The Military Is Being Tapped To Handle Domestic Protests, Something It's Not Really Equipped To Handle
from the answer-to-protests-over-force-is...-more-force? dept
With protests sparked by the killing of George Floyd by Officer Derek Chauvin erupting all over the nation, states are beginning to ask the National Guard to step in. The epicenter of these demonstrations is Minneapolis, Minnesota, where the National Guard has already been deployed to handle protests and enforce the curfew.
But it’s not just Minnesota. The military apparently has plans to intervene in several other states if necessary, as Ken Klippenstein reports for The Nation.
The US military is monitoring protests in at least seven states, according to Defense Department documents obtained exclusively by The Nation.
In addition to Minnesota, where a Minneapolis police officer killed George Floyd, the military is tracking uprisings in New York, Ohio, Colorado, Arizona, Tennessee, and Kentucky, according to a Defense Department situation report. Notably, only Minnesota has requested National Guard support. The documents were originally stored on an unclassified server but were subsequently elevated to a classified system.
In the only state where the Guard has been deployed, troops have been given the green light to enforce the law at bullet-point, if needed.
Another document about the protests in Minnesota, titled “MNNG Civil Disturbance Response Storybook,” is also marked FOUO and is dated May 29. It states that National Guard members have been authorized for “weapon status red,” meaning magazines loaded but safety on.
The good news is the documents seen by Klippenstein express concern about the Guard’s response to civilian unrest. They emphasize the protection of human life and personal property. But we’ll have an opportunity to see where these two directives meet if more property is targeted by looters or protesters. The National Guard is a branch of the military and crowd control isn’t a directive it’s had a lot of practice exercising. The few times that it has, it hasn’t exactly been applauded for its restraint.
The National Guard is being inserted into a volatile situation with a shortage of equipment and possibly conflicting directives. This likely isn’t going to work out well. As Steven Aftergood points out in Klippenstein’s article, thrusting a military entity into a situation where there’s no clear enemy tends to lead to bad decision making.
They are not trying to defeat an adversary, but to support their fellow citizens, to preserve order and to protect the defenseless. And unlike a response to natural disaster, they have to act in an environment of intense anger and provocation without losing their own bearings. It’s a near-impossible task even with the best training and equipment.
The National Guard has already demonstrated its inability to handle things well in limited action. A video shot by a Minneapolis resident shows troops firing paint canisters onto the porch of a house — directly at the residents — for ignoring unlawful orders to go back inside. The curfew only says people cannot be in public places past a certain point in the evening. It does not say they need to remain indoors.
Also in today's criminal justice news, National Guard and Minneapolis PD officers illegally demand taxpayers stop filming from their porch and go inside ? you'll hear "Light 'em up!" as they then shoot at these people *WHO ARE ON THEIR OWN PORCH*
— T. Greg Doucette (@greg_doucette) May 31, 2020
There also appears to be a great deal more surveillance happening. A Predator drone on loan from the CBP has been spotted flying over the city and the state’s government — momentarily and mistakenly — claimed the NSA was engaging in domestic surveillance.
Walz also reportedly said during a press conference that the National Security Agency was providing “intelligence support” and intercepted communications regarding riots.
This statement has since been walked back by the governor’s office.
“No NSA involvement,” a Walz spokesperson told CyberScoop. The Democratic governor was mistaken in suggesting Saturday during a press conference that the U.S. military had provided the state with signals intelligence collected by the NSA, the spokesperson said.
But that doesn’t mean there’s no domestic surveillance being performed by intelligence agencies. The Intelligence Community provides support to military intelligence and the National Guard is a military component. Governor Walz mentioned “signals interception,” which can mean a whole lot of things and it appears the governor is actively seeking access to DoD intelligence collections. The NSA’s involvement — if any — won’t be direct. But domestic-facing agencies — including the FBI — have access to NSA collections and can perform backdoor searches to access “inadvertent” collections of US persons’ communications.
With President Trump citing the Insurrection Act in tweets and public statements, there’s a possibility other branches of the military could become involved in crowd control and curfew enforcement. This Act was invoked during the 1992 LA riots but the law has been expanded twice since then to give the president even more discretionary power, meaning Trump can likely make good on his threat to send the troops in to shut down demonstrations if he feels cities and states aren’t doing enough on their own.
This unrest has erupted from the use of excessive force by an armed government employee. It seems unlikely that sending more armed government employees with a directive to deploy force will defuse the current situation — especially when defusing situations isn’t something that comes naturally to them.