We have said in a few prior blogs that our nation can get to a point of martial law without a formal declaration of martial law, and we are at that point now. If you’ve been following the news, you’re probably aware of federal agents with no clear name tags, insignias, and using unmarked civilian vehicles to grab individuals off the street. Reports are coming out that Chicago may be soon receiving the same treatment. Before you run to the comment section and point out that the individuals destroying public and federal property should be dealt with in any manner necessary to get things under control, a reaction we admittedly had when we first read the reports and saw the videos coming out of Portland, Oregon, there’s a lot we need to unpack here and detail why this is very problematic. Some of the laws put in place to keep us safe from tyranny are being dismantled or circumvented in the name of keeping the peace. We watched a similar thing play out after September eleventh when the Patriot Act was initiated. We traded our freedoms in the name of safety and we’ve never gotten those rights back. You need to be aware of how this is happening, that it is happening now, and what you can do about it. Secretive Federal Protective Services armed like the military are a dangerous erosion of your freedoms and liberties. You cannot ignore this assault on your constitutional rights. If you’re a big First Amendment person, you should be outraged that the public voice is being stifled by secret police forces which are currently being deployed and caught on video which we’ll talk about more in a moment. If you’re a big Second Amendment person, you can’t assume you’re going to be able to stop the government if it comes for you in organized numbers, unmarked vehicles, and wearing masks.
To be clear, we am very pro-order and anti-anarchy. While we’re seeing those that would attempt to create chaos in cities like Portland that should be deterred, we will always applaud those that would use their voices for peaceful protest. We, however, cautious of government overreach in our lives as much as we are a proponent of good policing and solid laws. We are suspicious of anyone who paints people with broad strokes of condemnation, regardless of who those people are. Let’s look at the facts here and question the possible outcomes.
And before we go into the details of what is happening, it’s important to note that we tolerate today will be the norm tomorrow. We can’t think of a time in history where soldiers grabbing people off the street with no due process has ever ended well. And we’ll talk about that more toward the end of this blog. On a side note, the Onion, which is a satire news source has done a phenomenal job with this situation insinuating that this is part of a Surprise makeover series.
Section five of Executive Order one-three-nine-thirty-three, signed on June twenty-sixth, twenty-twenty puts a contract on your personal liberties. It states that “Upon the request of the Secretary of the Interior, the Secretary of Homeland Security, or the Administrator of General Services, the Secretary of Defense, the Attorney General, and the Secretary of Homeland Security shall provide, as appropriate and consistent with applicable law, personnel to assist with the protection of Federal monuments, memorials, statues, or property.” The federal government, however, has interpreted this as a means to deploy a paramilitary force in some cities that is not “assisting” the local law enforcement.
We firmly believe that what is happening right now in Portland and a few other cities across America right now is a test. We’re not talking about the protests being a test of First Amendment rights. We’re not talking about the instances of vandalism or looting. To be clear, we believe that vandals, violence, and anarchy should be dealt with through the full measure of the existing laws. When local or state officials request assistance from the Federal government, it should be granted, but we are not seeing that. What we are seeing are secret police forces, absent a clear mandate or clearly defined rules of engagement, composed of individuals not well-versed in individual liberties or laws…we can’t even say arresting here…they are, literally, grabbing people off the streets and whisking them away in unmarked cars to God only knows where.
Secret police are the hallmark of authoritarian regimes, and we have a neutral rule of law established to maintain all of our rights and to define for us who are the bad guys and who are the good guys. When we allow the selective determinations of right and wrong to be made by a loosely formed para-military composed of multiple agencies and absent a clearly defined mandate from which to operate, we set all citizens up for the possibility of their rights being trampled. We don’t have to look too far back into the recent past to see how the Russian Federation used unmarked green army uniforms during the Ukranian crisis that eventually led to the annexing of Crimea.
Were the people whisked away really bad guys? Had they done something wrong? We don’t know. We don’t know what agency to ask? There lies the second problem with this. In the fog of conflict, can we honestly say that these unidentifiable forces are enforcing a larger mandate or law? What is to stop these group of federal agents from simply deciding that a person is suspicious enough to apprehend and whisk away?
If we allow unidentifiable agencies to make these detainments, what is to stop any small group of people, perhaps not even associated with any federal agency, from dressing up in tactical gear and whisking people away in unmarked vehicles? Can any group with guns and tactical gear now prey upon our community, our families, or any of our fellow citizens, because they don’t need to declare who they are and we don’t have the right to know? If they’re not specifically caught in the act, it could happen today in Portland and possibly tomorrow in your city. Whom would you contact when your husband or wife is forced away at gunpoint? Which agency do you call? You can see how this can go every which way of wrong.
