Saturday, August 22, 2009

More Militasry Intrusion Into Law Enforcement

August 21, 2009

The Progressive


More Military Intrusion Into Law Enforcement By Matthew Rothschild


Here’s another story about the ever-eroding line between the military and civilian law enforcement.


On Aug. 9, nine peace activists walked onto the base at Fort McCoy in Wisconsin to protest the wars against Iraq and Afghanistan, to demand the return of the National Guard, and to call for nuclear disarmament.


They were cited for federal trespassing, and five were released. But the Army police at Fort McCoy detained the other four, who had previously been apprehended there. The Army police held them for more than three hours, and then drove them 70 miles to the Dane County jail in Madison and put a hold on them until the next day.


Problem is, the Army is prohibited by the Posse Comitatus Act from engaging in domestic law enforcement. And Army regulations say that civilians should be issued citations and then turned over “to the appropriate civilian authorities.” In this case, it would have been the U.S. Marshals. But the Marshals didn’t come and get them.


The four activistsJoy First, Alice Gerard, Brian Terrell, and Bonnie Urferwere evidently held for 24 hours on the authority of Fort McCoy alone.


Bonnie Urfer, the director of Nukewatch, was one of those detained.

She says “the officials at Fort McCoy acted as judge and jury.”


A lawyer for the four activists, Larry Hildes of the National Lawyers Guild, says this was a “virtual kidnapping” and they are considering suing Fort McCoy for false imprisonment and for violating the Posse Comitatus Act.


Entering Fort McCoy’s website itself is kind of chilly.


You are immediately told the following:


“You are accessing a U. S. Government (USG) Information System (IS) that is provided for USG-authorized use only. By using this IS (which includes any device attached to this IS), you consent to the following

conditions: The USG routinely intercepts and monitors communications on this IS for purposes including, but not limited to, penetration testing, COMSEC monitoring, network operations and defense, personnel misconduct (PM), law enforcement (LE), and counterintelligence (CI) investigations. At any time, the USG may inspect and seize data stored on this IS.”


Fort McCoy issued a statement on August 20 in response the activists’ allegations. It said that the protesters were warned several times that “repeat offenders would be arrested and transported to Madison for processing.” It also said that the four “were previously mailed barment letters warning them that they would be subject to apprehension and detainment for prosecution under 18 U.S. Code Section 1382 if they reentered the Fort McCoy Reservation.”


That section states: “Whoever reenters or is found within any such reservation, post, fort, arsenal, yard, station, or installation, after having been removed therefrom or ordered not to reenter by any officer or person in command or charge thereofshall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than six months, or both.”


That section does not state, however, that the Army itself has the right to fine or imprison those who reenter forts.


U.S. Attorney John Vaudreuil told Wisconsin Public Radio that the problem with the detaining of the peace activists was due to “a glitch in communications between his office and the military police at the base.” When he found out that the four were in the Dane County jail, he ordered them to be immediately released.


“We acted as quickly as we could to do what we should have done, to get them back on the streets and in their homes,” he told The Progressive. “As a general rule, we process them with momentary arrest, we give them a violation notice, a ticket of sorts, and they’re walked back to their cars.” But he added: “Certainly we have the authority to arrest and do things differently.” And he is prepared to defend the Fort McCoy police. “We certainly believe they acted lawfully,” he said.


“It appears to me that we were simply being sentenced by the Army for returning to the Fort,” says Terrell, a Catholic Worker and a member of Voices for Creative Nonviolence.


“I’m not interested in getting even,” says Terrell. “But I want accountability.”


He sees what happened to them, small as he concedes it was, as “part of a larger pattern of abuse: It’s the Army feeling that the rules that bound it before don’t apply.”


Bonnie Urfer, however, does not want to press charges. “I’m not interested in pursuing this further,” she says. She says the violations against them were “so paltry” compared to what people had to endure down in Guantanamo, for instance. She thinks the violations may have been due to mere “incompetence.” And she doesn’t want to be distracted from her larger work of opposing war and nuclear weapons.


But Urfer and Terrell agree on most things, including this: “Our civil rights are not protected by illegal wars,” Terrell says. “They’re eroded by them.”


Donations can be sent to the Baltimore Nonviolence Center, 325 E. 25th St., Baltimore, MD 21218.  Ph: 410-366-1637; Email: mobuszewski [at]


"The master class has always declared the wars; the subject class has always fought the battles. The master class has had all to gain and nothing to lose, while the subject class has had nothing to gain and everything to lose--especially their lives." Eugene Victor Debs


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