Martial law occurs when the military or militarized law enforcement replaces civilian authorities in order to impose military rule during an emergency. Civil liberties are suspended. In the United States, a pivot point that signals martial law is the suspension of habeas corpus – the right to a hearing on whether an imprisonment is lawful. In practice, habeas corpus means a person cannot be imprisoned without legitimate charges and due process. The U.S. Constitution recognizes the suspension of habeas corpus as an identifying feature of martial law in Article I, Section 9, “The Privilege of the Writ of Habeas Corpus shall not be suspended, unless when in Cases of Rebellion or Invasion the public Safety may require it.”
Obama is preparing to declare martial law in America. He may decide not to do so but it is a prepared option that requires nothing more than the say-so of one man. The necessary Executive Order has been authorized. The National Defense Resources Preparedness grants Obama power over “resources and services needed to support…plans and programs” in “the event of a potential threat to the security of the United States.” The grant of authority is so complete that it includes the ability to commandeer technology, industry, and the nation’s other resources down to its “food resources, livestock resources, and the distribution of farm equipment and commercial fertilizer.”
The legal framework for martial law is in place.
The signs are unmistakable. They include: Homeland Security recently purchased $1.6 billion worth of ammunition for domestic use by its 100,000+ armed enforcement agents; it also acquired thousands of military-style armored vehicles.
The clearest sign, however, is the National Defense Authorization Act – the federal legislation through which the budget and expenditures of the Department of Defense are specified each year. In 2012, Sec. 1021 of the act allowed the military to arrest and imprison an American on American soil without habeas corpus if he was deemed to have “committed a belligerent act or has directly supported such hostilities in aid of such enemy forces” (e.g. the Taliban). The 2013 act included the same provision. In short, the NDAA authorized indefinite detention without due process. The 2014 act is currently under debate. It would expand the military’s power over the civilian population through Sec. 1061 which is also known as Enhancement of Capacity of the United States Government to Analyze Captured Records. It authorizes the surveillance of an individual solely on the basis that he is or has been hostile to the United States. In short, the new NDAA would authorize indefinite surveillance.
The enforcement mechanism for martial law is in place. What would it look like?
There is no need to speculate. The police response to the Boston Marathon bombings provides a glance into what Americans can expect in the event of another terrorist attack or domestic unrest. Or, rather, it provides an example of a kinder, gentler martial law than is likely to occur. It is kinder and gentler because the agents in Boston had no reason to be hostile to the civilian population; they had the specific goal of capturing a fugitive rather than the general one of policing the population; no one resisted; and, the agents could have faced consequences such as lawsuits if they had inflicted injury. Most martial law scenarios are likely to be more brutal.
On April 15, 2013, three people were killed and hundreds injured when pressure cooker bombs exploded during the Boston Marathon. Two brothers named Tamerlan and Dzhokhas Tsarnaev became suspects. Tamerlan died, Dzhokhas escaped. An unparalleled manhunt occurred on April 19.
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