Part TWENTY-FIVE of our series on the WAR ON DRUGS – “Posse Comitatus”.
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* Last time we said Carlton Turner, Ross Perot’s anti-drug guy, was appointed as Reagan’s new drug czar.
* And Reagan made his war on drugs part and parcel of EVERY department of the Federal government.
* Then Turner started sitting in on Cabinet meetings.
* Reagan would go around the table to the secretaries of each department, and ask “what is your department doing about drugs?”
* No other single issue had this much of the Reagan administration’s attention.
* One of Reagan’s first legislative victories was the revision of a 103-year-old law that kept the military out of civilian affairs.
* The 1878 law was written as an offering to the southern states after the Civil War; Congress banned military participation in domestic law enforcement.
* The Posse Comitatus Act, as it was called, made it illegal for the military to act as police on U.S. territory or waters.
* Posse Comitatus is also the West Wing episode where Bartlett approves the plan to assassinate Abdul ibn Shareef, the Qumari Defense Minister, and CJ’s Secret Service bodyguard Simon Donovan (Mark Harmon) gets killed.
* Quick quiz Ray – which President signed it into law?
* President Rutherford B. Hayes.
* During the 1876 U.S. presidential election, Samuel J. Tilden of New York, the Democratic candidate, defeated Republican candidate Rutherford B. Hayes of Ohio in the popular vote.
* Hayes lost the popular vote to Tilden but he won an intensely disputed electoral college vote after a Congressional commission awarded him twenty contested electoral votes.
* In return for Southern acquiescence regarding Hayes, Republicans agreed to support the withdrawal of federal troops from the former Confederate States, formally ending Reconstruction.
* Known as the Compromise of 1877, South Carolina, Florida, and Louisiana agreed to certify Rutherford B. Hayes as the president in exchange for the removal of federal troops from the South.
* One of the Southern Democrat demands was the right to deal with blacks without northern interference.
* And so by 1905 most black men were effectively disenfranchised by state legislatures in every southern state.
* So that’s where it comes from.
* The act only specifically applies to the United States Army but it was amended in 1956 to include the United States Air Force.
* Doesn’t mention the United States Navy and the United States Marine Corps, but the Navy has prescribed regulations that are generally construed to give the act force with respect to those services as well.
* Originally comes from England.
* The term derives from the Latin posse comitātūs, “power” or “force of the county”
* The Posse comitatus, in common law, is all able-bodied males over the age of 15 within a specific county, when mobilized in whole or in part by the conservator of peace – usually the sheriff – to suppress lawlessness or defend the county.
* The posse comitatus originated in ninth century England simultaneous with the creation of the office of sheriff.
* Since 1971, though, the military had been providing sporadic Drug War assistance to law enforcement personnel.
* And the Reaganites figured that imported drugs were a threat to the security of the United States.
* Drugs from abroad maimed and killed Americans as surely as any other foreign enemy.
* The White House pushed for a relaxation of Posse Comitatus, and Congress approved it with hardly a murmur.
* Military units now were directed to spot, track, and follow suspected smugglers.
* In December 1981, the Military Cooperation with Civilian Law Enforcement Statute (10 USC 371-380) was enacted, allowing for military “assistance” to civilian law enforcement agencies generally outside the U.S., especially in combating drug smuggling into the U.S.
* Under this law, the military is generally allowed to give technical and support assistance, including the use of facilities, vessels, aircraft, intelligence, translation and surveillance.
* The statute specifically prohibits the direct involvement of soldiers in law enforcement, such as search and seizure, arrests or detention, and the use of military personnel in an undercover capacity (10 USC 375).
* They couldn’t arrest them, but were ordered to report them to civilian law enforcement, including the Coast Guard, a unit of the Department of Transportation.
* However, it was the start of something that escalated.
* In five years Pentagon funding for the war on drugs went from $1 million to $196 million.
* Air force AWACS—huge four-engined jets with powerful radar domes mounted on their backs— Made by Boeing – and navy Hawkeyes—scaled-down AWACS built on twin-engine turboprops — made by Northrop Grumman – were lofted on anti- smuggling missions.
* “Aerostats”—stationary blimps carrying radar — were hoisted over Key West and along the Tex-Mex border.
* Next – Reagan set up the South Florida Drug Task Force with Vice President George Bush at the helm.
* The cocaine trade was so big in Miami that it was shockingly visible to the law-abiding community.
* A quarter of the city’s murders were being committed with machine guns, and plenty of bystanders were hit along the way.
* And Tony Montana was responsible for most of it.
* The FBI, DEA, Coast Guard and every man and his dog went to Miami to stop the drugs from coming into the country.
* And they succeeded!
* … in stopping them coming into Miami.
* They just started bringing them in in other places.
* Three weeks before the 1982 midterm elections, Reagan launched the biggest offensive ever in the War on Drugs.
* “In recent years,” Rudolph Giuliani – Associate Attorney General – told Congress, “this nation has been plagued by an outbreak of crime unparalleled in our history and unequaled in any other free society.”
* Not true.
* The rate of violent crime — the number of crimes per 1,000 people — was lower in 1982 than in the previous year and was less than one percentage point higher than in the dark, “permissive” days of Jimmy Carter.
* The rates of rape, assault, theft, burglary, and car theft all were lower in 1982 than in 1977.
* Robbery, though up slightly from 1977, was down from the previous year.
* The number of people reporting personal experience with either burglary or robbery was unchanged or slightly lower than in the mid-seventies.
* And the murder rate had been falling steadily since 1979.
* There was no new “plague” of crime, despite what Giuliani was willing to tell Congress.
* Still, Congress allocated $125 million to hire more than a thousand new FBI agents, DEA agents, and federal prosecutors to man twelve new regional drug task forces modeled on that of South Florida.
* Reagan also announced plans for a presidential commission of “experts” to study organized crime and drug trafficking.
* Chairing the commission was Judge Irving Kaufman, remembered for censoring Lenny Bruce and sentencing the Rosenbergs to death. (Baum, 170)
* Among the other “experts” was the editor of the Reader’s Digest.
* I looked up this Kaufman guy.
* For people not familiar with the espionage trial of Julius and Ethel Rosenberg, we’ll be going into it in detail on the Cold War show, but the summary is that they were New York-born Jews who were convicted of espionage in 1951 and sentenced to death.
* They had been spying for the Soviets and passing on secrets about a number of things, including the Manhattan Project.
* There’s still some debate about how useful the information was that they provided, by Kaufman, when he was sentencing them to death, blamed them for the deaths of all of the American soldiers in Korea as well as for the Cold War in general.
* So Reagan gave a big speech announcing his new expert panel in October 1982.