Wednesday, October 05, 2005

The death of Posse Comitatus?

In the wake of fears regarding the possible outbreak of a bird flu pandemic and coming on the heels of the much-criticized federal response to Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, President Bush yesterday submitted a plan to Congress to allow him to use federal troops in policing duties. (CNN)

The President went on to say:
"But Congress needs to take a look at circumstances that may need to vest the capacity of the president to move beyond that debate. And one such catastrophe or one such challenge could be an avian flu outbreak."
It is difficult to avoid the notion that Bush had more than bird flu on his mind when he suggested this.

Under the Posse Comitatus Act of 1878, such action might be illegal; the Act was passed with the express purpose of preventing the military from being used as a national police force. On the other hand, so many erosions and exceptions to the Act have been made already that it is an open question whether the Act still has any power today. (Trebilcock).

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