When protests erupted across the U.S. the Posse Comitatus Act prevented the use of federal troops to secure cities. But the Posse Comitatus Act only applies to the military. This is, in some ways, being circumventing deploying people of federal agencies other than the military. Border Patrol, ICE, DHS, even the Bureau of Prisons guards are being used according to Attorney General William Barr. He has written that the forces have been drawn from federal agencies including the U.S. Marshals Service, the Drug Enforcement Administration, the Bureau of Prisons, the FBI, and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives.
So pulling from non-military agencies to equip and deploy a paramilitary force and circumvent the Posse Comitatus Act of eighteen-seventy-eight is a direct threat to your liberties. It’s the imposition of martial law without a formal declaration or State request, and in spite of several state and local authorities who have made it known that such a force is not welcome in their jurisdiction unless specifically requested. This Posse Comitatus Act of eighteen-seventy-eight bars federal troops from participating in domestic law enforcement activities, such as arrests and detentions. Pulling from federal agencies allows for a paramilitary group to be boots on the ground in our cities and towns without any clear mandate, purpose, or control measures. They are free to trample over any Constitutional right. Would a court find such a paramilitary force to be a violation of Constitutional rights? Maybe, but this would take years to litigate and make a determination, and the Posse Comitatus Act is being side-stepped right now.
Another of your rights that has been suspended right now is the writ of habeas corpus. This is “a summons with the force of a court order; it is addressed to the custodian (a prison official, for example) and demands that a prisoner be brought before the court, and that the custodian present proof of authority, allowing the court to determine whether the custodian has lawful authority to detain the prisoner. If the custodian is acting beyond their authority, then the prisoner must be released. Any prisoner, or another person acting on their behalf, may petition the court, or a judge, for a writ of habeas corpus.” The problem here is we don’t know if any individuals secretly being whisked away in unmarked cars by masked and unidentifiable forces are being given the means to request a writ of habeas corpus. We don’t know if they are being taken to local or federal prisons. The other people they are with when they are being apprehended are not being told where they may be going, so where could a writ of habeas corpus even be sent. We are not hearing from them again. That should scare you a lot. That’s some mass grave in dark forests type stuff. I’m not saying that’s being done now, but I can’t say it isn’t being done either, because we are being held completely in the dark on these secret forces and their actions.
In Portland, at least two people that we know of were pulled off the streets and ferried away in unmarked cars without obvious probable cause. There are videos of these two cases. Responsibility for one of these detainments has been admitted by U.S. Customs and Border Protection. In a quote, they said, “CPB maintains that the individual was suspected of criminal activity and had to be removed from the area abruptly for fear of a violent mob. Its officials also defended the lack of name tags on the grounds that agents have been targeted by doxing campaigns (the publication of their home addresses and personal details on the internet).” Suspicion of criminal activity is not enough justification for unlawful detainment. If you disagree, let us assume that you are out with your family returning home. An SUV vehicle was reported to have been in the same area you are passing through and has been rumored to be out to destroy or deface a statue on federal property. Is that enough justification for a group of customs and border patrol officers to pull you over in your Honda Odyssey, force you away in an unmarked vehicle and strand your family without you and without any reasonable assurance of where you will be held or for what crime? If you don’t think it can happen all based upon the opinion of one person and outside of the laws meant to protect you, you ought to take a good long look at it. Will you “Stand Your Ground” against a heavily armed and body armored, unknown pseudo-military force that lacks a clearly defined mandate? Doing so would likely cause your death.
Separate from the question of federal law, several states have adopted laws and regulations requiring law enforcement to identify themselves even in non-standard police gear. Under New York City’s Right to Know Act, for example, officers must tell civilians at the start of some interactions their name, rank, command, and shield number. In the District of Columbia, any uniformed officer assigned to a First Amendment assembly must have enhanced identification even if in non-standard riot gear. This may be the way to go to at least establish some minimal rules of engagement with a civilian population. Absent of clear rules of engagement we invite abuse of power out of the ignorance of the law.
As Ronald Reagan famously said “Freedom is never more than one generation from extinction.” Is this the generation where it dies? We cannot assume that any person’s detainment makes them automatically a bad person who needs to be arrested. Doing so sells out our liberties as well. As disrespectful as it is, that person who flips the bird to a secret police and gets detained or carried away because of it, requires us to protect their rights to have expressed their opinions. Their rights are our rights and must be fought for and protected. If we don’t do that, as Reagan said, “…we will spend our sunset days telling our children what it was once like in the United States where men were free.”
What can you do? Well, for what it is worth, if you disagree or agree with these clandestine federal forces in your town or the next city over, you should still vote. It is one of the few ways we can make our voices heard for and against anything our government is doing.
Most of all, look for where anyone’s rights are being violated or potentially violated and lend a hand where you can. Even if what they believe is the antithesis of what you believe, don’t fall for the soundbites and dismiss them with a label or, worse, dehumanize them by labeling them an animal. Listen, help, record, vocally complain, let any secret forces know you see their actions in the light. Look for the good in all people and protect their rights like they are your own…because they are.
As always, stay safe out there.