, loose lips sink ships. So button those lips. Because any day now, someone, somewhere, somehow, could decide to attack. And like the song says, “That could be the start of something new.” Something like a Brave New World.
Jerry Mazza is a freelance writer residing in New York. Reach him at email@example.com .